Feeding Frenzy, The Speaker's Race

I’m sure by now your email and perhaps even your voice mail has been hit with messaging calling for the ouster of Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus. Since I too have received those messages as well as a number of others asking my opinion and guidance, I’ll add my thoughts to the mix.

Clearly “Conservative” groups have lined up enmasse to call for a change of Speaker. While I’ll usually agree that “out with the old, in with the new” is a good recipe for politicians, this fomenting for change comes in large part from the old failed establishment. Under their leadership we’ve been given the TransTexasCorridor, increased illegal immigration and border violence, the business margins tax, $38 billion in state debt and huge increases in spending…and oh, yeah a dismal drop in the number of Republican house seats from 88 to last session’s 76! The dramatic shift from 76 Republican members in the last session to 99 Republican members in this session certainly changes the dynamic but it’s no guarantee of the adoption of limited government policy or state sovereignty.

On the heels of that election, when so many groups are reacting so quickly to march in lock step, perhaps we ought to ask, “WHY?” Just who is influencing whom? Are the new TEA Party activists influencing politics as usual or are politics as usual influencing and co-opting the TEA Party? Who is funding this effort? Are these efforts simply going to replace one [presumably] unqualified leader with one who is less qualified [cue 2008 presidential election]? Is the current leader, in fact, unqualified?

It’s no surprise that with such a dramatic change in the make up of the body of the Texas House, many are suddenly interested in a possible Speaker’s race. In fact, we should be interested in that decision at the start of every legislative session. Just as the issues facing the body change, so do the members and their abilities. The decision about who should chair a deliberative assembly is indeed an important one and should be reevaluated every session..

Having been at the center of efforts during the last two Republican State Conventions to insure that the delegates elect a fair chairman, I’ve had some experience in this process. The most important criteria for the chairman of a deliberative body such as a legislature or political convention is fairness and justice. Will the individual treat the members fairly and according to the rules established by the body? Texas Republican convention delegates are well familiar with the iron-fisted rule of some recent chairmen and Texas House members can tell their own tales of iron-fisted rule during prior speaker Tom Craddick’s reign.

Grassroots activists are, to a large extent, weary of the do-as-I-say politician who preaches ideals for others to live by. We understand that neither we nor they deserve to win all the time, but we do deserve a chance to be heard. A chairman who unilaterally does our bidding but stifles debate from the opposition does little to facilitate the wisdom of the body or good public policy. The issue on the table in choosing the speaker should be primarily whether the individual will foster fairness, open debate and an adherence to the rules adopted by the House.

Texans have absolutely been given a new opportunity to affect public policy. With such a dramatic shift in the makeup of the Texas House and presumably the votes to implement conservative change, we’d be wise to watch our step and make sure we advocate sound policy and not charge headlong towards more of the same.

Already, Republican state representatives have a bevy of new friends – folks who are lining up for special favors! That is, of course, the last thing voters want. Last Tuesday’s historic vote in Texas was a clear mandate for a return to limited government and a return to a consistent application of the rule of law, a respect for individual freedoms, the Constitution and state sovereignty.

We can all agree we don’t want top down democrat socialist government nor do we want an inverted version that doles out favors to special friends (Beware: Big government republicans who have historically and tenaciously courted the pro-life pro-family right on social and religious issues all the while scheming behind close doors to steal bread from the very table of those families by passing legislation that creates special favors and incentives for their friends.)

If there are candidates for speaker who will commit to a return to limited government and a return to a consistent application of the rule of law, a respect for individual freedoms, the Constitution and state sovereignty and who will work toward those ends while respecting the members of the Texas House and upholding the rules thereof in a fair and just manner, I hope they will offer themselves in service to their fellow members and the people of Texas. To date Joe Straus and Warren Chisum have done that.

Let’s focus on principles and qualifications, let’s think critically – look at voting records and be careful what others may want to ram down our throats. If we’ll pay less attention to personalities and more to principles and actions, we’ll be effective in helping our elected leaders uphold the rule of law, the Constitution and limited government insuring a more free and prosperous Texas for everyone!

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