July 31, 2007
Laney disputes Craddick's absolute power

As we know, Attorney General Greg Abbott is soliciting briefs from various parties before he makes a ruling of some kind on the Keffer request, which is about the legality of House Speaker Tom Craddick's assertion that he is not required to recognize a motion to vacate the Speaker's chair. Among those who have filed a response to Abbott's call for comment is former Speaker Rayford Price, who took issue (PDF) with Craddick's assertion that the Speaker can only be removed by impeachment (as is the case with statewide officeholders), on the grounds that it would leave matters up to the Senate. Now Pete Laney, who was the last Speaker before Craddick, has joined in as well.

"The 10 years I was speaker I never thought they (elected representatives) couldn't get rid of me," Laney said Thursday during a telephone conversation.


"I don't think it was ever intended for the speaker to have absolute power," Laney said. "That is why we left England in the early days to come to America so we did not have an emperor."

Laney said he interprets the speaker's role as a facilitator.

"In my opinion, the speaker is there as a vehicle so that every representative can have access to the system regardless of where they come from or what their philosophical beliefs are," Laney said.

"They are elected from an area just like the speaker is," the retired legislator said. "The members are benevolent enough to elect an individual to preside over them, and to help with the job of representing their constituents."

When asked if he planned to submit a written statement to the attorney general's office, Laney said he did not.

"I pretty much agree with what Rayford Price wrote," Laney said of an Austin attorney who served one term as speaker in 1971-1973 during the 62nd Legislature.

I love Laney's framing of the issue, and I think it's what the politics of the situation ultimately comes down to. We don't like the idea of absolute power in this state or this country. We like it when people who are in a position of power have to answer to somebody, even if it's not the voters directly. Tom Craddick's position in all this has been "I don't have to listen to you". Call me crazy, but I think any halfway decent politician can run a campaign against that. And I think Greg Abbott knows it. We'll see if he takes Burka's advice and remains above the fray or not.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 31, 2007 to That's our Lege