A fringe group of Republicans – including super-wealthy right-wingers who want to turn public education and the rest of state government into a cash cow of privatization – are trying to convince local GOP governing committees around the state to censure Texas House Speaker Joe Straus.
Straus is a Republican who actually wants to govern, not bully, discriminate or regress, and that’s what this is all about. A sample resolution being peddled by his detractors accuses the speaker of abusing his authority, making a “mockery” of representative government and doing “violence” to the Texas Constitution.
What the right-wing beef really is all about is Straus’ insistence on putting the priorities of all Texans over the narrow goals of a minority of ideologues who have taken over much of the GOP’s governing apparatus and have a disproportionate influence over its primary elections.
For example, the sample resolution blasts Straus for obstructing legislation to spend tax dollars on private school vouchers, an alleged “Republican principle.” In truth, there always has been strong bipartisan opposition to vouchers, which is why the House for several sessions now has killed the legislation.
The fringe element also castigates Straus for opposing and helping to kill the bathroom bill, which would have discriminated against transgender Texans and singled out transgender school children for bullying. Straus considered the bill despicable and, if enacted, a barrier to future economic development. So did hundreds of prominent business leaders throughout the state, including Republicans, and many Republican members of the House.
The resolution also faults Straus for obstructing Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda, including vouchers, the bathroom bill and a fake property tax “relief” bill that wouldn’t have lowered anyone’s property taxes by a dime. The bill, however, would have made it more difficult for local governments to pay for the fire and police protection, safe water supplies and other public services that even fringe ideologues have come to take for granted.
Straus and the House majority passed legislation during both legislative sessions this year that could have led to real cuts in school property taxes by increasing state funding for public education. The bill would have been a down payment on a new school finance system, but it was rejected by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Senate.
Straus’ approach to school funding and tax cuts is supported by most Texas voters, 79 percent of Republican voters and 86 percent of Democrats, according to bipartisan polling commissioned by TSTA earlier this year.
But Abbott and Patrick continue to spread the lie that Straus killed property tax “relief.” And both have indicated they will support efforts to unseat Straus from the speaker’s office because of his role in defeating vouchers and the bathroom bill as well. Abbott’s agenda is also Patrick’s agenda, a fringe agenda supported by officials who would rather pander than lead.
“When I place my hand on the Bible, and I raise my right hand on the first day of the session, I pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of this state, and not any party convention’s platform,” Straus said.
Or any wishlist concocted by a party’s fringe.