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Straus Strides Back To Speakership, Says Public Education Biggest Issue Before Lawmakers

Ryan E. Poppe

On Day One of the new session of the Texas legislature, members of the House reelected Rep. Joe Straus as the Speaker of the House. Straus had no problem overcoming the challenge of the Tea Party’s Rep. Scott Turner, a Frisco Republican who captured just 19 votes compared to the 127 from the San Antonio-based Speaker.

When he thanked his supporters, Straus made it a point to reference critics who’ve repeatedly referred to his being “not conservative enough.” He also warned against the kind of “Washington-style” partisanship that vocal opponents could try and create. “This House is something bigger than all of us, it’s a about a fair process that points us toward common ground, this House belongs to no special interest, no single interest, it belongs to almost 27 million Texans,” said Straus.

Some of Straus’ supporters spoke before the vote.  Brownville Democratic Rep. Rene Olivera said Straus is a Republican who saw the big picture. “He’s conservative and he’s a gentlemen’s gentleman. Joe wants every member to participate in a process that is not only fair but inclusive,” said Olivera.

Republican Rep. Genie Morrison of Victoria said Straus was the kind of leader who could bring the entire House together. “It is never easy to get 149 members to work together on issues that span the spectrum, but Joe has done an exceptional job,” said Morrison.

Rep. Bryan Hughes, a Minneola Republican, unsuccessfully argued in favor of Turner, claiming Tea Party wins in November were a clear sign that change was needed in the Texas House. “So the people have spoken with a new House, representing a new and changing Texas; we have before us the opportunity to choose a new leader,” said Hughes.

Straus told a full gallery that public education was the single most important issue facing lawmakers this session. He also pointed out the need to add more transportation funding and promised to prevent gas tax money from being diverted from the State’s Highway Fund. Straus was sworn in before the two other top legislative leaders, Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick, and Gov.-elect Greg Abbott, will take office, on Jan. 20.