One year from now, the Texas House of Representatives will choose a new Speaker of the House. It will be the first time since Reconstruction that a Republican majority has had a wide-open race for Speaker, and it presents an unprecedented opportunity to reform the rules, customs, and procedures of the House.
The choice of whom to support for Speaker will fundamentally shape the next legislative session, so I want to let you know how I will determine how to cast my vote on your behalf. After the primary, I will be looking at all possible candidates, both declared and potential dark-horse contenders, and asking them all the same ten questions. With such an important decision, I want you to know what I will be asking, and what I will be looking for in an answer.
Q1: How do you define the role of Speaker of the House?
I’m looking for a leader. I don’t want a mere administrative fixture, nor someone who views their role as the ultimate authority. I want a speaker who has a vision for the culture and direction of the house and is willing to coach the members towards the common goal. Remember, the Speaker is not a state-wide elected official. He or she is elected like any other legislator, by his constituents. The Speaker is elected internally to serve the will of the House in implementing the rules.
Q2: Define the balance between your job in the House and the relationship with the Senate and the Governor.
I’m not looking for someone to make decisions for the house unilaterally, but someone to be our representative towards the other branches of government, and who comes back to us as a whole with the terms they have discussed for approval.
Q3: Which previous Speaker or statewide/national leader do you identify with the most, and why?
I want to know that someone seeking a position with this much responsibility has put thought into their governing philosophy and has found guideposts to follow. Knowing who they will model their leadership on tells me a great deal of how they will lead.
Q4: Why you? What do you bring to the table that other people don’t?
I need to see that there is more to their candidacy than ego or power. We need a communicator who encourages the body to tackle the tough issues that have been ignored to date because they are political dynamite. I’m not looking for someone who will protect me from the hard votes.
Q5: Do you view the House Rules as Levitical Law or as “Guidelines?”
The rules are printed and then agreed upon each year, and following the rules matters. Doing “the right thing” the wrong way can make it the wrong thing. Just because its hard doesn’t mean we get to skirt around the rules whenever we want and claim some precedent where someone else had the same lazy idea. Using precedent to justify bending the rules is the legislative equivalent of a child saying, “But they got to do it, why can’t I?” I don’t let my kids get away with that, I certainly don’t want my Speaker using it.
Q6: How will you select Committee Chairs?
I believe elections matter, and that the party chosen by the people to lead the state should be allowed to do so. Our committee chairs should be chosen from the majority party, and, regardless of party affiliation, they should not block legislation with broad support because of their personal politics. I want a speaker who shares this view.
Q7: Define what a healthy and productive legislative session looks like to you.
I want a Speaker who will address the largest problems in our state first. Human life, true property tax relief, school finance, business regulation, teacher pension and retirement plan’s longevity and service, and transportation. Deal with the big issues up front and then let the members decide where to spend the rest of the time.
Q8: How long do you want to be speaker? Till you accomplish your goals or until you can’t hold onto it anymore?
In the same vein as before we are looking for a leader, which means I would like someone who has a vision for Texas and a plan to get there. Once they accomplish that goal they will open themselves up for re-evaluation and/or a change. We need a visionary with a desire to accomplish a purpose.
Q9: What is your long-term vision for the state of Texas and what does a healthy Texas future look like to you?
Something that is severely lacking in all discussions at the capitol is what is the 5, 10, 20-year plan for Texas. Instead, we can barely see to the end of session and certainly not past the next election. When selecting a speaker, I want to support someone who has put some time and effort into thinking about what a healthy, fast-growing Texas looks like in the future.
So, those are my nine questions. The tenth question I will leave up to you. Email me at District20.Wilson@house.texas.gov and provide me your feedback on what you want me to ask potential candidates for Speaker of the House.