Joe Straus

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It's about a month into the 84th Texas Legislative session, and this week saw the first cracks in any unified front among the state's Republican leadership.

Just like every Texas legislative session – ever, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House won't always agree on things. And that was highlighted this week in the debate over border security.

Straus Names Otto as House's Chief Budget Writer

Feb 4, 2015
Todd Wiseman & Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune:

House Speaker Joe Straus released his committee assignments Wednesday, including new chairmen for the two high-profile committees that will take the lead on writing the budget and crafting tax cuts.

Straus picked state Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, as chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which crafts the chamber's budget plan. Otto, who has served in the House since 2005, has been a member of the Appropriations Committee since 2007. He is the first certified public accountant to serve as the House’s lead budget writer in more than 25 years.

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus released a two-year base budget last week, while the Senate is still working on its version.

Base budget estimates like this one [read a PDF version here] are just starting points for budget discussions over the course of the legislative session, but budget analysts are looking to see what's the starting point for spending on health care.

The House is beginning that discussion with almost $76 billion for Health and Human Services, while Medicaid would get about $60 billion – both small increases over the last budget. Mental health and substance abuse would get more than $3 billion, about the same as the last budget.

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Despite an ongoing grant moratorium, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas received permission Wednesday from state leaders to move forward on contract negotiations for 25 grants that would bring renowned cancer researchers to Texas.

“We have worked hard to regain trust with our elected officials and the citizens of Texas,” Wayne Roberts, interim executive director at CPRIT, said in a statement. “We take this action as evidence that some progress has been made, and we will continue to work to strengthen this trust during the coming weeks and months.”

The researcher grants represent a combined $72 million and were formally approved by the CPRIT oversight board in late 2012 before the moratorium took effect. Many of the researchers had moved their families and research labs to Texas in anticipation of receiving CPRIT financing.

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

After the last of his challengers dropped out Tuesday, San Antonio Republican Joe Straus was elected to a third term as speaker of the Texas House.

That last challenger, Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, never found enough support to threaten the incumbent. An earlier challenger, Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, dropped out weeks ago as Simpson entered the race.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is picking up a big Texas endorsement Tuesday — from Speaker of the House Joe Straus.

“The people of Texas are looking for a leader that will stand up to President Obama and clearly articulate conservative values. We’ve had enough of the out-of-control spending, government intrusion, and economic decline of the last three years,” Romney said in a release. “I look forward to working with Joe in the months to come as I outline my vision to restore America’s greatness.”

The Straus endorsement comes as a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows rival Rick Santorum with a huge lead in the Lone Star State, crushing both Newt Gingrich and Romney by double digit margins. Gov. Rick Perry, who withdrew from the presidential race late late last month, has endorsed Gingrich.

Picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

House Speaker Joe Straus has released his list of committees for the 82nd Texas Legislative Session.  The list has dozens of changes from the last session.  Which was expected after Republicans gained 25 seats since 2009 and now have a supermajority in the House.  Democrats lost chairmanships on high profile committees like Ways and Means (where tax bills originate) and Transportation (which is were road bills originate).

Here's the list and demographic breakdown:


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart made a stop in Texas a few weeks back to tape a story on the Texas House Speaker's race.  The reason for the trip was the inclusion of some anti-semitic messages in the campaign to oust current Speaker Joe Straus, who is Jewish.  The segment aired Thursday night.  

Austin's state Representative Elliott Naishtat, who's also Jewish, was interviewed for the story but sadly didn't make the final cut.

Image courtesy of the Texas House of Representatives

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) appointed Representative Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) to serve as "master of discovery" to determine a winner in the Donna Howard-Dan Neil race in House District 48

The Texas Capitol
Picture by Erik Reyna for KUT News

State House member Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) says he has collected a enough signatures to force the Republican caucus to take a vote on who will be the next House Speaker

In a e-mail statement released this morning, Rep. Chisum says the party needs the caucus to meet to select "one conservative candidate" for Speaker of the House. 

Photo by KUT News

And then there were three.

State Rep. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) has announced he's running to be the next Speaker of the Texas House.  The Associated Press reports that Rep. Paxton has thrown his hat into the ring because voters sent a message "that they favor leadership dedicated to protecting our freedoms and fighting government growth."

Conservative Republicans have been critical of current Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) for not being conservative enough.  Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) has already announced that he's challenging Rep. Straus for the Speaker's chair.

Long hallway in the State Capitol
Photo by KUT


Today Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) withdrew his pledge for Straus. In a statement he said he made his decission after receiving a phone call from an unnamed lawmaker he says is on Straus's leadership team.