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Speaker Joe Straus Announces Future Plans

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced Wednesday that he will not run for re-election to the Texas House in 2018. Speaker Straus’ time as a State Representative and as Speaker will end at the conclusion of his current term.

Speaker Straus was first elected a Member of the Texas House in a 2005 special election. In early 2009, less than four years later, his colleagues unanimous elected him Speaker. He has since been re-elected Speaker four times, and in every Speaker’s race he has won the support of an overwhelming majority of Republicans and an overwhelming majority of Democrats.

Speaker Straus announced his plans in a Wednesday morning email to his constituents and other supporters around the state. He told supporters, “In every legislative session, I’ve tried to bring real solutions to real challenges. For example, we’ve made significant gains in K-12 and higher education, water, transportation, and mental health care. But just as important as what we’ve done is the way in which we’ve done it. Even as politics has become more tribal and divisive, I’ve led by bringing people together and working across party lines. We’ve fallen short at times. But on our best days, we have shown that there is still a place for civility and statesmanship in American politics.”

Speaker Straus told supporters that he looks forward to contributing to the state in other ways. He wrote: “Just as my ascension to the Speaker’s office was unconventional and my approach to governing is unusual in these divisive times, I know this is also an unexpected decision. It’s been decades since someone has left the Speaker’s office on his own terms. But we have accomplished what I had hoped the House would accomplish when I first entered this office, and I am increasingly eager to contribute to our state in new and different ways.”

Speaker Straus continued, “Instead of acting on behalf of the entire House, I will now have a greater opportunity to express my own views and priorities. I will also continue to work for a Republican Party that tries to bring Texans together instead of us pulling us apart. Our party should be dynamic and forward-thinking, and it should appeal to our diverse population with an optimistic vision that embraces the future. I plan to be a voice for Texans who want a more constructive and unifying approach to our challenges, from the White House on down.”

During his five terms as Speaker, the Texas House has balanced every state budget while making targeted investments in top priorities. For example, under the leadership of Speaker Straus, the House has:

  • Created a revolving loan fund to implement the State Water Plan, which went unfunded for decades, even as the state’s water needs grew more severe.

  • Overhauled high school graduation requirements in order to strengthen career readiness, give students more flexibility to pursue their individual interests, and improve coordination among high schools, colleges and industry so that students are better prepared for today’s economy.

  • Reduced the burden of standardized testing in high schools.

  • Made key investments in order to help more of the state’s universities reach Tier One status, and invested key dollars in new higher education research.

  • Put billions of new dollars into transportation without higher taxes, significantly reducing the state’s reliance on debt and tolls. Speaker Straus also led the way in making sure, for the first time in decades, that all of the money in the State Highway Fund would be used for transportation instead of diverted to other programs.

  • Eliminated decades-old gimmicks in the state budget in order to increase transparency and use taxpayer dollars as promised.

  • Passed sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system, including grand jury reforms and the creation of a commission to review exoneration cases.

  • Secured a stable source of funding for state parks.

  • Enacted significant reforms to improve Child Protective Services and foster care, including the hiring of more than 1,400 new caseworkers.

  • Made key investments in mental health care, providing additional dollars for repairs at state mental health facilities and state matching dollars for effective local programs. The House also reformed how mental health issues are addressed in the criminal justice system.

Speaker Straus represents House District 121 in northeastern Bexar County. A veteran of the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, he managed Lamar Smith’s first campaign for the U.S. House and is a former Republican Party precinct chairman in Bexar County. He won the March 2016 Republican primary in District 121 by 32 points.

Speaker Straus said in his message to supporters, “Most of all, I want to thank the people of District 121 in Bexar County for giving me the chance to work on your behalf. Your strong support has provided a foundation upon which I could stand and provide leadership for our entire state. One of my heroes, President George H.W. Bush, said, ‘Any definition of a successful life must include serving others.’ I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Texas House, and I look forward to talking to you more in the future about my continued service to the state of Texas.”