Saturday, December 15, 2007

Greg Abbott, Tom Craddick, and the best government money can buy

After 180 days of careful contemplation, the TxOAG issued a 31-page opinion regarding the question of whether the Speaker of the Texas House is a statewide officer.

The answer: he has no opinion. Mostly.

The two Republicans who wrote to "General Abbott", however, do have one:

" now appears that the integrity of Texas Government is still at a critical crossroads," say State Representative Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) & State Representative Byron Cook (R-Corsicana)

"In football terms, the Attorney General's advisory opinion has punted this issue to the courts and has fumbled in its attempted summary. Craddick is elected from his Midland district which is only 1/150th of the people of Texas. Based on this, we strongly disagree with the unprecedented contention that the office of Speaker is a statewide officer.

"Furthermore, it is unprecedented to contend that the House Speaker is subject to removal by a vote of the Texas Senate. Sadly, the Attorney General's advisory opinion only reaffirms the adage: 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' Tom Craddick's declaration of 'absolute authority' is an abuse of power and undermines the basic premise of democracy in Texas government.

"We firmly believe Craddick's application of 'absolute authority' has violated constitutional rights of members of the legislature and the constituents they serve. We firmly believe our state constitution did not create the Texas House Speaker post as a dictatorial position.

"It is our understanding of the state constitution that the Speaker is a legislative post constructed to serve the members of the Texas House of Representatives as a presiding officer over its operation. Because of the Attorney General's own admission of a lack of clarity by past Court cases, it now appears that the integrity of Texas Government is still at a critical crossroads.

"Enough is enough. The people of Texas need to let their local representatives know that they've had enough of Tom Craddick's one-man dictatorship."

Even Republicans are tired of the corruption in Texas government (not enough of them, obviously, but still, this qualifies as progress).

What do you suppose they'll actually do about it, though?

Update: South Texas Chisme rounds up the links from the MSM and the blogosphere summarizing the disarray. Vince thinks it's a total win for Craddick, including the AG's suggestion that impeachment would not force the election of another speaker, but Harvey Kronberg finds some flaws in the legal reasoning (bold emphasis his):

We are still trying to sort out Greg Abbott's opinion regarding Tom Craddick's constitutional assertions of power. The consensus of non-government attorney's (sic) we have spoken to is that it is much verbiage without much meaning.

What seems truly bizarre to this reader is that more deference was given to Knox v. Johsnon (sic) in which an appeals court decides a state hospital superintendent is considered a state officer than to the 1871 precedent in which the House removed a speaker. In fact, although the state constitutional convention of 1845 is referenced, the 1871 precedent is not.

In parsing through arcane case law, the Attorney General never looks to other states or federal examples where nearly identical constitutional issues have been adjudicated -- something at least one expert told QR was the starting point of such a discussion in which no case law existed.

And of course, the Abbott opinion never seriously looks at the precedents cited in the briefs hostile to his conclusion.

More reaction likely.

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