The 2013 Texas Legislature could potentially be one of the more inexperienced legislatures in recent memory. Even after the tidal wave tea-party election last year that brought an unprecedented 101 Republican supermajority into office, (150 member total) including plenty of the freshman Republican challengers, there will still be plenty more shakeups.
The most recent education cuts are sure to be a huge factor in these upcoming state elections, with over $5.4 billion dollars in overall state budget cuts to public education alone, school districts all across the state are reaping what the Republicans have sown. The question is if Republican lawmakers will continue to ignore the education crisis in our state, or try to face it and actually do some lawmaking. In May and again in November Texas voters get to decide if this ignorance in the Republican Party is still somehow acceptable.
Earlier this month the Statesman reported that the House is likely to be more conservative, and also less experienced as a whole. This is true, but the question is how naive and conservative are they going to be? The article references that “a subset of Republicans is running on a platform of restoring 2011 cuts to education.” Taking the 'I'll believe it when I see it' mentality I think (as did Katherine yesterday in BOR's Guide to 2012 State Senate Races) that it's safe to say the House could move even further to the ideological right, particularly without the institutional memory of 27 retiring members, and of course we can't forget the possibility of a new speaker.
Generally with retirements, the newly open seat goes to one party or the other with a safe statistical margin of victory. So instead of an R and a D fighting it out, the fights are at the primary level, amongst Rs and Ds against themselves. Democratic primaries either push the candidate further to the left or to the right, depending on the district, and depending on where the money is. Yet, as we have seen in the primary for president, Republican primaries almost always move the debate to the hard right, making more conservative interests more powerful, and making everyone a little crazier than before (myself included).
That being said here's a list of all 27 retirements in the Texas House, with a considerable amount of moderate Republicans leaving, almost guaranteeing that their successors will be considerably further to the right than their predecessors. Not to mention the institutional memory that is leaving with all 27 retirements is astonishing, sad, and a little scary (Scott Hochberg don't leave us now).
27 House lawmakers are retiring this year, 20 Rs and 7 Ds:
Jose Aliseda (R-Beeville)
Barbara Mallory Caraway (D-Dallas)
Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) – expert on higher education
Rodney Anderson (R-Grand Prarie)
Warren Chisum (R-Pampa)
Joe Driver (R-Garland)
Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) – Criminal Jurisprudence expert
Veronica Gonzales (D-McAllen) – all around exceptional stateswoman
Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills)
Rick Hardcastle (R-Vernon, 1998) – one of my favorite Republicans to listen to on the House Floor and is a huge supporter of stem cell research, see this must watch youtube video so you can listen yourself
Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) – overall procedural expert, head of committee who re-tallyed the votes in Donna Howard's 3 vote margin race
Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) – a giant in school finance, one of the few known experts on the issue
Charlie Howard (R-Sugar Land)
Jim Jackson (R-Dallas)
Lanham Lyne (R-Wichita Falls)
Jerry Madden (R-Richardson) – Criminal Justice expert and basically the reason why Texas has put any money into new rehabilitation efforts instead of new prisons.
Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria)
Ken Paxton (R-McKinney)
Aaron Pena (R-Edinburg)
Chente Quintanilla (D-Tornillo)
Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown)
Mark Shelton (R-Fort Worth)
Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton) – House Rules author and all around rules expert for over a decade
Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) – Chair of Republican Caucus
Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth)
Randy Weber (R-Pearland)
Beverly Woolley (R- Houston)
Looking at this list makes me question the speaker's race much more now, because some of Straus's top allies are on here. Considering the Speaker, and the Chairman of the House Finance Committee Jim Pitts both have tea-party challengers, makes an interesting slate of what could be one of the most conservative State Legislatures Texas has seen in almost a decade (whisper, Tom Craddick hasn't retired yet).