Chad’s Morning Brief: 84th Texas Legislative Session Begins, Chris Christie Speaks About the Nation, and Other Top Stories
Here is your Morning Brief for January 14, 2015.
Christie Talks About the Country
According to POLITICO, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spent time during his State of the State address on Tuesday to talk about the nation.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reflected Tuesday during his State of the State address on a conversation he had last year with an 82-year-old woman on a rope line in Vero Beach, Florida. That’s 1,100 miles from Trenton, where he was speaking to a joint session of the state legislature.
“She grabbed my hand and asked me a simple, but powerful question,” he said. “‘What’s happened to our country? We used to control events. Now events control us.’”
As chairman of the Republican Governors Association this past election cycle, Christie took heat in New Jersey for spending more than 150 days – or 40 percent of his time – outside the state. But Christie, who is gearing up for a likely presidential bid, addressed much of his 43-minute speech Tuesday toward a national audience, and he made no apologies for all his time on the road.
He even referred to trips he took to Illinois, Maryland, Kansas, Colorado, Maine and Arkansas.
“You might have heard about that,” Christie said to laughter. “I traveled the country this past year.”
Christie spoke about “a sense of drift” that pervades the whole country. “We need to address this anxiety head on,” he declared.
“Renewal” was the overarching theme of the speech — he used the word at least a dozen times. “I believe in a New Jersey renewal which can help lead to an American renewal,” he said.
Christie has been overshadowed in recent weeks by Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush’s moves toward presidential campaigns, efforts that could poach from his fundraising network and erode his establishment base of support.
Eager to be in the presidential conversation, Christie spoke like someone who already is a federal candidate.
Take this passage, for instance: “America’s leadership in the world is called into question because of a pattern of indecision and inconsistency. During this time of uncertainty it seems our leaders in Washington would rather stoke division for their own political gain. And this culture of divisiveness and distrust has seeped into our communities and our neighborhoods.”
The appeal to a national audience bothered local reporters. Several complained on Twitter that national correspondents from the networks and major national newspapers were invited to an off-the-record meeting ahead of the annual speech, but that they were excluded.
A poll released Tuesday morning by Fairleigh Dickinson University put Christie’s approval rating at 39 percent, down from 48 percent one year ago. The poll found that a 53-percent majority of registered voters believe that Christie cares more about running for president than being governor. Just one-third said the latter. Nearly three-quarters of those polled agreed that Christie’s decisions as governor are influenced to some degree by his desire to be president.
Christie offered a full-throated defense of his mixed economic record in New Jersey, but then he argued that many of the state’s problems are structural and thus beyond his control. He touted the pension reform bill that passed a few years ago as a signature achievement, but then he explained that the problem was not really solved and called for more action to fix the “sins of the past.”
Chris Christie should have run in 2012 for President it seems. I'm not saying he would have won, but at least he had momentum. Christie has no momentum now and is being outflanked by Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. The most press Christie has received in the last few weeks didn't have anything to do with politics, but instead his love of the Dallas Cowboys. He may run for President in 2016 but I don't know what he has going for him right now.
84th Texas Legislative Session Begins
The 84th Texas Legislative Session kicked off yesterday and as expected, Joe Straus was re-elected House Speaker for the fourth time. While Straus laid out his vision for the session, he also took shots at those who attempted to un-seat him according to the Texas Tribune.
Straus drew 128 votes for re-election against challenger state Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, who drew 19 votes. Turner had worked for the last year campaigning to unseat Straus with the backing of a coalition of Tea Party and conservative groups, all of whom viewed Straus as insufficiently conservative.
“Leading up to this day, a small number sought to divide us with misleading and personal attacks,” Straus said after being sworn in as speaker. “But you can not effectively govern this House by dividing it.”
Straus took his shots while Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick and Governor-elect Greg Abbott were in attendance.
“This House belongs to no special interest, no single interest. It belongs to almost 27 million Texans, all of the people we represent, and their scorecard is the only one that matters,” Straus said, prompting a standing ovation from a majority of House members.
In a speech after losing his bid for speaker, Turner expressed concerns that his House colleagues lacked proper ambition to truly improve the state, suggesting that his challenge of the House leadership was an effort to change that.
“The chains of complacency and the shackles of status quo have got to be destroyed,” Turner said. “We cannot allow good to be the enemy of great.”
With his election to a fourth term as speaker, Straus has now served longer than his predecessor, Republican Tom Craddick of Midland, who served three terms. He’s also served longer than every other previous Speaker in the state’s history save for three: Pete Laney and Gib Lewis each served five terms, and Bill Clayton served four terms.
Straus outlined several legislative priorities for the session, including combating the state’s “dreadful traffic” and providing “sensible but meaningful tax relief.”
Straus also said the House would “work to end abuses by those who grant and receive state contracts,” a reference to the mushrooming scandal at the Health and Human Services Commission over no-bid contracts.
“Using taxpayer resources for personal gain will not be tolerated,” Straus said. “This House should lead by example, holding ourselves to the highest ethical standards and remembering that public service is about the public.”
Turner cited border security as a "top priority" for the session.
"It’s a war zone, and protecting the lives of our citizens is not a Republican or a Democratic issue,” Turner said.
Prior to the vote, eight House members made speeches — four for Straus and four for Turner.
Straus supporters praised his steady hand and the chamber’s list of accomplishments over the past six years.
“We enjoy a history like no other state and a trajectory like no other state. We operate the 12th-largest economy in the world,” said Four Price, R-Amarillo, who officially nominated Straus for another term. “That, members, has not happened by accident, and I’m proud of the gains that Texas and this House have made since 2009 under his leadership.”
In a speech supporting Straus, state Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, cited the state’s new leadership and the dropping price in oil as reasons why the House shouldn’t elect a new speaker.
“We could again be navigating uncertain seas,” Oliveira said. “Now more than ever, we need a seasoned skipper at the helm.”
In nominating Turner, state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, said Turner had the natural talent to unite the House and move it in a fresh direction.
“Scott Turner truly is a servant of servants and a leader of leaders,” Leach said. “Each of us will be challenged to focus not on partisan politics but the needs and the desires of people who sent us here to serve.”
Addressing concerns that Turner, who has one term under his belt, lacks the experience to be speaker, state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, noted that Abraham Lincoln served just two years in Congress before becoming president.
“It wasn’t the longevity that counted,” Krause said. “It was the leadership that he exuded.”
District 83 State Representative Dustin Burrows voted against Straus while HD-84 Representative John Frullo voted for Straus as Speaker.
Keep your eyes on the Texas House. For the past couple of sessions, the House has been the more conservative body in Texas. That is now expected to flip and for the Senate to be more conservative. Many will be watching to see which bills in the House die.
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