Once labeled the “Harry Reid of Texas” by Forbes, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus was back to his old tricks mimicking the former Democratic leader last week. Straus moved to consolidate power in the Texas House with little protest, save from a band of conservatives.

Throughout his tenure as speaker, Straus has built his brand around “protecting” members loyal to him from taking tough votes. He’s done that by using committee chairmen, the Calendars Committee, and abuse of his power of recognition to prevent measures favored by conservatives – but disfavored by the Austin lobby that is the source of his and his lieutenants’ re-election cash ­– from coming to the floor for a vote.

This session Straus has squared off with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and pledged to defeat the Texas Privacy Act, a bill aimed at reversing radical left wing transgender policies forcing women to tolerate biological men in their restrooms, changing rooms, and showers. Straus’ public defense is that big business will target the state if the bill passes, but his opposition truly stems from his left-of-center cosmopolitan values.

It is easy enough for Straus to kill the Privacy Act, Senate Bill 6, by simply burying it. Indeed, the bill has languished on his desk for weeks since passing the senate.

But avoiding votes on the issue in general is much tougher. Indeed, every state agency has restrooms in its facilities, and beyond that, distinctions on the basis of gender are scattered throughout state policy.

Seeing an opening to force votes on the basic issue – whether Texas legislators will tolerate the radical left’s redefinition of gender – conservatives have begun to file amendments on bills appearing to have nothing to do with gender.

Last Tuesday, State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) filed an amendment to the Railroad Commission sunset bill that would have required bathrooms at the oil and gas regulating agency’s offices to be designated for members of each biological sex. Likewise, State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) filed an amendment that would have required the Commission to verify the biological gender of women applying for contracts with the agency under the historically underutilized businesses program.

Without the ability to use the committee process to prevent votes on those two policies, Straus elected to abuse his power of recognition to refuse to allow Schaefer and Tinderholt their rights to offer motions to amend the bill.

This is the same maneuver employed by Harry Reid to cut off amendments by Republicans in Congress five years ago. When Reid did it, the national media called it the “nuclear option” and recognized it as a blunder. The Heritage Foundation cried, “Tyranny in the United States Senate.”

Tyranny indeed. Straus has brought Harry Reid’s brand of tyranny to the Texas House, abusing all basic principles of parliamentary procedure and ignoring all precedent in order to prevent debate over an issue he is too squeamish to discuss.

Texans should demand a republican form of government. Indeed, it is our birthright, purchased in blood at the Alamo, Goliad, and the fields of San Jacinto. But we do not have a republican government so long as the Straus is allowed to consolidate power and strip duly elected Texas Representatives of their basic rights to participate in the legislative process.

Each time Straus disregards his sworn duty and refuses to recognize a lawmaker he doesn’t only silence them, but the 180,000 Texans that member represents.

Americans have finally rid ourselves of Harry Reid and his abuse of power in the U.S. Senate. It’s time for his tactics to be removed from the Texas House of Representatives as well.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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