Tea Party Lawmaker Vows to Have Voice in Study Despite Conservatives Snub in Select Panel Picks

By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor


A Republican state lawmaker appeared to be putting Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ team on notice on Wednesday by raising the specter on an elite group of left-leaning companies pulling the strings of a newly-created special committee that plans to focus on business expansion strategies here.


State Rep. Tony Tinderholt of Arlington warned that he and other conservative legislators will be keeping a vigilant eye on the Select House Committee on Economic Competitiveness with plans to participate in the panel’s proceedings even though none were named to the panel when Straus unveiled it last week.


Tinderholt expressed his suspicions in a letter to State Rep. Byron Cook – a Corsicana Republican who the speaker has selected to lead the special study on how to strengthen Texas efforts in the competition for potential new business like the massive investment that Amazon plans to make when it chooses a site for a second headquarters.


“Many Texans are concerned that a handful of politically correct and socially liberal corporations are attempting to speak on behalf of all businesses in Texas,” Tinderholt said. “We want to ensure that Texas maintains its core values that make us who were are, while providing many opportunities for businesses to grow and move to this great state.”


The Republican speaker appeared to hit a nerve with tea party conservatives who’ve attacked him relentlessly when he appointed four GOP allies who’ve had strong establishment support and three Democrats for the interim committee study that’s expected to expand its scope to social issues like transgender bathroom restrictions as well.


Anti-Straus forces see the special panel as a pre-emptive strike that’s designed to undermine the support that the bathroom bill had generated at the Capitol before it died in the House State Affairs Committee that Cook chairs in a special session this summer.


Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Senate Republicans who’d approved the bathroom measure in the regular and special sessions have given no indications about a possible retreat despite fierce opposition from a long list of major Texas-based businesses and their allies in the lower chamber on the Straus leadership team.


Cook predicted this week that Texas will lose out in the Amazon expansion chase if the company can’t be assured that the bathroom bill will be off the table when the Legislature convenes in regular session in early 2019. All of the state’s largest metropolitan centers with the exception of the San Antonio area where Straus is based plan to submit incentive packages for Amazon to weigh before a deadline on Thursday for formal proposals.


Tinderholt informed Cook that he planned to attend the select committee’s first meeting and as many subsequent hearings as his schedule will permit. Tinderholt advised Cook that he and other House members who aren’t on the committee would expect to be granted the ability in line with longstanding tradition to question witnesses and be included in the discussions on subjects that the panel explores.


Tinderholt added that the special committee chairman that he should take steps to ensure that “ample seating” is available for House members who weren’t picked for the panel but want to have input in the proceedings nonetheless.


“I hope we share the concern that the Legislature can often impose harm on business by forcing a central planning perspective on the creation of economic wealth,” Tinderholt said. “It’s important to remember government doesn’t create jobs, but business owners do.”


Tinderholt asserted that the select committee’s chief focus should be on how businesses can prosper here without government interference.


The special panel’s members include GOP State Reps. Angie Chen Button of Garland, Sarah Davis of Houston and Charlie Geren of Fort Worth along with Democratic State Reps. Joe Moody of El Paso, Rene Oliveira of Brownsville and Senfronia Thompson of Houston. Straus selected Thompson to be the select committee’s vice-chair.


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