Regardless of whether House Speaker Dade Phelan wins or loses his runoff election tonight (but especially if he loses), things are about to move very quickly in the Texas House. 

Since the March primary wipeout of incumbent members who were placed in electoral danger by Phelan’s actions—placing Democrats in leadership positions, ignoring the legislative priorities of the Republican Party of Texas, and the failed impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton—discussions have quickly begun in the Capitol about what a post-Phelan House should look like.

The most visible of these efforts has been the Contract With Texas. The series of 12 proposed reforms has been signed by more than two dozen incumbent Republicans and candidates. 

Far from just tinkering around the edges, the Contract With Texas calls for serious structural changes that its creators and signatories say would fundamentally change the role of the Speaker to deliver the conservative victories that Republican voters have demanded.

This, naturally, includes ending Democrat chairmanships—which has been a legislative priority of the Republican Party of Texas. But it also includes items such as term limits for the Speaker of the House, audio/visual recordings of parliamentary debates, a prohibition on the Speaker funneling campaign cash to loyal members, and a promise by the next Speaker not to seek support from Democrats in building their coalition of support.

These changes threaten the Austin swamp. Whether Phelan wins or loses tonight, the Austin establishment is scrambling to hold on to what’s left of their coalition. 

Sources have told Texas Scorecard that lawmakers in the Phelan-allied Texas Freedom Caucus (unaffiliated with and disavowed by the well-known national Freedom Caucus network) are working on “reforms.” These sources say the watered-down version will forgo many of the Contract With Texas’ most important reforms, including the power-sharing agreement with Democrats so important to the lobby. 

It is generally understood that the race for the next House speaker will begin in earnest this week. Even if Phelan keeps his seat in the House, his closest allies expect someone else will be speaker in 2025. 

In the midst of this, now more than ever, citizens must be vigilant of moves by the Austin establishment to maintain the status quo under the guise of so-called “reform.”

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens