Speaker Joe Straus issued charges to study the ERS health insurance contract ahead of the 83rd legislature. The speaker’s concern is that the contracts may have been awarded in an unseemly way with allies of the governor benefiting at the expense of taxpayers.
This is a surprisingly direct confrontation of the governor by the speaker. Does the speaker want to temper the governor’s conservative approach from the 82nd legislature, which included strong stances against new taxes and rainy day fund usage for recurring expenses, and a friendly approach to finding budget cuts? Does the speaker want the governor to help, or at least stay out of, his inevitable attempt to get slot machines (aka “VLTs”) at racetracks next legislature?
One way or another, it is telling, since Speaker Straus sold himself early on as being an incumbent’s best friend. He is now confronting the sitting governor from his own party, as he is confronting TLR-backed incumbent James White in his house race against Tuffy Hamilton.
Will the governor short-circuit the study by fixing any improprieties in the ERS contracts, real or perceived? Will the governor notice that the Texas Lottery Commission, a reliable partner of racetrack gamblers in their shady extra-legislative quest for slot machines, is up for sunset review? Is there some other questionable activity the speaker is engaged in that needs to be looked into?
The speaker’s confrontation of the governor is surprising.