The Texas House of Representatives started the 2013 session today the same way it ended 2011 — with state Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, as speaker. This represents the third session in a row in which far-right groups like Texas Eagle Forum and Liberty Institute/Texas Values along with Tea Party activists have failed to keep Straus from wielding the speaker’s gavel.
Far-right opponents claim Straus isn’t conservative enough — even after a 2011 session in which the Legislature slashed public education funding, required women seeking an abortion to undergo invasive sonograms and threw low-income women under the bus by cutting funds for family planning and other women’s health programs. State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, announced last year that he would challenge Straus for the speakership. Then Hughes withdrew his challenge, which was taken up by state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview. With defeat certain, Simpson withdrew his challenge today as well.
Far-right activists two years ago launched a religious campaign to unseat Straus, who is Jewish. Opponents called for the election of a “Christian, conservative” speaker in his place. Various news outlets called out the bigotry and outright lies in that unsuccessful campaign. We saw less of the sleaze this round.
So what does all this mean for the 2013 session, which runs until the end of May? We still expect major battles over issues like private school voucher schemes, the war on birth control, sex education, stem cell research and church-state separation. If you haven’t already, sign up for a TFN Rapid Response Team and help defeat the far right’s radical agenda on these issues. TFN will give these issue-specific advocacy teams targeted, up-to-the-minute information on bills as they move and on what you can do to persuade lawmakers to stand up for mainstream values in Texas.
The legislative session has just begun. So sign up for a Rapid Response team today!