Is There a Speaker’s Race?
This is not a stupid question. What I am asking is, Is there a speaker’s race within the meaning of Chapter 302 Texas Government Code, which regulates races for speakers?
I called Randall “Buck” Wood, who wrote the speaker’s statute for Common Cause in 1973. He said, “You’re not the first one to ask me that, and I’ll tell you what I told the others. I don’t know. We didn’t think of this when we wrote the law.”
We could see a scenario, after a motion to declare the chair vacant carries, in which, say, the House has to stand at ease while potential candidates race to the Ethics Commission to file their papers. There cannot be a vote unless there are candidates, and there can’t be candidates unless somebody files papers stating their candidacy and announcing their expenditures.
A motion to vacate the chair is highly privileged. This means that every time one of his adversaries goes to the back mike to say, “Mr. Speaker,” his heart will be in his throat as he asks, “For What Purpose?”
Another question is whether advocacy such as the e-mails that have urged support for Craddick (the latest being from Texas Alliance for Life) violate the law. Here is a mass e-mail that Texas Right to Life sent to all House members, one of whom forwarded it to me.
“Texas Alliance for Life categorically opposes any attempt to unseat the Speaker. We will score any vote to unseat the Speaker as an anti-life vote. Any attempt to remove the speaker is bad for Texas , and it is bad for the pro-life movement. The ensuing chaos that would likely follow such an attempt — successful or not — would probably mean the death even the least controversial bills , including our pro-life bills.”
Wood says that the answer is yes, technically it is a violation, but he told then-speaker Price Daniel Jr., who wanted prohibitions on advocacy and threats by the lobby in speakers races, that limitations on advocacy are probably unconstitutional and are highly unlikely to be prosecuted.