Texan of the Year: Joe Straus Sacrificed His Job to Take a Principled Stand

On the last Friday in May, shortly before the end of the 85th Texas Legislature, two state senators walked into the office of the speaker of the House carrying a new proposal for a bathroom bill.Debate about regulating bathrooms used by transgender Texans had dominated the session and attracted national attention. Social conservatives insisted that women and girls needed protection from a sliver of the population -- less than 1 percent who don’t identify as the gender on their birth certificates.In the House, 80 Republicans signed on to its version of a bathroom bill, indicating strong party support. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had championed the measure for more than a year and the Senate passed a bathroom bill by a 2-to-1 margin. Gov. Greg Abbott was on board and most Republicans said it was important, including 70 percent of tea party Republicans.A few House members stood in the way, led by Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio. They had kept a bathroom bill from coming to the floor and ensured that the restrictions couldn’t be amended to other legislation.Now there was a late proposal and Straus was about to make the most important political stand of his career.“Don’t bother pulling it out of the envelope,” Straus said about the offer. “You can tell the lieutenant governor that I’m not gonna have the suicide of a single Texan on my conscience.”That moment, recounted by Straus, was essentially the end of the bathroom bill and the beginning of the end of his job as speaker. He had protected Texas from some of its worst political impulses, prevented serious damage to the economy, and brought together enough bipartisans to check the far-right dominance in the Republican Party. He also stood firm on other issues during the session, including school vouchers, property tax caps and local government control, and later refocused attention on how to keep Texas competitive. For his uncommon impact, Joe Straus is the 15th annual Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.  Continue reading...

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