First one to 76 wins - the continuing saga

Posted in 81st Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Speakers Race at 9:54 am by wcnews

Trailblazers had several posts Friday about an informal meeting of some members of the Texas House about the house rules this upcoming session. First, A little get-together over House rules and housekeeping stuff.

Some people are expecting upwards of 50 House members to attend a working group - if you can call it that, since it’s open to any state rep and its an informal meeting - on House rules and housekeeping stuff this afternoon.

Next a rundown of who showed up, Rules meeting: The hallway is quiet….

In case anyone’s paying attention, we’re about 45 minutes into the rules working group meeting, Terry Keel’s facilitating, and there are between 25 and 30 members - according to a collaborative count with me and the Quorum Report.

We can hear Terry “The Voice” Keel from our spot out in the hall but can’t really tell what he’s saying. Bob Kelly, former parliamentarian, has been invited to come help facilitate but hasn’t come yet. Interesting idea; he’s a well-liked guy on both sides of the aisle.

What we can’t hear is a lot of screaming and arguing, but they started with what we heard Keel describe as “noncontroversial” items so maybe that’s yet to come.

Just saw Dallas Dem. Rep. Terri Hodge out in the hall - NOT smoking, she quit - and she said doesn’t think there is going to be many fireworks.

Plano GOP Rep. Brian McCall joked with the House staffer standing guard at the door: “Are you here to keep me out or let me in?” And no, he hasn’t filed for speaker yet.

There are one or two new members here that I don’t recognize, along with some Craddick leadership types - Beverly Woolley, Warren Chisum, Ryan Guillen, Will Hartnett of Dallas, Phil King of Weatherford, Betty Brown of Kaufman. There are some “insurgent” types like Hodge, FW Rep. Lon Burnam, SA Dem Trey Martinez Fisher. There are a couple of speaker candidates: Delwin Jones, Burt Solomons, Sylvester Turner. Freshmen-elect Doug Miller of New Braunfels, Allen Fletcher of Houston, Diana Maldonado of Round Rock, Joe Moody of EPTX, along with another new guy we didn’t recognize that might have been Sheffield.

And some good discussion about what how to handle a situation like the one that happened at the end of last session, Rules meeting includes talk of how to unseat a speaker mid-session.

“How to,” being the operative phrase here. As opposed to, “whether we should be able to.”

See the distinction?

Yes. Things went so well that when it was over Solomons calls for Keel to resign from his post as parliamentarian.

House Financial Institutions Chairman Burt Solomons, R-Carollton, a candidate for speaker, called on House parliamentarian Terry Keel to quit his post before the first day of the session so as to avoid division in the House.

Keel, a former House member, is a controversial figure, as he’s the architect behind the “absolute discretion” position held by Craddick last session during the waning days when his critics were trying to remove him from the chair.

Keel has made no indication that he’d do that, and members have said he’s indicated to them that if they want to vote on the first day to exclude him from House business until they pick a speaker, that’s ok with him.

But there’s also the matter of this: Keel left the House, in part, because he was sick of the drama. He’s got a law firm and a family to enjoy, and he’s getting boatloads of grief in his current job.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy some aspect of it - Keel’s never backed away from a good fight, and he’s smart so he doesn’t lose many of them, both of which are reasons Craddick picked him to begin with (when Denise Davis quit last session.)

So who knows what he’ll do. (Click the link to read the text of Solomons letter to Keel)

But on Saturday the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) has drawn up a resolution essentially endorsing Tom Craddick for Speaker.

I was in touch yesterday with two people who were watching the SREC meeting–in particular, the discussion of the resolution concerning the speaker’s race. The advocates of the resolution were careful to present it as a neutral action that did not take sides in the speaker’s race. However, two pro-Craddick legislators showed up at the meeting and spoke about the resolution–Bill Zedler and Dan Flynn. Both are publicly committed to Craddick, though Zedler will not be able to vote for speaker, having lost his race for reelection. Here is the report that I received: “Zedler spoke at the start of the meeting and endorsed the resolution, attacking what he viewed to be wayward Republicans [not a verbatim who did not promote true Republican principles [not his precise words]. Flynn made similar comments after the Resolution was adopted, saying that pro-life and pro-family achievements accomplished the past several years would be rolled back under a liberal speaker and that there was only one man the Congressional delegation wanted as speaker for Redistricting. Neither (that I can recall) ever mentioned Craddick by name.”


Was the resolution member-neutral? The words “Tom Craddick” do not appear in it, but the criterion that Republican members of the House of Representatives [should] “only support for election … a Republican as Speaker of the Texas House who gains the support and vote of the majority of Republican House Members” clearly favors Craddick at the present time, since he has been gathering pledges for some time and, I reckon, has at least 39 GOP pleges, or a majority of the 76-member majority. Of course, that could change, if members perceive that Craddick has stalled out and can’t get to 76 votes overall. The requirement of an open and transparent ballot, whatever may be its merits, also favors Craddick, because it opens the door to intimidation and retaliation.

Rep. Tommy Merritt is not on board, SREC opposes secret ballot for speaker; Merritt “very disappointed”.

Rep. Tommy Merritt, R-Longview, is very disappointed with the State Republican Executive Committee’s decision today to adopt a resolution that condemns selection of a new Speaker of the Texas House by private ballot.

That’s quite a bit of action in the last several days. Members meeting to setup parameters for how to remove a sitting speaker during a legislative session. A Speaker candidate asking for the resignation of the current parliamentarian of the Texas House. And the most conservative wing of the party passing a resolution essentially endorsing Craddick and, in essence,warning GOP House members that are “wayward Republicans..that do not promote true Republican principles”. Needless to say the GOP is splintering in Texas.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.