It's important to remember that Tom Craddick's biggest supporters are the hardcore base of the Republican Party. His best strategy for staying in power is going to be to leverage that support as well as his vast financial resources to whip up turnout in the next primary and general elections. Keep that in mind as you read this tidbit from Quorum Report.
In what some members believe is a signal about the year and half long speaker battle to come, the Calendars Committee surprised most observers by setting two heavyweight abortion bills on the Major State Calendar for tomorrow. They point to the Calendar being posted just hours after Speaker Craddick announced his intention to run for a fourth term.
The Speaker's office dismisses any such sinister notion noting that the bills had just come over from the Senate and were set on the Calendar as a normal course of business.
One of the sources of irritation with the Speaker this session is the amount of blood spilled and floor time that has been committed to socially conservative issues that had no legs in the Senate. In contrast, these two bills started in the Senate and are waiting for House action.
The first is SB920 by Patrick that requires patients seeking abortions be compelled to see sonograms of the fetus beforehand. The second is SB785 by Shapiro which requires reports from physicians on any abortion and publishes information about judges that grant judicial bypasses thus targeting them for voter reprisal.
Critics of the bills complain that both bills substantially insert the state into what should be a medical issue between physician and patient.
Opponents particularly complain that SB785 is intended to follow through on the Republican Party of Texas Platform that says, "We call for the electoral defeat of all judges who through raw judicial activism seek to nullify the Parental Consent Law by wantonly granting bypasses to minor girls seeking abortions...."
Heather Paffe of Planned Parenthood said, "It is not a coincidence that this happened just hours after a race for Speaker was announced yesterday. Women's health and the safety of our teens and judges have no place in Speaker politics.
Both Republicans and Democrats with which we spoke see this as the end of the cessation of floor hostilities and the low key ambience engineered for the calendars earlier this week. These bills have the potential of dramatically raising the decibel level and moving all sides to DefCon 4.
Perhaps it is simply paranoia, but the presumed thinking behind the move is to cut up members, particularly WD40s and moderate Republicans for what they argue is the inevitable purging effort to come now that there is a speakers race. Ginning up the social conservative base for both the Republican primary and the general election in a presidential year could be an effective strategy they say.
One Republican active in the Craddick opposition movement said yesterday that, "freshmen are Craddick's oxygen." This observer noted that Craddick needed a large freshman class of Republicans in 2003 to win his first speakership. And while many in the current class of Republican freshmen were either implicitly or explicitly critical of the leadership in their campaigns last year, they almost uniformly followed the advice of their consultants to support the incumbent in last January's speakers race.