November 19, 2008
Hearst News Service
AUSTIN — Call them Speaker Tom Craddick’s greatest hits — or misses.
As the Midland Republican fights to hang on to the House’s top job, his reign as speaker has already allowed him to sway key issues in a way that backers and detractors agree has shaped Texans’ lives and the state’s future.
They cite 2003 cuts to meet a budget shortfall, the shape of school funding and property-tax relief, college-tuition deregulation, the design of congressional districts, abortion restrictions and even lawmakers’ ability to proceed with bills that affect their local citizenry.
While they differ on whether his stamp has been for good or for ill, it’s clear that every Texan has a stake in whether their representatives vote to keep him in power or oust him.
“The speaker of the House in Texas is far more powerful than is the speaker in most state legislatures and far more powerful than is the speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political scientist.
Craddick’s power to appoint committees and designate committee chairs, who decide issues and control whether bills survive, means “his hands are on absolutely everything,” Jillson said.
“His goal was to ensure small government, low taxes and deregulation as major themes in Texas politics,” Jillson said. “He’s been a very influential guy, but he’s run the House with an iron hand, and even Republicans now are trying to get out from under his thumb.”
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