Opinion: The Contract With Texas

Texas State Capitol Building | Image by Grindstone Media Group/Shutterstock
Texas State Capitol Building | Image by Grindstone Media Group/Shutterstock

The Texas House is not fully self-driving, but no one is at the wheel. Texas history now displays the wreckage: a half-baked, raw-in-the-middle, statewide impeachment; a weak school choice bill that died on arrival; and an extended, one-party quorum break to kill meaningful election reforms. Each of these catastrophes is only a symptom of the real disease—failed leadership. No one is in charge.

The rest of Texas history must be written by those who do the real work of liberty. The Contract with Texas is our promise to let them. The 25 signers of the Contract have banded together to ensure that the legislative priorities of the Republican Party of Texas are just that: Priorities.

As you work your way through the Contract with Texas, you may form the suspicion that things have gone horribly awry for something like this commitment to be necessary, and you would be right. The Texas House of Representatives has, for a generation, been marked by dysfunctional leadership. In a Republican-majority House, committees are chaired by Democrats. The Speaker Pro Tem of the Texas House is a Democrat. Hugh Brady, the House Parliamentarian, is a Democrat. Most Texans are exasperated and wondering, “How did we get here?”

The answer is actually pretty simple: The Speaker of the Texas House has ridden into power through three iterations of leadership on the backs of Democrat supporters. Rather than electing the Speaker solely from the Republican Caucus, three separate speakers have made the concessions necessary to gain the support of the same party promoting big government, gender madness, and abortion on demand. Meanwhile, the conservative volunteers, donors, activists, and the grassroots initiatives they support are pushed to the margins.

The Contract with Texas is our roadmap out of this dysfunction to a place of healthy legislative leadership. Our hope with the Contract with Texas is to consign Texas’s imperial speakership to the history books where it belongs. We hope to end the practice of using the speakership to purchase loyalty through the distribution of campaign funds. We expect to increase transparency in the House by recording all proceedings, and we want to ensure that our next Speaker is limited only to two terms. The purpose of all this change is to make sure that conservative legislation hits the floor for a vote first and often.

Once entrenched, Speakers have been unspeakably difficult to remove. At the time of this writing, Dade Phelan faces a runoff of historical significance; nothing like it has happened in this state for over 50 years. One of the primary reasons for this historic runoff is Phelan’s ongoing attempt to serve two masters in Republicans and Democrats. The Speaker probably finds it a delicate and exhausting balance to create the theater of Republican victory while still allowing Democrats to undermine meaningful reforms and protections. The voters have, apparently, lost their patience for it.

As drafters and signers of the Contract with Texas, our profound and complex solution to this problem is, “Stop doing it.” There is a future Texas where voters can expect us to find clear legislative solutions to our problems by way of a fair, transparent process, and it is our job as legislators to find it.

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