In a surprise switch-up this week, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen removed Republican State Rep. Drew Darby (San Angelo) from the Legislative Budget Board and replaced him with Democrat State Rep. Mary González (Clint).
A 10-member body, the LBB consists of Bonnen, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and four additional members, each from the Texas House and Senate. The board is tasked with the development of recommended legislative appropriations for all agencies of state government.
Though Bonnen has not commented on why he made the sudden change, many have speculated it comes as a form of retribution against Darby. The West Texas Republican lawmaker was one of the first to call for Bonnen’s resignation after an audio recording was released, revealing the speaker offering Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan a quid pro quo offer of media credentials in exchange for the targeting of certain Republican members.
Bonnen was also accused of using similar retributory tactics when he removed State Rep. Chris Paddie (R–Marshall) from the Sunset Commission in December.
Darby was also among the list of Republicans Bonnen sought to have targeted in the 2020 primary elections, and is now widely rumored to be setting up a campaign to replace Bonnen as Speaker of the House. Bonnen is not seeking re-election.
Who is Mary González?
First elected in 2012, González is one of the most liberal members of the Texas House, earning a 21 on the most recent Fiscal Responsibility Index. During the last session, she voted to kill a ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying, voted against legislation to limit the growth of local property taxes, and voted against a bill banning sweetheart deals for abortion providers and their affiliates. She even opposed a state ban on an income tax.
A self-described “pansexual,” González is also the inaugural chair of the LGBTQ legislative caucus, which was created to advance bills that are “transformative” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans across the state at the expense of religious freedoms.
The LBB, and the budget, will almost certainly be at the forefront of the next legislative session in 2021, as the state is projected to face a major shortfall in revenue brought on by the economic effects of the Chinese coronavirus shutdowns.