Cards Come Back

According to several members of the Texas House, allies of House Speaker Joe Straus are distributing “pledge cards” to legislators. The message is clear: promise — in writing — to support Joe Straus for speaker in 2015, or face retribution from the lobby.

It had been widely rumored that Mr. Straus would not seek another session as speaker. By passing out pledge cards, it either means Mr. Straus is planning on staying put, or he is advance blocking for the advancement of a chosen ally.

House Speaker Joe Straus... wanting pledges
Such cards have not been seen in the House since 2009. In 2011, the speaker’s team didn’t even distribute the cards after members expressed concerns about voters finding out.

An increasingly informed electorate found they didn’t like lawmakers making such an important decision without at least some input from their employers: the constituents back home.

But the cards apparently are back. While House members are expected to pledge him fealty in writing, they get no similar pledge from the speaker candidate. No assurance of committee allocations or policy outcomes. It is illegal — even if nod-and-wink assurances take place — for a speaker candidate to promise committee assignments to House members contingent on being elected.

Instead, all they get is a thinly veiled threat: sign the card or the speaker will get the lobby to withhold dollars and spend them against you in the next election.

Several senior legislators have said in recent months that they had been “assured” they would get plum assignments in exchange for helping Mr. Straus by thwarting a speaker-race earlier this year. Their reward: nothing. Implied chairmanships vanished with Mr. Straus’ reelection.

With lawmakers entering a special session on redistricting (and possibly more) today, there will be plenty of opportunities for Straus’ allies to brow-beat unpledged legislators. The bad old days are here again…

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Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael is president and CEO of Empower Texans. A graduate of Texas A&M, former newspaper reporter, one-time Capitol Hill staffer, think tank vice president, and an Eagle Scout, Sullivan is married with three children. He divides his time between the Metroplex, the rest of Texas, and Austin.

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