Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan Draws Another Challenger for Speaker

State Rep. Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville) filed official paperwork to run for Speaker of the Texas House, pledging that she would not appoint Democrats as committee chairs and said the next House Republican speaker should be selected without relying on Democratic support.

Slawson launched her candidacy in a three-page letter to fellow House Republicans, telling them she began last year’s session as a supporter of Phelan, only to grow disillusioned by what she described as his "tight-fisted, top-down leadership." She slammed Phelan's inner circle as an "arrogant leadership cadre" and said they had run the House in a way that “continually overshadows our wins and puts us at odds with our grassroots supporters, other electeds, and our own member. Her letter states, “we deserve a speaker who is committed to uniting Republicans inside and outside the chamber – not dividing us against ourselves and our constituents.”

Slawson is the second member to challenge Speaker Dade Phelan joining Rep. Tom Oliverson (R-Cypress), who previously announced his intent to run for House Speaker.

46 Texas House Republican Members and Nominees Call for Speaker Who Will Ban Democratic Chairs

In a letter, 46 House Republicans and GOP nominees pledged to only support a speaker candidate who will not appoint Democratic committee chairs. Speaker Phelan declined to comment on the letter but has stuck to the House tradition of appointing some chairs from the opposing party including appointing eight Democratic chairs last session out of 34 committees.

Signatories and text of the letter is as follows –

The following members and Republican nominees for the 89th Session of the Texas House of Representatives issued the following statement:

“In a collective effort to respond to Republican voters and reform the Texas House, we will only vote for a candidate for speaker pursuant to the Platform and the Caucus By-Laws who will only appoint Republicans as committee chairs.”

The absence of a member’s or nominee’s name from this statement does not necessarily mean the individual is opposed to this statement. All members and nominees are invited to sign on to this statement.”

  1. Daniel Alders - Nominee for House District 6
  2. Representative Cecil Bell
  3. Representative Ben Bumgarner
  4. Representative Briscoe Cain (Chair of House Ag & Livestock Committee)
  5. Representative David Cook
  6. Representative Charles Cunningham
  7. Pat Curry - Nominee for House District 56
  8. Representative Mark Dorazio
  9. Caroline Fairly - Nominee for House District 87
  10. Representative Caroline Harris Davila
  11. Representative Brian Harrison
  12. Representative Richard Hayes
  13. Hillary Hickland - Nominee for House District 55
  14. Janis Holt - Nominee for House District 18
  15. Andy Hopper - Nominee for House District 64
  16. Representative Carrie Isaac
  17. Helen Kerwin - Nominee for House District 58
  18. Steve Kinard - Nominee for House District 70
  19. Marc LaHood - Nominee for House District 121
  20. Representative Terri Leo Wilson
  21. Mitch Little - Nominee for House District 65
  22. A.J. Louderback - Nominee for House District 30
  23. Representative J. M. Lozano
  24. David Lowe - Nominee for House District 91
  25. Shelley Luther - Nominee for House District 62
  26. Don McLaughlin - Nominee for House District 80
  27. Brent Money - Nominee for House District 2
  28. Matthew Morgan - Nominee for House District 26
  29. Mike Olcott - Nominee for House District 60
  30. Representative Tom Oliverson
  31. Representative Dennis Paul
  32. Katrina Pierson - Nominee for House District 33
  33. Keresa Richardson - Nominee for House District 61
  34. Representative Nate Schatzline
  35. Representative Mike Schofield
  36. Alan Schoolcraft - Nominee for House District 44
  37. Joanne Shofner - Nominee for House District 11
  38. Representative Shelby Slawson
  39. Representative John Smithee
  40. Representative Valoree Swanson
  41. Representative Tony Tinderholt
  42. Representative Steve Toth
  43. Representative Ellen Troxclair
  44. Representative Cody Vasut
  45. Wesley Virdell - Nominee for House District 53
  46. Trey Wharton - Nominee for House District 12

Texas GOP Announces Top Eight Priorities for 89th Session of the Texas Legislature

The Republican Party of Texas announced its top eight legislative priorities heading into the legislative session next year:

1. Border Enforcement

To repel invasion and deter illegal immigration:

  • Creating a Texas Department of Homeland Security to prevent illegal entry and trafficking, and to deport illegal aliens to Mexico or to their nations of origin.
  • Prohibiting, with mandatory fines and jail time, individuals, corporations, non-profits, governments, and social media entities from assisting or inciting illegal entry.
  • Requiring the use of E-Verify by all employers in Texas with significant penalties for business owners who violate this requirement.
  • Ending all subsidies and public services, including in-state college tuition and enrollment in public schools, for illegal aliens, except for emergency medical care.

2. Secure Texas Elections

Securing elections from each citizen’s registration to the final count of legal votes by:

  • Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote.
  • Requiring the Counties and the Secretary of State to update the voter rolls at least quarterly.
  • Requiring a mandatory photo ID for every election, without exception.
  • Restricting mail-in ballots to disabled, military, and eligible citizens who are out of their county for the entire voting period.
  • Using only hand-marked, sequentially numbered paper ballots on anti-counterfeiting paper that are signed on the back by the election official at the voting location.
  • Standardizing in-person voting, with early voting limited to a period of no longer than nine (9) days, no gap before Election Day, and assigned-precinct voting locations only.
  • Counting ballots in precinct using a dumb-scanner method as soon as the ballot is returned by the voter and with publication of the results prior to submission to the County.
  • Closing party primaries for only registered Republicans.
  • Explicitly codifying the ability of the Attorney General to prosecute violations of the Election Code.
  • Removing existing Secretary of State waivers to comply with current Election Code.

3. Stop Sexualizing Texas’ Kids

Stopping the sexualization of minors, which leads to abuse, exploitation, and trafficking, by:

  • Prohibiting taxpayer funding to any entities that permit or promote sexually inappropriate content to minors and legislatively banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender ideology in schools and libraries.
  • Repealing affirmative defenses in Texas Penal Code (43.24, 43.25) and redefining “harmful materials” to remove loopholes provided by the modified Miller Test.
  • Establishing an independent Inspector General for Education to investigate fraud, waste, abuse, and criminal conduct within schools and refer findings to prosecutorial authorities.
  • Compelling superintendents to report sex crimes within schools to outside law enforcement and removing immunity from civil liability for schools and their employees.

4. No Democrat Chairs

The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature shall end the practice of awarding committee chairmanships to Democrats and require all committees to be majority Republican.

5. Ban Taxpayer-Funded Lobbying

Prohibiting all forms of taxpayer-funded lobbying, including the use of tax dollars to hire lobbyists and payment of tax dollars to associations that lobby the Legislature.

6. Secure the Electric Grid

Securing the integrity of Texas electricity production and delivery of abundant, reliable, and resilient energy, ensuring that the Texas grid can withstand any natural or manmade threat to include weather, cyber, physical, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and geomagnetic disturbances (GMD).

7. Texas is Not for Sale

Banning the sale of real property in Texas, and discontinuing taxpayer funding and incentives, to governments, entities, and proxies of China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, and to individuals from these nations who are not legal permanent residents or citizens of the United States.

8. End Federal Overreach

Resisting unconstitutional federal acts and mandates that restrict transportation, including mandatory kill switches in vehicles, road diets, and restrictions on the owner’s right to repair vehicles and equipment. Ensuring that Texans have medical freedom and can give or withhold consent for any vaccine or medical treatment without coercion, are not discriminated against based on vaccine status, and are not faced with any vaccine or medical mandate by public or private entities.

Attorney General Paxton Launches Data Privacy and Security Initiative

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has launched a major data privacy and security initiative, establishing a team that is focused on aggressive enforcement of Texas privacy laws. The initiative, housed within the Consumer Protection Division of the OAG, will ensure companies respect Texans’ privacy rights and safeguard their personal data. The team is poised to become among the largest in the country focused on enforcing privacy laws.

The data privacy team will focus on the enforcement of Texas’s privacy protection laws including the Data Privacy and Security Act, the Identify Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, the Data Broker Law, the Biometric Identifier Act, the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and federal laws including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

“Any entity abusing or exploiting Texans’ sensitive data will be met with the full force of the law. Companies that collect and sell data in an unauthorized manner, harm consumers financially, or use artificial intelligence irresponsibly present risks to our citizens that we take very seriously. As many companies seek more and more ways to exploit data they collect about consumers, I am doubling down to protect privacy rights,” said Attorney General Paxton. “With companies able to collect, aggregate, and use sensitive data on an unprecedented scale, we are strengthening our enforcement of privacy laws to protect our citizens.”

Senate State Affairs Committee Issues Subpoenas to Tech Companies as Part of Investigation Into Election Interference

In a very rare move for a Texas legislative committee, the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs authorized the issuance of subpoenas to multiple big tech companies in an effort to investigate their role in election interference.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company; Meta; TikTok; and X were all listed in the subpoena document in an effort to compel individuals from those tech companies to appear before the committee to testify and produce documents.

Texas House Republican Caucus Considers Complaint Against Four Members for Violating Caucus Bylaws

Texas Republican State Reps. Brian Harrison, Nate Schatzline, Tony Tinderholt, and Steve Toth are being investigated by the Executive Committee of the Texas House Republican Caucus for campaigning against one or more of their colleagues.

The group of four campaigned publicly against several of their colleagues during primary and runoff elections, including Speaker Dade Phelan.

Sections 7.09 and 7.10 of the Texas House Republican Caucus bylaws - of which all four members voted for - dictate that members should “not financially support an opponent of another member in any campaign” and that members should not “participate or assist in the campaign of an opponent against another member.”

Penalties for violating these provisions may include a fine, suspension, or removal from the caucus; each requires a two-thirds vote.

House Republican Caucus chair Rep. Tom Oliverson issued the following statement regarding the complaint and investigation: “Pursuant to the process laid out in the bylaws, the Executive Committee is obligated to conduct an investigation into the accusations and a report to the Caucus membership of our findings is currently being drafted. Upon the completion of our investigation and the determination of a proposed action, the full Caucus membership will vote on whether the proposed action is executed. As the Executive Committee, we will fulfill our duties to complete this process but no decisions have been reached at this time.”

Key Staff and Director Changes

  • Texas Higher Education Commissioner Harrison Keller has been named as the sole finalist for President of the University of North Texas.
  • Courtney Arbour has been named executive director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, effective June 1, 2024. Arbour replaces Brian E. Francis, who has served as the interim executive director since January 2024.
  • The Public Utility Commission of Texas appointed Connie Corona as the agency’s Interim Executive Director. She has worked at the PUCT for 12 years, most recently serving as Deputy Executive Director since 2020.
  • The Railroad Commission of Texas has named Nathan McDaniel as its Government Relations Director. Before joining the Commission, McDaniel served as Communications Director for a Texas State Senator and was Campaign Manager and District Director for a member of the United States House of Representatives.
  • Speaker Phelan announced the following staff changes:some text
    • Jason Briggs is now General Counsel and will cover the State Affairs portfolio.
    • Briana Novian will handle Human Services, Public Health and continue her work with the House Appropriations Committee.
    • Sam Bacarisse will cover B&I, Insurance, PIFS, and LAP.
    • Director of Policy Margo Cardwell will also advise on legal matters for the Office of the Speaker as Senior Counsel.