State of Texas: A power play and a need for speed

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One of the most powerful positions at the State Capitol still needs to be filled. The Speaker of the Texas House chooses committee assignments, essentially deciding which issues will be considered by state lawmakers.

The post is open, since current Speaker Joe Straus did not run for re-election. But there is a clear front-runner.

Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angelton) says he has support from 109 of the 150 members of the House. “We’re here to let you know the Speaker’s race is over and the Texas House is ready to go to work,” Bonnen said at a news conference at the Capitol.

Bonnen says he has support from both Democrats and Republicans. “I think what Democrats are looking for is a guy who isn’t afraid to throw some elbows, which Bonnen has a good record of,” said Andrea Zelinski, who covers politics for the Houston Chronicle.

“Meanwhile, you still have Republicans and conservative Republicans who do want to hit the reset button with communications with [Lt. Gov.] Patrick in the Senate,” Zelinski said.

As speaker, Straus clashed with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick over legislation. The atmosphere this session could be different, with the results of the election possibly affecting the outlook for some lawmakers.

“It’s a new day in that we can call Dan Patrick ‘Mr. 4-point-9 percent,'” said Robert Garrett, Austin Bureau Chief for the Dallas Morning News. He referred to the smaller-than-expected margin of victory for Patrick over Democratic challenger Mike Collier.

Other state Republicans also won by smaller margins than usual.  Democrats picked up two seats in the state Senate, and 12 in the House. Garrett says those election results could encourage GOP lawmakers to work together on legislation.

“[Republicans] have more reason now to make common cause and get ready to really have something to run against Democrats on in the next election,” Garrett said.

Need for Speed

With a speed limit of 85 mph, SH 130 is the fastest highway in the nation.  But crashes are on the rise on the toll road. Many of those crashes are deadly. Speed is a factor in many of those fatalities.

Our investigation reveals a $100-million deal made years before SH 130 ever opened helped ensure that lawmakers set the speed limit at 85 mph. You can see our full investigation here.

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