AUSTIN — State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, two years ago was picked by new Speaker of the House Joe Straus to be speaker pro tempore of the Texas House of Representatives because — in part — of his ability to work across party lines on crucial issues. With a shift in the political climate and an even stronger Republican majority at the state capital, Eiland was replaced by a Harris County Republican.
Straus, in his second term as speaker, picked Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Harris County, as speaker pro tem. Woolley, a tea party favorite and co-chair of the Tea Party Caucus in the state house, won major points with Straus last year when she announced she backed him in his bid to be re-elected speaker. Many in the tea party movement criticized Straus as not conservative enough to remain speaker.
"With a 101 Republican super majority in the House this session, I knew that there would be a likelihood that the position and a good number of the chairmanships would be given to a members of the Republican Party." Eiland said. "I told the speaker that, for me, it was more important to get the money to finish the job at UTMB than to have a title. Of course, I would be lying to say that I didn’t want to be speaker pro tem also."
Eiland said last week that making sure the state keeps its promises of rebuilding and expanding the University of Texas Medical Branch as it tries to recover from Hurricane Ike is his top priority of this legislative session.
His efforts will be helped by his appointment to the Appropriations Committee for the fifth time. Eiland also was named vice chairman of the Insurance Committee, a group he has been a member of for 14 years.
He is joined on the committee by state Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood.
The committee has oversight over all insurance measures in the state, including the operation of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.
Taylor, who also is the chairman of the Republican Caucus of the Texas House, was named chairman of the Elections Committee and as one of nine members of the Select Committee on Voter Identification and Voter Fraud. That committee will have a lot of attention as a new Voter ID bill makes its way through the legislature. Gov. Rick Perry declared the legislation an emergency issue of the session.
"The freedom to vote is a sacred right that should be protected, appreciated and held dear," Taylor said.
Eiland also landed an election committee assignment as well, he will be vice chairman of the Select Committee on Election Contest. That committee will serve as a tribunal in the election battle between state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, and Republican Challenger Dan Neil.
Neil is challenging the results of the District 48 race, which Howard won by just 16 votes. Neil contested the race, which narrowed the margin to just 12 votes, but still lost. He is challenging some votes cast by voters who moved out of the district before Election Day.
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