The Texas Legislature opens tomorrow morning, and as Molly Ivins has often said, sensible Texans need to hide their wallets and send their daughters and wives out of state. Danger approaches, and it's after all of us.
Four years ago the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the end of the Yankee Army enforced Reconstruction. Along with Republican control came a new Speaker of the House, and after he had spent 38 years in the Texas House of Representatives Tom Craddick became the first Republican Speaker of the House in more than 130 years.
Craddick is the guy Tom DeLay depended on to do the midterm redistricting of Texas that cost the Democrats five Congressional seats which was the only gain Congressional Republicans had in the federal House in 2002. Remember when the Texas Democrats fled Texas to prevent the Republicans from getting a quorum to pass the redistricting? This was the last gasp effort to stop Craddick and DeLay. It required the Republican Texas Governor to call three month long special sessions of the legislature until two or three Democrats gave up and showed up for quorum call. During this time the Texas Supreme Court had already declared the Texas law that funded schools unconstitutional. But the Republicans considered the power gain of redistricting important, not the funding of schools.
The Republicans would push really hard to gain more power, but not to educate children and offer fair taxes.
The Strong-arm tactics that Craddick has used as Speaker have cost him. That's why the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (registration required). Their original title was that "Bloody Tuesday looms." This one about Pete Geren has been changed because Pete Geren is a local House Representative.
It is very important to remember that Texas wrote a new Constitution right after the Republican Carpetbaggers left. The new Constitution left Texas with a very weak Governor. As result, the most powerful single politician in the State of Texas is the Speaker of the House, because of his ability to control the agenda of the House of Representatives. The second most powerful is the Texas Lt. Governor, because as President of the Senate, he controls the agenda of the Senate. The Texas Governor is the third most powerful. He can veto legislation and appoint (but not remove) people to the set of Commissions that control the various departments of the State.
Bay Area Houston offers his view of the importance of tomorrow's Speaker election.