Straus rival: Limit speaker’s term, free up legislation

Phil King
Texas Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A lawmaker bidding to unseat Texas House Speaker Joe Straus wants to term-limit the speaker and committee chairmen.

Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, proposes a three-term limit on the House’s top job, as well as on committee chairs, who are appointed by the speaker.

Straus is seeking a sixth term as speaker. He faces a challenge from King and other conservatives who note that the San Antonio Republican receives the bulk of his support from House Democrats. He was first elected speaker in 2009 with backing from all 63 House Democrats and just 13 Republicans in the 175-member chamber.

King wants to open up the legislative process and give more voice to restive Republicans.

In a letter delivered to GOP House members, King proposes that any bill with two-thirds support should be brought to the floor, even if it hasn’t been approved in committee.

“[My goal] is to empower individual members and increase transparency in our rules and procedures,” King wrote in the letter quoted by the Quorum Report.

King called for members to “exercise their seniority in committee selection. This process would be similar to our current sign-up process for selecting offices.”

Straus has not commented on King’s proposals. Fifteen of his committee chairs, including Democrats, have chaired committees for four or more sessions.

The House Republican Caucus has selected five members to serve on a committee to study changes in the speaker election process. The members are Jeff Leach, Dustin Burrows, Todd Hunter, John Smithee, and Chris Paddie.

Hunter and Smithee have served as committee chairman during all five sessions under Straus. Each has contributed to Straus’ House Leadership Fund, with Hunter giving $31,000 and Paddie pitching in $6,000.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus have bridled at the top-down control exercised by Straus. School choice, property tax relief, ethics reform, and other initiatives that have passed the Senate, have been bottled up in his House committees.

“A Republican speaker of the House should first win the confidence of a majority of his or her fellow Republicans. To do so, Republicans should determine their candidate for speaker in a called meeting of the House Republican Caucus before the 86th Legislature convenes in 2019,” the Freedom Caucus states on its website.


  1. Jim Ward I am all for term limits at EVERY LEVEL. And if my representative or any representative says he/she will vote for Straus, I will not support or endorse any of them!


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