Saturday, December 15, 2007

Texas AG Abbott Sides With Craddick

Just hours before the opinion’s deadline, Texas Attorney General issued what amounted to a moral victory for House Speaker Tom Craddick. Moral victory in that in his opinion, the AG found that Craddick, as House Speaker, held a statewide office, and as a statewide office holder, could only be removed by impeachment in the Texas Senate.

Some would say that that is a flat out victory for Craddick, and its effect does amount to victory. Curiously, Abbott refused to cross the line and issue an interpretation on House rules.
“This office will adhere to the Texas Constitution's separation of powers doctrine and long-standing precedent in declining to answer questions requiring an interpretation of Senate and House rules or questions regarding legislative parliamentary decisions.”
Oh please. Are we not full of ourselves? Abbott does not deign to make an opinion on House rules because why? Would his opinion become House rules? Does his opinion carry the force of constitutional law? No, Abbott did not go there because in going there he would be finding all of the statements made on parliamentary procedure in all of the briefs filed to be absolutely valid. Craddick overstepped his authority in claiming that his power was absolute. Craddick cannot refuse to recognize a member. To do so would be to disenfranchise every constituent in the member’s district.

Abbott knew this, so he just left it alone, giving the inviolability of the separation of powers as his reason.

How does that work? How do you issue an opinion that the House Speaker is a statewide office holder, and that’s OK, but on the other hand refuse to render an opinion on House rules, because the Executive Branch can’t meddle in the affairs of the Legislative?

It works because you just say it works, that’s how that works. But AG Abbott is fooling no one here. Keffer and Cook alluded to a football metaphor in saying that AG Abbott punted and fumbled. I’ll go them one better by observing that what AG Abbott really did was take the game ball and hide it somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Craddick is claiming (and Abbott affirmed) that he is a "state officer" or "officer of the state", not a "statewide officer". People like yourself, Keffer, Cook and the media keep repeating this mistake. General Abbott's opinion concluded that the Speaker of the Texas House is indeed a constitutional state officer within the terms of Art 15, Sec 7. There is an important difference between the two so get your facts straight.
The seperation of powers is an important part of the constitution because (in this case) it keeps the executive branch out of the affairs of the legislative branch. Are you telling me as a liberal that you support the executive branch interfering with the internal debates of the legislature? Isn't that what happens in dictatorships? Would this be a slippery slope tha liberals always warn us about? Oh that right, people claim Craddick is a dictator because many say that he claims to have "absolute authority" or "absolute power". He has never claimed either. However, as speaker, he has the absolute power of recognition. Read House Rule 5, Section 24 - it's there in plain English. If a majority of the House members want to change this rule, by all means they can do so at the beginning of next session.

Hal said...

Oh please, let's not split hairs. Keffer and Cook claim that Craddick represents a house district, Craddick sees it differently and calls himself a "state officer". He is not. A state officer is elected by voters in the entire state, not just his district.

Your citing of the rules reminds me of an absurdity that now exists due to Abbott's opinion. According to House rules, any Member may be removed from the House by a 2/3 majority vote (TEX. CONST. art III, § 11). What Craddick is saying (and you) is that he can be sent out to the street by a supermajority vote of House Members, but he still remains Speaker.


Anonymous said...

That is not the case. If Craddick is expelled from the House like any other House member by a two-thirds vote, he would not longer be speaker. Plain and simple.

Hal said...

Not according to Craddick. He thinks the only way to remove a Speaker is impeachment in the Senate. The Speaker, he thinks, enjoys a special place in the House, despite all precedent.

But I am glad you see the absurdity of this.