What next in the House?

So we’re down to the wire for the Lege this session, with a lot of unfinished business to deal with amid all the Speaker strife. I know that Tom Craddick will be more powerful if he makes it through to sine die as Speaker, but there’s a part of me that would rather see his deposing put off till 2009 if the alternative is not passing the budget and going to a special session. While I don’t doubt that there are some budget items that need scrutiny, a special session means that all kinds of bad legislation that we thought were dead is back in play (at least one such bill has already been resurrected). Basically, a special session means the two nasty voter ID bills become law.

Given that choice, I’d rather go home and fight it out in the elections. I’d rather have the specter of Tom Craddick as Supreme Dictator For Life be the dominant image from this session rather than give his supporters the chance to claim that the opposing forces put the Speaker fight above House business, with the special session as proof. Especially since it’s looking like more Craddick supporters are reassessing their positions going forward.

“Obviously, he’s damaged goods after this deal, in terms of leading a bipartisan Legislature,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Warren Chisum said about 24 hours after the House had descended into chaos over Mr. Craddick’s use of the rules to quash any effort to unseat him.


“We have respected him as speaker up to a point, but there’s a lot of dissatisfaction in the House over the way it’s being run,” said House Financial Institutions Committee Chairman Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, who has staunchly supported Mr. Craddick’s speakership. “Three sessions [as speaker] is enough.”

Mr. Solomons, who carried the resolution writing the House rules in January, said he was stunned at the speaker’s interpretation of his own power.

“As the person who did the rules and served under a number of parliamentarians, I was unaware that there was that absolute power on the part of the speaker,” he said. “The speaker always had a lot of power, but not absolute power. That was not the intent of the rules. … No legislative body in the country provides absolute power to any one individual.”


Dallas GOP Rep. Dan Branch, a loyal Craddick ally since he entered the House in 2003, said that he was “reserving judgment” about 2009 until the House can make it to adjournment on Monday – and that he wants to focus on state business until then.

“After that,” he said, “I look forward to sitting down with the speaker and talking about his future and what’s best for the state.”

Asked whether he would support Mr. Craddick’s drive for another term as speaker, Mr. Chisum, R-Pampa, said he’s still waiting to see if he’ll run.

“He’s going to have to do a lot of soul-searching before the rest of us can decide what to do,” he said.

I don’t know what will happen today, and to some extent you have to take remarks like these with a grain of salt. And of course with various filibuster threats on the budget, there may not be a choice in the special session matter. All I’m saying is that I hope we’re all on the same page strategy-wise.

I was going to do a roundup of news coverage of yesterday’s action, but South Texas Chisme saved me the trouble. As always stay tuned.

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