Divine Right of Speakers: The Brief
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Tom Craddick has submitted his brief to attorney general Abbott in response to the opinion request asking the AG to determine the correctness of his rulings that effectively insulate him from removal as speaker during a legislative session.
My ability to comment on this is somewhat limited, since I am in New Orleans using a motel computer and a printer that does not wish to print the forty-two page document, in defiance of my instruction that it do so. From what I have read so far, however, I agree completely with Craddick’s initial assertion in the brief that the resolution of this issue is none of the attorney general’s business.
“[R]equestors effectively as the Attorney General to act as an appellate body, second-guessing decisions made by Speaker Craddick while presiding over the House during a legislative session that had already concluded. Requestors’ appeal is prohibited by the Texas Constitution and House rules. The request is thus improper, and the attorney general should refrain from opining on the political questions it raises out of respect for constitutional separation of powers.
“….The Texas Constitution commits the adoption, intepretation, and application of the House of Representative’s rules to that body. The attorney general has never played, and should not begin playing, the role of referee between the duly elected presiding officer of the House and momentarily disgruntled individual members.”
While there is much more to be said about the points Craddick raises, I believe that the Texas Constitution intends for issues between the Speaker and the membership of the House to be resolved by that body, not a member of the executive branch. (Even if Abbott should, unwisely, rule on the request, his ruling is advisory rather than mandatory and cannot be binding on the speaker or the House.)
This is an issue that properly belongs to the membership. The elected representatives in the 81st Legislature will write and adopt their own rules. This is the proper forum for resolving the issue. If they want a speaker who is beyond challenge, or one who can be removed at any time, that should be their decision.