The evening of September 26th in Alabama saw the political establishment – with all its powerful insiders and all their tens of millions of dollars – clash with the buzz saw of the American grassroots. Judge Roy Moore convincingly trounced the better-funded and better-connected Luther Strange, because people are increasingly voting for serious reform in government. Voters want political promises kept and our lawmaking bodies to start respecting both the Constitution and their hard-earned tax dollars.
In San Antonio, a remarkably similar battle is playing out on the state battlefield, and the effective end of the Bexar GOP – as it is currently known – may be at hand.
Mr Joe R. Straus, III, the Speaker of the Texas House, has for a decade, stood in the way of free-market and individual-liberty reforms in Texas. While the mainstream media are habitually known to portray the current speaker in a favorable light as a bipartisan statesman working tirelessly to prevent undesirable legislation from being passed, that narrative is no longer so widely or easily accepted as once was the case.
During the most recent regular and special legislative sessions, Speaker Straus and his handpicked liberal committee chairs managed to block a number of the bills that were most important to our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Republican voters in Texas – e.g., property tax reform and spending limitations. Additionally, efforts to curb leftist power grabs, property rights abuses, and extravagant spending of local municipalities were left unaddressed or inadequately so, as were issues dealing with protecting life and providing school choice for special-needs children. Speaker Straus has also developed a reputation for his strong-arm tactics in overseeing the Texas House, routinely trampling the rights and legislative goals of conservative members, refusing to recognize them for motions on the floor, and even violating longstanding parliamentary procedures in order to protect his agenda.
For the first time, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt Governor Dan Patrick have spoken publicly during the current legislative biennium regarding their deep disagreements with Speaker Straus. Increasingly, well-informed Texas voters are coming to the realization that Speaker Straus and his leadership appointments represent a deep betrayal of the entire Texas Republican Party (RPT) and its voters, as well as of the agendas of popular elected leaders across the state. Speaker Straus has worked doggedly – and with deadly efficiency – at killing the agendas of our Governor and Lt Governor, as well as at making life extremely difficult for our Attorney General.
We would, of course, expect such behavior and tactics from a Jim Hightower, a Gary Mauro, or an Ann Richards, but Straus is ostensibly a Republican who should be working as part of the team, not against it. The angst Texas voters manifest with respect to Speaker Straus largely mirrors the frustrations many also experience with regard to the U.S. Congress.
As of today, no less than 52 official county GOP party organizations representing districts serving as home to over half the State’s population, have passed resolutions of no confidence in or – in some cases – of official censure of Texas State House Speaker Joe Straus. One can only conjecture that the number of similar resolutions will only continue to multiply in coming months. Contrary to erroneous (delusional) thinking on the part of the local county party leaders, the state county parties have adopted “Censure Straus” resolutions without the direct influence of Bexar County committee members. (Definition of a delusion: “A false belief or wrong judgment held with conviction despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.”)
A ”Rule 44 Censure” of an elected Republican official is the strongest form of rebuke to a Republican elected official provided for in the by-laws of the Republican Party of Texas Platform. Reserved for officials who have during the current legislative biennium violated at least three core principles of the RPT Platform, Rule 44 provides for the removal of all Party support for any individual so censured. Such a measure is so severe in its consequences that it can result in full removal of all Party support for any person so censured. While the authoritative official censure can only be passed at the State level by the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC), it must first locally originate in the lawmaker’s home county.
After researching the matter, an ad hoc group of concerned Bexar County Republican precinct chairmen recently determined that Speaker Joe Straus has, during the current biennium, violated no less than all ten such core RPT Platform principles. This same ad hoc group has already filed a proposed Rule 44 Resolution on September 15, 2017 with Bexar County Party Chair Robert Stovall. The content of the resolution and related materials spell out a clear-cut case against Straus.
Regrettably, Chairman Stovall appears to have responded to his receipt of the censure resolution in an eerily Strausian manner – characterized by such tactics as further consolidating unbridled power at the County Chair level, ignoring parliamentary procedure, and stymieing political opposition using draconian methods.
In an apparent response to the aforementioned group’s censure resolution duly submitted to the Bexar County Party Office well ahead of the now fast-approaching October 9th CEC Meeting, Chairman Stovall peremptorily appointed a special Resolutions Committee, whose members were invested with powers more properly pertaining to a standing committee. According to the Bexar County Republican Chairman, all new resolutions must henceforth first be referred (in this case, it would appear, even retroactively) to the new Special committee. Additionally, the referenced resolution – and all future proposed resolutions – must also now conform to a new set of standards that include a prohibition of any wording that might be considered disparaging of an elected Republican official – Speaker Straus, for example. Furthermore, per the new Resolution Committee rules, no future proposed resolution may contain more than three “whereas” clauses – a requirement that fairly shouts arbitrariness.
Under the accepted parliamentary standards of Roberts Rules of Order, Special Committees are not to usurp the authority of a standing body [e.g., the County Executive Committee (CEC), which is comprised of all elected precinct chairs in Bexar County]. More critically, only the CEC body itself can create a Standing committee – and that only by amendment of the very by-laws of said organization via a two-thirds vote.
While Speaker Straus, on the one hand, enjoys the luxury of operating within a 140-day legislative session with restrictive timetables, Chairman Stovall, on the other, will likely soon discover that there is no similar timetable in Bexar County. He may win an initial Pyrrhic battle, but the current grassroots drive will go on. Indeed, as more and more counties pass resolutions of no-confidence and censure, Chairman Stovall may well soon find himself to be as unpopular as Luther Strange, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, and Joe Straus already are with the vast majority of liberty-loving voters in Texas and Bexar County. In the end, the people will prevail, because the battle will not end until the victory of our principles in consonance with the Republican Platform is achieved, and our elected Texas State House representatives are once again at liberty to function fully as legislators – rather than as hand-tied Strausian serfs.
According to a recent article in the local San Antonio newspaper not known for unbiased reporting, the “Censure Straus” members of the Bexar County Republican Party, according to the reporter, “comprise a small percentage” of the precinct chairs. He will soon find out along with Chairman Robert Stovall and Speaker Joe Straus that this assumption is false.
While Robert Stovall expressed to the reporter his concern that the resolution sponsors and their precinct chair supporters will “try to intimidate people”, he is the proverbial pot calling the kettle black considering his memo of September 15th which has attempted but failed to intimidate the resolution writers by constructing artificial barriers to the presentation of the censure resolution at the CEC meeting.
Michael R. O’Donnell is a county executive member and precinct chair with the Republican Party of Bexar County.