Conservatives Target Straus Following Abrupt End to Special Session

After several key conservative priorities, including the 'Bathroom Bill' and a measure allowing citizens to roll back municipal property tax increases, were left on the table by the abrupt end of the Special Session Tuesday night, several conservative groups are investigating ways to unseat House Speaker Joe Straus (R-Alamo Heights), News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Straus openly opposed the 'Bathroom Bill,' which was a top priority of Gov. Abbott and Senate President Dan Patrick, and during the Regular Session and during the Special Session he killed it in committee.  The House Freedom Caucus, which is made up of the most conservative members of the House, say Straus 'slow walked' other key conservative priorities and adjourned the House rather than reach agreement with the Senate, which was within reach, on the tax rollback bill.

"The caucus coalescing around Speaker candidates in the future," said Rep Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton), who is a leader of the Freedom Caucus.  He says the rules should be changed to allow just members of the majority party, in this case Republicans, to vote for Speaker.  Currently, all 150 House members can vote for the Speaker, and conservatives have long complained that Straus, even though he is a Republican, is elected with the support of Democrats.

Straus, who is in his fifth session as Speaker, is used to being called 'insufficiently conservative,' especially following the emergence of the powerful block of movement and evangelical conservatives in the 2011 and 2013 sessions.  This bloc has taken control of the State Senate, where all of the conservative priorities were passed easily, and has a significant presence in the House.

But Straus has proven to be a survivor.  He has turned back strong conservative challenges in his Alamo Heights district, and this year he was re-elected as Speaker without opposition.

Meanwhile, the question rages about whether Abbott will call a second special session to take up the tax and 'Bathroom' bills.

State Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), is not making any summer vacation plans quite yet.

"Its up to the governor whether he wants to spend another million dollars in taxpayer money," Menendez said.  "I don't think there is an adequate reason to call us back, but he might think otherwise."

Menendez says the same committee chairman who killed the bathroom bill twice over the past three months will still be in charges of the committee during a second special session, so a similar outcome is likely on that bill.

But the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which is a think tank that works closely with Abbott on policy matters, on Wednesday suggested a second special session, mainly to approve the bill allowing voters to roll back local government property tax increases.


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