Speaker Joe Straus – “The Texas Spooky Dude”?
People across Texas and the United States know the Straus family enterprises are focused on gambling. There are as many people for gambling in Texas as there are against it. The pros and cons of gambling are for another time and place. There are far more important aspects to the role of this particular Speaker of the House in the Texas 82nd legislature. Some of you are familiar with this information, while others are not. Over the coming months, information will be shared that shine a light on the manipulations and machinations which occurred during this legislative session.
The Speaker of the House position is one of two key leadership positions in active legislative sessions of Texas. This year was particularly challenging due to unfunded Federal Mandates, Redistricting Maps and a budget to balance for the biennium. There was a shortfall in the revenue looming large. The question of the hour was whether there had been a miraculous move toward a more conservative leadership since the last session led by Speaker Straus in 2009. Sadly, this was not to be.
The battle to be “crowned” Speaker again, was contentious at best. There was a challenge to his leadership by two strong conservatives. They could not get enough votes challenge Mr. Straus. Why? Joe Straus had people sign “pledge cards” to indicate their vote of support for him in the elections. His group of confidantes assisted by cajoling and coercing people to the inevitable conclusions of a pledge of support. Why is this important now? The story of this session and this Speaker begins with a brave Representative named Bryan Hughes who came forward with information about the whole intimidation process. Did you hear the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey was so fond of saying in his broadcasts.
A June 2nd article by John Alaniz, revealed Speaker Straus and his crew made good on the redistricting threats to those who would not pledge their vote for the his re-election as Speaker. In November of 2010, several months before the 2011 Texas Legislative Session began; Texas State Rep. Bryan Hughes issued a press release stating that he had withdrawn his support from Rep. Joe Straus as Speaker (Bryan Hughes Press Release, 11/2010). Rep. Hughes explained a member of Straus’ leadership team had called and had “ brought up the subject of redistricting and explained to me how that process would be used to punish those members not on Speaker Straus’s list of supporters.” There was an ethics investigation, which raises more alarm bells than brings resolution to the matter. The chairman of the ethics committee gave Representative Hughes and Representative Phillips the option of whether to provide testimony under oath! Representative Hughes voluntarily took the oath and gave his testimony. Representative Phillips who allegedly made these veiled threats on behalf of Straus, did not testify under oath. This raises an important point. Perjury under oath could cause the loss of a license to practice law.
The Texas Tribune provided this golden nugget of testimony from Representative Phillips: “Representative Hughes statement is unequivocally false,” Phillips said in response. ”I did not tell Representative Hughes that maps were already being drawn to get rid of Representative-elect [Erwin] Cain or Representative Flynn. I also did not tell Representative Hughes that there was a plan to use redistricting to punish those who were not on Speaker Straus’ support list.”
The House map was finalized and signed into law. The new map was exactly what Representative Hughes had indicated was in “the warning”. The facts now vindicate the elected officials who earnestly tried to warn the people and the legislators of the power that was being wielded to re-elect Joe Straus.
The House Redistricting map was a carefully orchestrated event, utilizing powerful lobbyists, legal resources, and some expert negotiation with various legislators. The map that emerged as the winner, punished the strongest conservatives who had stood together to vote for an alternative leader of this session. Somehow, it was voted through by the House legislators, despite what had been done to their colleagues. Read what actually happened beginning with a point of order by Calendars Chairman Todd Hunter which was specific to this bill (this timetable forced work on Good Friday and the Easter Weekend): http://www.journals.house.state.tx.us/hjrnl/82r/pdf/82RDAY60FINAL.PDF#page=4
This map was expedited much like the notorious Obamacare, presenting many obstacles to people who would like to have a voice for their constituents. Speaker Joe Straus presided over final proceedings for the House Bill. Representative Hunter and Solomans indicated this was an “emergency” that must be finalized and moved to the Senate. Who uses the same strategy in Washington that everything is a crisis and must be rushed through prior to people having input? In the above link, please read through a few pages, when Representative Hunter (Calendars Chair), and Representative Solomons (Redistricting Chair) explain their rule which would cause Christians to be working on Good Friday and Easter Weekend to accommodate the point of order.
Redistricting maps are always difficult, is the mantra of every person in the House and Senate. There is difficult, and there is contrived. I draw your attention to a speech given by Representative Cain in the House Journal when this map (which punished those who opposed Straus) was coming up for the final vote: http://www.journals.house.state.tx.us/hjrnl/82r/pdf/82RDAY64FINAL.PDF#page=37
The people of Texas got exactly what they feared with the re-election of Joe Straus. This session reflected a liberal leadership from day one. Speaker Straus had a far reach and was able to “convince” many people to overlook things that were glaring throughout the session. A conservative majority was elected, and great hopes were pinned on this session. There were a limited number of conservative bills that were passed which kept the public from noticing many of the appalling decisions/actions in this session. Think for a moment about what is being said by the politicians. Over 10,000 bills were filed. More than 1400 were passed, including resolutions. Yet, the representatives boast about the same 5-6 bills in speeches across the state. Odd. Not to worry, over the coming months, many of the passed bills will be discussed with the public. You may find it illuminating. Texas may have a spooky dude…