Texas House should set partisanship aside when choosing a speaker

Photo by Austin Price / The Texas Tribune

The general election of 2018 is finally over and the next round of governing in Texas will start in January when the 86th Legislature convenes. In the aftermath of the election, it is easy to discern that folks in Texas want less politics and better policy from all of us who serve them in Austin.

The Texas House of Representatives will elect the next speaker on the first day of the upcoming legislative session. The selection process that was discussed and agreed upon by both party caucuses would entail an open, transparent process in which candidates for speaker would present their ideas and positions on issues in front of the House members, and we would each vote for the candidate who most closely aligns themselves with our district and the interest of the state as a whole.

The process would be replicated in front of the membership of the full House and a vote would be taken to select the speaker. Republicans and Democrats alike will make that selection based on their own positions on funding for public education, property tax relief, health care, the post-Hurricane Harvey flood mitigation plan, transportation funding, border security, the opioid addiction epidemic and various other state challenges.

But that ideal process of a healthy debate has been commandeered by the usual political obstacle of partisan divide with very little discussion. Texans deserve better. We should demand a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates in which the candidates discuss the aforementioned challenges facing the Legislature. Each prospective candidate for speaker should be allowed in the debate and the one with the best ideas and track record should prevail to become our next speaker.

Each House member should approach the forum with no initial pledge or allegiance to any speaker candidate. The selection should be organic, based on the content and character presented by each candidate. In lieu of having nominating speeches from fellow legislators, we should hear and see candidates’ positions and temperament from the contenders themselves.

The people of Texas deserve to know who the next speaker is and what his or her vision is for the present and future generations of Texans.

Lyle Larson

State representative, R-San Antonio