State Representative Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) was elected Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives as the first order of business in the 2013 legislative session. He fended off a challenge by Representative David Simpson (R-Longview), the state representative who made national news last session with his TSA Anti-Groping bill. The Speaker of the House vote was by acclamation rather than a roll-call vote. Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) had earlier indicated he would stay in the race up to a roll call vote, but changed his mind at the request of a number of his supporters. In his withdrawal speech, Simpson said:
If fear of retribution were not so very real, conscientious support for an alternative choice for Speaker would not cause such trepidation. But since it is, and absent a certainty of winning this contest, at the request of my colleagues, I withdraw my candidacy.
Alice Linahan, Director of Women on the Wall (WOW), said she spoke with a number of state representatives who indicated fear of retribution if they voted for Simpson. The speaker’s office in Texas has become a powerful position appointing 72 percent of the committee chairmen. Many people consider the choice of speaker to be one of the most important votes in a legislative session. In the Texas Legislature, a chairman of a substantive committee can keep a bill from passing by never holding a hearing on it. If a bill has a hearing and is favorably voted by the substantive committee, it’s then forwarded to the Calendars Committee which decides if and when to schedule it for consideration on the floor.
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Photo of Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus: AP Images