Sunday, June 03, 2007

Rep. Lon Burnam's Resolution

In the waning days of the 80th legislative session, lawmakers passed hundreds of resolutions honoring fellow Texans. Most of these were hardly newsworthy, but Rep. Lon Burnam's (D-Fort Worth) resolution commending House Parliamentarian Denise Davis and Deputy Parliamentarian Christopher Griesel was an exception.

The two had become the center of attention three days earlier by resigning in protest over House Speaker Tom Craddick's contradictory interpretation of House rules. Their resignations sparked a raucous weekend in the House that some political observers say has permanently weakened Craddick.
In case you didn't follow that story, the parliamentarians resigned when Craddick asserted absolute authority as speaker to block a motion allowing a vote to vacate, which likely would have ended his reign as speaker.

Rep. Burnam has never been much of a fan of Speaker Craddick, long known for using his power to reward loyalists and punish foes. To really appreciate the context of Burnam's resolution, however, you also have to understand something of the history of their relationship. Although opposition to Craddick's leadership reached a tipping point in this legislative session, Burnam's criticism of the Speaker has been longstanding, and he paid a political price. In 2005, Burnam was one of only four Democrats who cast ballots against Craddick's appointment, which landed him on a committee most would not regard as a plum assignment.

..... two of the four Democrats who voted against Craddick ended up on the Agriculture and Livestock Committee – a reappointment for Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth (who landed here after casting the only dissenting vote against Craddick in 2003) [emphasis added] .....

But Burnam is capable of getting in a few licks of his own. Earlier this year, Burnam called for a criminal investigation into charges that Craddick had an improper financial dealings with a state contractor.

Burnam's resolution honoring the the parliamentarians was blocked from coming to the floor. 'Tis a pity. Here is the deleted text of Burnam's resolution.

WHEREAS, Denise Davis and Chris Griesel stood up to autocratic control of a democratic institution by resigning their posts as parliamentarians; and

WHEREAS, Ms. Davis and Mr. Griesel could have given in to dictatorial pressure but instead stood firm and did what they knew was right, even though it cost them their jobs; and

WHEREAS, democratic institutions depend on respect for rules and precedents, Ms. Davis and Mr. Griesel took a stand for democracy on May 25, 2007, otherwise known as the Friday Night Massacre of the House Rules; and

WHEREAS, by resigning to protest a decision that threatened the integrity of the House, Ms. Davis and Mr. Griesel showed great respect for the Rules of the House, the Constitution of the State of Texas, and the institution of the Texas House of Representatives…..

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

See also previous post: Drama Over Craddick Continues.

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