The election of Texas House speaker is NOT changing

Photo by Austin Price / The Texas Tribune

I read with interest Carroll Robinson’s recent column in TribTalk, which could lead one to believe that a nefarious coup is occurring relating to the election of the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. I will give Robinson the benefit of the doubt and assume he is utterly confused and not blatantly trying to mislead the reader. Therefore, let me help clear some things up.

First, the Texas Constitution provides for the election of the speaker by Texas House members. This has occurred for over 170 years and it will happen in the same manner when the next legislative session begins in January 2019. On the first day of that legislative session, 150 members will be asked to cast a vote for the next speaker of the House, and it is that vote that will determine who will be lead the House during the 86th Legislature. During my three terms, it has occurred this way each and every time; the proposal being considered by the House Republican Caucus would not, and could not, change this.

Second, the next speaker will be elected by receiving the majority of the votes of the House members. While he or she will be speaker for the entire House and thus for all of Texas, the election is won by having a simple majority — 76 members. Again, the proposal being considered by the Republican Caucus would not, and could not, change this.

Third, the proposal being considered by the Republican Caucus is that the members should meet and determine their preference for the next speaker (which has been done in the past). Members of the Legislature caucus on many issues, and their ability and right to do so is an inherent part of the process. I find it deeply disturbing that anyone, especially someone licensed to practice law in Texas, would advocate for blocking members from caucusing. I find it more troubling that there is not more media outrage over such a proposal. Could you imagine the response if someone said the Democratic Caucus, Mexican American Legislative Caucus or other caucus should be blocked from meeting and determining a preference?

Fourth, it was reported by the Quorum Report last month that the Democratic Caucus had a conference call and 45 of the 55 members agreed that the Democrats should all vote for the same person for speaker. This is certainly within their rights. I wonder whether Robinson is fully supportive of their decision to do that.

For over 100 years, Democrats held the majority of the seats in the Texas House. Each and every session, there was a Democratic speaker. For most of that 100 years, Republicans were given no positions of leadership at all under those Democrat speakers; in fact, for many of those years, there were no Republicans at all in the Texas House.

This is the way a democratic republic operates. I can find no record of any Democratic speaker combining a minority of House Democrats with all of the Republican members to be elected speaker. Elections determine partisan majorities, which in turn control leadership positions and the policy agenda. This does not mean that bipartisan solutions are not sought; they are, because we know that a bi-partisan solution, when possible, is almost always better for the majority of Texans.

The proposal being considered by the Republican Caucus is simple and reasonable.

It makes perfect sense for the speaker to come out of the majority party, and for each caucus to meet and decide what  candidate to support.

It is only natural for Republicans to try and ensure that the next speaker has the support of the majority of members from his or her own party. I also think the next speaker should demonstrate that he or she wants the support of the majority of the fellow members of his or her own party.

The next speaker of the Texas House should come from the majority party — and should have the backing of the majority of that party’s members.

Ron Simmons

State representative, R-Carrollton