"Why I signed the letter for Speaker Straus" by Texans for Life Coalition's Kyleen Wright
The following is a letter in support of Joe Straus written by President of Texans for Life Coalition Kyleen Wright.
Why I signed the letter for Speaker Straus
A charge has been leveled that Speaker Straus and his lieutenants killed the sonogram bill last session. This is categorically false, and I am disappointed about this and other claims, as well as the tenor of this race.
Speaker Straus’s office and lieutenants, in particular Chairman Charlie Geren and Chairman Todd Smith, worked consistently and in good faith with Texans for Life to pass the popular pro-life measure. Chairman Geren, as a member of the State Affairs Committee, worked to ensure an April hearing and to strengthen the weaker senate version of the bill at my request. Chairman Smith also pushed for hearings on the bill and a stronger version.
What finally killed the sonogram bill was the same thing that killed so many bills: the filibuster of the Voter ID bill, as the clock simply ran out. Even so, had former Speaker Craddick not missed the formal hearing called by Chairman Solomons on April 30th, the bill would have been voted out and ahead of Voter ID on the calendar, sailing to victory. A final Hail Mary Pass was played when Chairman Geren again intervened to secure the #2 spot on the Major State Calendar for the bill at the end of the session.
Furthermore, it was the Speaker's team who rallied to my aid to defeat the Planned Parenthood sex ed bills.
Texans for Life and I are very grateful for the help of Speaker Straus and his team.
Shenanigans in the 81st Legislature, Part 2 of Why I Signed the Straus Letter
I have been taken to task for my assertions that Speaker Straus and his lieutenants helped pro-life efforts in the last session, and that there were all kind of other shenanigans we were up against. A quick review is in order.
First, it was a Craddick lieutenant who, on April 17th, pulled down all the budget amendments that pro-lifers had put forth after months of research and the establishment of an elaborate on-site support system to assist members debating them. Pro-life leaders were devastated to see Rep. Phil King announce a deal had been struck with liberal Democrat and abortion advocate, Jessica Farrar. Without talking to a single stakeholder, this lieutenant, according to another pro-life leader, “gave up a lot, including a potentially devastating blow against Planned Parenthood. . . and got very little.” What we “got” was a weak and unsustainable embryo destruction rider.
As for the hearing on the sonogram bill, it was established that no controversial bills would be heard before the budget passed, the single legislative requirement for the session. This was a very tense, closely divided house after all. Nevertheless, the first week after the budget passed, the sonogram bill was heard in State Affairs. For the first time in the collective institutional memory of pro-life leaders, Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas gave no public testimony against a pro-life bill. This did not bode well for us, and brought to mind rumors that there were members determined to ensure nothing pro-life would pass on Straus’ watch.
The significance of Craddick walking the vote on April 30th, is that he told the bill author ahead of time that he would not be there and did not want us to know. Clearly, arrangements could have been made as he and we were aware of the need to get this bill moving through the process before voter ID exploded in the house.
Subsequent delays in getting the bill out of committee were the result of in-fighting among members and pro-life leaders about the substance of the bill. The Senate version was very weak and there was confusion over whether or not Senator Dan Patrick had promised senators that the bill would not be strengthened in the House. Straus lieutenant Rep. Charlie Geren, at my urging, fought for a stronger version which eventually did pass out of committee.
Meanwhile, the Planned Parenthood sex ed bills were working their way through Public Education, and it was Craddick supporters we had to peel off the bill. It’s not a great leap in logic to suspect that those working against pro-life victories for the Straus team would just as soon hang a Planned Parenthood bill around his neck.
Finally, in the midst of the chubbing, my colleagues and I wrote the members of the Republican Caucus to urge them to end the chubbing because the sonogram bill was still in play. We reminded them that in the previous session Speaker Craddick had pulled the sonogram bill down to prevent the Democrats from chubbing, and suggesting it was our turn to benefit from a little horse-trading.
I attach for you the response I received from a Craddick lieutenant responding frankly that they could not because there were other bills just ahead on the calendar that they did not want to vote on. The member’s name has been redacted, and an unredacted copy has been provided to media for corroboration.
There are other emails I am not releasing, including one from a pro-life leader noting with surprise that certain Straus lieutenants had been our best help on the sonogram bill, and another detailing how Charlie Geren “could not have been more gracious and assured me he wanted us to work together.”
My loyalty is to the Life issue, and will not be clouded by personal loyalties. People will draw their own conclusions, but reasonable people will not find it unbelievable that members and others who lost power and influence in the sea change of leadership had an ax to grind against Straus. The continued demonization of Speaker Straus and distortion of his record is just more of the same.
Good people can and do disagree, but I will put my 35 years of pro-life activism and service up against anyone's.