There's more retirement rumors floating around than just Joe Crabb. We've already heard that Rep. Jim Solis is reportedly hanging up his spikes. Capitol Inside says quite a few more members, many from the Class of '93, are supposedly mulling the same thing.
The Class of `93 members could become part of a potential wave of retirements from a House that's divided, drained and somewhat disillusioned amid a thankless school finance fight that could get more brutal before the issue is resolved. The potential for a high turnover in the lower chamber appears ripe in the wake of a regular session and a special session during which lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol have been forced to cast numerous no-win votes on an issue for which they still have nothing to show with no end-game in sight.
There have been reports from the Capitol - most if not all unsubstantiated at this point - that the list of members who might not run again includes some of Speaker Tom Craddick's top lieutenants and committee chairs. Some Republican members are bracing for primary challenges within their own parties by opponents who will use votes on HB 2 and HB 3 as weapons against the incumbents. Some members from both parties have already been targeted for defeat by the opposing party in districts that conceivably could go either way. Some House members such as State Rep. Jim Keffer - an Eastland Republican who's sponsoring a controversial tax shift proposal as the Ways and Means Committee chairman - could end up facing multiple challengers in both the primary and general election campaigns as well in 2006 if early predictions hold true.
There's one school of speculation that State Rep. Peggy Hamric, a Houston Republican who chairs the House Administration Committee, will either move up as a candidate for an open state Senate seat or move out of elected office completely when her seventh House term expires at the end of 2006. Another veteran Republican - State Rep. Joe Nixon - is considered a probable contender for the Senate post from which State Senator Jon Lindsay has decided to retire.
A seat in the Dallas area could also be up for grabs if State Rep. Ray Allen decides against a re-election bid in 2006. A Grand Prairie Republican who chairs the County Affairs Committee, Allen was also a member of a 1993 class that produced 18 legislators who are still in the House today. He appears to still be undecided about a race for re-election in 2006.
The list of potential House retirees includes Republican State Reps. Bob Griggs of North Richland Hills and Anna Mowery of Fort Worth. Some observers are not convinced that former Democratic Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Laney will seek another term even though he would probably be favored to win big again in a West Texas district that has two Republican voters for every Democrat.
Why the emphasis on the Class of '93? Perhaps this will help clarify things.
With a swift vote and no debate, state representatives approved a boost in their own retirement benefits Monday as they gave judges a pay raise.
House Bill 11 by Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, won final passage, 105-26, amid criticism that House lawmakers have watched out for their own financial interests before those of schools and teachers.
The bill would raise lawmakers' pensions by 22 percent, Hartnett said, the first increase in seven years.
Currently, Texas' part-time lawmakers are paid $7,200 a year, although retired lawmakers can begin collecting pensions at age 50 if they have served at least 12 years. Benefits increase with each year of service. Under the bill, a retired official with a dozen years' experience would get a pension hike of $6,431 annually, bringing the total pension to $34,500.