Members of the Texas Freedom Caucus publicly exposed an uncomfortable truth about the coalition government of liberal Republicans and Democrats running Texas’ lower legislative chamber: In their zeal to squash conservative priorities, House leadership has ignored the basics of governing.
The Texas House has shown that their failed leadership, coupled with a pathological hatred of conservatives, hurts everyone in the Lone Star State.
The Straus leadership spent weeks leaving major reforms and minor legislation gathering dust even as the Dan Patrick-led Texas Senate was moving them thoughtfully and diligently through the process.
Let us set aside for a few moments concerns about policy, the ideological fights, and the philosophical questions. Put away property tax relief, the Privacy Act, school choice, spending limits, or the myriad of other legislative priorities that have been killed or gutted.
And you are left with the inescapable conclusion that Republican House Speaker Joe Straus and his establishment cronies abdicated their role as a “governing” leadership this session. Basic tools for governing Texas, like authorizing the state’s medical boards, means that the safety and welfare of 27 million Texans is in jeopardy.
The House leadership spent all session petrified conservatives might use the amendment process on “must-pass” legislation re-authorizing important state agencies to advance popular reforms. So scared has the Straus leadership coalition been that they, literally, refused to do the basic business of the people.
That was brought into focus on Thursday when the House leadership, after stalling their Calendar for weeks by filling the legislative schedule with fluff, decided to flood the floor with bills at the last possible minute. This meant House members would be voting on legislation they had little time to read, let alone review or debate.
That included a number of big items, like a catch-all bill re-authorizing for two years any agency up for “sunset” review in 2017 that didn’t get specifically reauthorized. The biggest of those was the Texas Medical Board; the legislation re-authorizing it could be amended with free-market and pro-life reforms. Yet Straus and his cronies were so worried about any meaningful conservative wins, they refused to bring the TMB re-authorization forward for a vote at all.
Hence, the importance of the “catch-all” bill to them in attempting to mask their failure.
So the Freedom Caucus turned a bright, hot spotlight on the problem by killing nearly 200 pieces of legislation and preventing the catch-all omnibus bill from being rushed to the floor for a hurried vote.
Practically, this puts the Texas Senate – the body that has proven itself this year to be more responsible on governing issues, and more responsive to citizens – in the driver’s seat on the “sunset” process – which has historically been an avenue for significant conservative reforms.
As in the past, heading into Thursday night’s deadline the Straus coalition offered carrots of half-measures to conservatives, dangled at the far-end, never-to-be-reached part of the end-of-session calendar. In the past, everyone played the game in the unfounded hope of maybe-just-maybe getting to the good stuff.
This year, the Freedom Caucus wisely chose not to play the hostage-taking game. They struck back hard, and in doing so won a big victory for governing transparency while demonstrating the importance of good leadership.
By killing the Straus Calendar, the Texas Freedom Caucus kept conservative priorities alive.
We need more lawmakers like Matt Schaefer (Tyler), Jeff Leach (Plano), Matt Rinaldi (Irving), Matt Shaheen (Plano), Tony Tinderholt (Arlington), Jonathan Stickland (Bedford), Briscoe Cain (Deer Park), Valoree Swanson (Spring), Matt Krause (Fort Worth), Bill Zedler (Fort Worth), Kyle Beidermann (Fredericksburg), and Mike Lang (Granbury).
They have been working for policy over politics, for substance over show. They are doing the work Texans expect of their lawmakers.