I keep telling you that Speaker Joe Straus isn’t the problem but groups keep focusing on him with their ‘Oust Straus’ mantra.
Eight days away from the deadline to approve bills, the prognosis for Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20-item special session agenda is murky at best.
Not a single measure has made it to the governor’s desk despite a steady drumbeat from his office urging lawmakers to go “20 for 20” since weeks before the special session began.
The most high-profile item on Abbott’s list – a measure barring some transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity – is on life support. House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said Tuesday he will not give the “bathroom bill” a hearing in his committee
Sure, Speaker Straus appointed Cook but Cook isn’t doing the Speaker’s bidding. He is doing the bidding of the majority of the Republican caucus’ bidding. The Speaker is willing to take the heat because that is how he views his job. Texas Monthly’s R.G. Ratcliffe published the best interview by far of the Speaker in recent memory. I hope you take the time to read the entire interview, I think it will help give you some perspective on why the Speaker does what he does.
RGR: I’m thinking of the primary contests. Does this become a litmus test?
JS: Those groups live and breath litmus tests. We try hard in the House to keep people together and focusing on issues that really matter to the future of the state. School finance reform, and property tax is closely associated with that, and others. So it would be a never-ending quest to try to satisfy some of those groups and their litmus testing. The House has gotten pretty good at ignoring the threats toward people by entities like that.
RGR: The lieutenant governor last week refocused his attention on attacking cities as Democratic strongholds, and even some of the Republican mayors expressed to the Morning News frustration with trying to make their case with the governor on tax cuts.
JS: Dan Patrick has a history of trying to pit people against each other, and in the House we try to focus on what made Texas a success, not looking to blame anybody, but trying to focus on solving problems. It’s a signal of national politics seeping into Texas. Divisive rhetoric like that doesn’t solve problems.
RGR: Has that hurt the Republican brand in Texas?
JS: You can’t look at elections and say that it has, but it also hasn’t helped us address in meaningful ways some of the problems of the state.
It’s good to see the Speaker saying ‘we’ again instead of ‘I’. Perhaps he realized his mistake during the regular session of making it seem like it is his agenda instead of the agenda of the Republican caucus as a whole.
I’d suggest that those focusing on Speaker Straus would have a much better time of it if they focused instead on the Republicans that say one thing during a campaign and another thing when they get elected. Like Rep. Byron Cook, who has decided that the House shouldn’t vote on the privacy protection act. Turns out that 225 Texas voters are responsible for blocking the House from voting on the privacy protection act. Here are the results from last year’s Republican Primary in District 8 (Corsicana, Palestine).
Almost 9 million Texans voted in last November’s election.
I think Cook (and Speaker Straus) are making a huge mistake by not allowing a vote. At this point it is beyond clear that the House will vote against the privacy protection act. If allowed, that would take all of the wind out of the sails of those that are truly dividing Texas Republicans. But apparently, the caucus is allowing fear to rule the day.