Not only is a state representative facing censure by his party, but rumors circulating in the Capitol allege he entered the legislative session with the intention of trading out his chairmanship for a lucrative lobbying job later this year. Questions now center on how much House Speaker Joe Straus knew about this arrangement when he appointed State Rep. Dan Huberty to chair the House Committee on Public Education.
Huberty, a Republican from Houston’s Kingwood area, is no stranger to controversy. During the last legislative session, he was repeatedly intoxicated on the House floor. He was even caught on video late one afternoon slurring his speech and clearly intoxicated after leaving the chamber.
He made national headlines this week by attacking a key policy position of the Republican Party, President Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Huberty is refusing to even allow a vote on school choice issues before his committee, telling a friendly Austin audience that he believes it is the job of a committee chair to “protect” members from controversial votes.
However, school choice has proven to be controversial only among the big-spending government entities for which Huberty apparently intends to lobby after the session ends. School choice was supported by 93 percent of the delegates to the Republican Party of Texas’ 2016 convention, and is one of five legislative priorities to be officially championed by the GOP.
Silent on Huberty’s attacks on GOP positions has been the chairman of the Texas House’s Republican Caucus, Tan Parker of Flower Mound. (Parker has generally refused to push the caucus on issues important to Republican primary voters, yet does take the time to endorse those Republican candidates who support abortion rights and benefits for illegal aliens.)
Also silent have been Straus’ vocal apologists, like State Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton), who made big promises about translating support for a pro-abortion speaker into conservative gains on school choice.
Huberty only got the chairmanship after Straus’ number one pick for the job, liberal anti-school-choice Republican Marsha Farney of Georgetown, was handily defeated in the March 2016 primary by Terry Wilson. The previous chairman, anti-school choice liberal Jimmie Don Aycock, refused to seek re-election in the face of a tough primary season.
Several sources in and around the Capitol say Huberty has been plotting a move to cash-in on his legislative tenure by working as a lobbyist. Many suspect he has intended to lobby on behalf of school districts, or for liberal San Antonio Democrat Charles Butt.
Butt, the billionaire CEO of HEB grocery stores, has been the largest donor to efforts opposing education reform.
It was assumed Straus appointed Huberty to the position specifically to kill school choice. It’s not known when Straus learned that Huberty would be using the chairmanship of his committee as an exit towards a career as a lobbyist.
This session may be Huberty’s last chance to cash in. Legislation filed by State Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) and passed out of the Senate would close the revolving door on lawmakers becoming lobbyists and require a two-year cooling-off period. Huberty will have the additional incentive to leave after this session because he will be fully vested in the legislative retirement, in which Texas’ part-time lawmakers earning $600 per month get a pension based on the salary of a full-time district judge.