Straus Lieutenant Leaves for Lobby While He Still Can

One of Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ key lieutenants is getting out while he can, leaving the House for a job as a lobbyist for the University of Texas after fighting during the session against conservative reforms.

State Rep. Larry Gonzales (R–Round Rock) confirmed at a Williamson County Republican Party meeting Tuesday night that he will be retiring from the Texas House of Representatives. Capitol sources claim that Gonzales will take a job as a lobbyist for The University of Texas.

Gonzales was at the meeting to oppose a grassroots resolution calling for the removal of Straus from the speaker’s office.

Gonzales was facing a tough reelection challenge from Jeremy Story, the state chaplain for the Republican Party of Texas. If he had faced voters, Gonzales would have been forced to defend his record this legislative session fighting against taxpayer-supported reforms, including pro-life policies.

In recent years, the Straus-led coalition of liberal Republican and Democrats that control the Texas House has become a sort of farm team for the Austin lobby. Key players spend their time in Austin working for special interests to oppose taxpayers. Then, when their voters become sufficiently aware of their record and an opponent pops up, the representative will retire and immediately receive a high-paying job as a tax funded lobbyist.

With Straus’s coalition on shaky ground and Gov. Abbott pushing ethics reforms that could slam shut the door to the lobby, Gonzales appears to be getting out while he still can.

This session State Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth), another key Straus lieutenant killed an ethics proposal advanced by the governor and that would have ended the revolving door between the legislature and the Austin lobby by requiring a two-year cooling off period.

Gonzales certainly did his part this session to ‘earn’ his tax-funded payoff.

Early in the regular session Gonzales went to war with Pro-life Texans by pushing a gag rule that would have blocked pro-life amendments on must-pass sunset bills, including the bill to continue the Texas Medical Board. After conservative representatives in the Texas Freedom Caucus forced Gonzales to back down, he then refused to bring the Medical Board sunset bill to the floor at all.

But taxpayers would have the last laugh. When the bill failed, Gov. Abbott called legislators back for a special session and placed a number of conservative bills on the call. Several of those bills, including some major pro-life reforms, would ultimately pass despite Gonzales’ obstruction.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel for Empower Texans. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony received his J.D. in 2012 from UT Law School. While in school, Tony served as Senior Vice Chairman for Young Conservatives of Texas and helped manage its legislative affairs. During the 83rd Texas Legislature he served as Chief of Staff for Rep. Jonathan Stickland. Tony resides in Austin and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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