Craddick’s Ruling on Refusal to Recognize — and a Response

By Comments

I received this message today from Alexis DeLee. It is the rationale for Speaker Craddick’s ruling on Friday night that various provisions of the Texas Constitution overrides the rules of the House of Representatives and prevents the House from taking action to remove the speaker from office during a legislative session. My comments follow below.

May 26, 2007

The following is being entered into the House Journal by Speaker Tom Craddick:

* * *

The office of Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives is the only constitutionally-mandated officer of the Texas House by virtue of Article 3, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution. All other officers of the House, including committee chairs, are chosen by rule. The Speaker occupies a unique position in this state as an officeholder in his capacity as a state representative from a particular district of this state and also as the constitutional officeholder of the position of Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

The Texas Constitution speaks to the exclusive grounds for the removal of officeholders. Article 16, Section 5 is applicable to all officeholders and is automatic upon conviction for bribery. Article 3, Section 11 is specific to the legislature, and authorizes each house of the legislature to expel members for offenses upon a two-thirds vote. Article 3, Section 8 vests procedural authority upon each house to judge election contests and qualifications to hold office as a state legislator.

Furthermore, a unique provision of the Texas Constitution, Article 15, Section 7, mandates that the legislature can only provide for the trial and removal from office of any officer of this State by enactment of a law if a mode for a state officer’s removal has not otherwise been specifically provided for in the Texas Constitution.

This unambiguous provision of the Texas Constitution overrides any supposed merit to the suggestion that a process to remove an officer of this State can be created by one house of the legislature during a legislative session and used to remove that officer from office. Because Article 15, Section 7 specifically forbids the result that Representatives Smith, Hill and Dunnam seek to accomplish by motion, their reliance on precedent from sources outside of the Rules of this House, the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state is misplaced and violates the specific substantive provisions and procedural guarantees of the Texas Constitution.

Additionally, and independent of the foregoing, the House Rules do not have a provision for members to remove a Speaker during mid-session for the reason that Article 3, Section 9 of the Texas Constitution governs the timing and authority for the election of the Speaker. A motion to amend the rules to provide for electing a Speaker by a new and different method than that set out in the Texas Constitution and is, in essence, an attempt to amend the Texas Constitution by the passage of a motion in one house. Amendments to the Texas Constitution can only come about by the passage by two-thirds vote in both houses of the proposed amendment which must then receive voter approval in an election called for that purpose.

Given that the motion being proposed is not authorized by law, and furthermore conflicts with applicable provisions of the Texas Constitution, the effect of passage of such a motion would be invalid. As a matter of public policy, for a Speaker to recognize a member for such a motion would not only be disruptive of the legitimate business on behalf of the citizens of this state that the House should instead be conducting, but it also would undermine the institution of the office of the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

Therefore, pursuant to my authority under Rule 5, Section 24 of the House Rules, I denied the requests to be recognized for the motion.


My comments:

1. My first question is whether the speaker is truly an officer of this State. I don’t think so, and I have heard the speaker, at a press conference in the back hallway, take issue with a reporter’s assertion that he is a state official. The speaker had answered a question about his stand on the school finance issue by saying that he was representing his constituents’ wishes, and the reporter had responded by saying that he was a statewide official and should have a statewide view. The speaker’s response was No, he was the state representative from Midland. Notwithstanding this anecdotal experience, I am not persuaded that the mention of the speaker and the president pro tempore of the Senate in Article 3, Section 9, elevate them to the status of officers of the state. They are officers of their legislative chambers, nothing more. Mere mention in the Constitution does not confer statewide status on them. If the speaker is not an officer of the state, then his entire argument falls apart.

2. Furthermore, if the speaker is not an officer of the state, then the protections of Article 15, Section 7, requiring the Legislature to enact a law providing a mode for a state officer’s removal, do not shelter him from action. In fact, Article 15 has nothing to do with the speaker. The subject of the article is “Impeachment.” The requirement of a law providing a mode for a state officer’s removal applies only to the impeachment process. Which officers are subject to impeachment? See Article 15, Section 2:

TRIAL OF IMPEACHMENT OF CERTAIN OFFICERS BY SENATE. Impeachment of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Commissioner of the General Land Office, Comptroller, and the Judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and District Court shall be tried by the Senate.

These are the only state officers to whom the requirement applies that the Legislature must enact a law providing for a mode of removal. The omission of the speaker can only mean (a) that the speaker is not a state officer; or (b) that the requirement does not apply to his removal, the rules of the House being sufficient to provide for a procedure.

3. The speaker returns to Article 3, Section 9, for the next step in his argument:

PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE; SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. [omitting language concerning the President Pro Tempore] The House of Representatives shall, when it first assembles, organize temporarily, and thereupon proceed to the election of a Speaker from its own members.

The argument here is that since the Constitution requires the election of a speaker when the Legislature first assembles, it cannot choose a speaker at any other time, because to do so would be an attempt to amend the Constitution by a motion in one house. This is ridiculous. If the chair were to become vacant by a means other than removal–say, due to death or resignation–would the House be prohibited from choosing a successor? Of course not. In any event, what the House is seeking to do is REMOVE a speaker. They are entitled to do this by privileged resolution under the House rules. Or were, until the speaker made this ruling that allows himself to perpetuate his control without having to grant recognition to those who would oppose him. Once the chair is vacant, they can proceed to fill the vacancy as they would have done, had the vacancy occurred due to death or resignation.

This ruling is good for one thing and one thing only: It will be an object of historical curiosity for future parliamentarians who will wonder how in the world someone of their ilk could produce such nonsense.

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