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Outgoing Speaker Straus Puts His Stamp On Incoming Texas Legislature

Joe Straus co-chairs the Legislative Budget Board, which is meeting now to decide how much lawmakers will have to spend in 2019 and 2020.


AP Photo/Eric Gay
Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, stands before the opening of the 85th Texas Legislative session in the house chambers at the Texas State Capitol after he was re-elected for a fifth consecutive term, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Austin, Texas.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus will surrender his gavel to State Representative Dennis Bonnen in a matter of weeks. But before he does, Straus still has one last opportunity to make a mark on state policy.

The Legislative Budget Board is meeting this month, and its main task is to set a spending limit for the 86th Texas Legislature.

"The speaker is the co-chair of that budget board, along with the lieutenant governor," said Jon Taylor, professor and chair of political science at the University of Saint Thomas. "So you have a lame-duck speaker who's actually having some real influence right now on potential policy initiatives, spending priorities for the Legislature as we go into 2019."

Passing a budget is the one thing the Legislature is required to do. Anything the state has to pay for over the next two years, from education to public safety, flows from that.

Straus shed some light on his priorities in a December 11 tweet in support of Houston-area Representative Dan Huberty, chairman of the House Public Education Committee. Huberty said he would not sign off on any school finance bill unless it included more funding for public schools. Straus responded: "The House members of the School finance Commission are right. Schools need significant new state dollars. We're working on a House budget that prioritizes public education, including special ed."

"In some respects, it was kind of, I think, his swan song and a message to the state that you've got to get your stuff together on this issue," said Taylor. "Because if you don't get yourself together on this issue, soon enough somebody else will...and it will likely be a federal court."

Apart from Straus, the budget board includes four other state representatives – among them, incoming Speaker Dennis Bonnen.


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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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