Drum Roll, Please
Craddick releases interim charges for House committees
Drip, drip, drip. Over three days starting Nov. 28, in three separate lists, House Speaker Tom Craddick released his interim charges for House committees. In 46 pages of pithy bullet points, each committee was given its agenda of issues to look into before the next session, giving an inkling of what battles may be fought when the Lege reconvenes in 2009. Some, like the budget-building Appropriations, face a massive list of responsibilities; others have fewer obligations. Redistricting, for example, gets to dedicate a lot of time to its sole charge of considering modifying judicial districts. But it's clear the speaker plans to bring many Republican touchstones back to the floor.
Craddick made voter fraud one of his top priorities, by charging Elections to investigate the issue and putting a press release out to announce it. He clearly hinted that a voter-ID bill would be inevitable, saying, "If you need identification to get through virtually any state regulated process, it makes perfect sense that it would be necessary to vote." Roger Williams, Republican Texas Victory 2008 campaign chair and former secretary of state, said he applauded the step, but the Texas Democratic Party immediately condemned it as bringing back not merely failed legislation from last session but Jim Crow, calling voter ID part of the same national agenda that led to the U.S. attorney firing scandal.
Immigration also came under the Craddick spotlight, with four different committees assigned. The emphasis, Craddick said, would be on inter-agency coordination, especially on deporting illegal immigrants convicted of crimes. Not to be outdone, the State Affairs vice chair, Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, quickly threw out a press release about the number of illegal immigrants using welfare programs.
Less touted by Craddick was the announcement that Civil Practices will revisit the issue of tort reform, the fancy term for finding ways to discourage citizens from suing businesses. Craddick's proposal includes further stacking of the books against litigants, by considering "recovery of costs and other financial penalties, to reduce such litigation."