Procedure vs. Policy

The Texas legislature will meet next week, and the U.S. Congress will begin a new session as well; and the debate over who should lead committees and leadership posts is still hot. Some media refer to these issues as insignificant or petty. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As the U.S. House adopts new rules and the U.S. Senate Democrats propose rule changes, the quote by Congressman John Dingle comes to mind. He said, basically, “If I let you write substance, and you let me write procedure, I’ll win every time.” So these issues are critically important because they will lay the foundation for future policy successes and failures.

The same is true regarding the election of the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. Some have said that because Republicans have such a large majority (101-49) it does not matter who is speaker. As I have said before, the speaker of the Texas House sets the agenda by appointing committees and the chairmen of those committees, who have the power to kill legislation as well as choose to which committees legislation will be sent.

The focus on the Texas speaker race continues to build because it is so important regarding procedures, which as Dingle points out, will always trump substance. The Texas House Republican Caucus (all Republican House members) will meet before the session begins, and they are under pressure from Republican Party members to choose from among themselves a nominee for speaker before they go to the House floor. While some think this is a bad thing, others argue that the public voted for conservative control of the Texas House and control would best be accomplished by the Republican majority choosing the next speaker. Either way, make no mistake–the speaker will determine the direction and the accomplishments of the Texas legislative session. Now is the time to express to your state representative your opinion on the matter.

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