Straus: Business leaders must get involved for Texas to prosper

🕐 3 min read

The day after filing ended for the March 1 primaries, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus visited Fort Worth to speak to the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

He was speaking to the business community, but he had some friends – and occasional critics – in the audience as well. Fort Worth state Rep. Charlie Geren, one of Straus’ key allies, was in attendance, but so was state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R.-Bedford, who is a member of the tea party contingent that doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with the more moderate speaker.

They were all cordial though for the Dec. 15 noontime gathering at the City Club where attendees dined on beef, green beans, potatoes and red velvet cake. Straus was crisp and efficient as a speaker, a reflection of how he runs the sometimes rollicking Texas House.

For Straus results matter and the last legislative session added plenty to an already substantial bona fides.

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“In this session we reduced the state’s main business tax by 25 percent, we eliminated fees on 100s of thousands of professions and made the environmental permitting process simpler for business,” he said.

Straus had a message for Texas residents that could also resonate around the country.

“In the Texas House we have figured something out,” he told the crowd. “When good people work together and put the interests of their constituents ahead of politics you can deliver some pretty positive results.”

While the Texas Legislature had plenty of accomplishments, the next session, in 2017, will likely be more difficult on the back of falling oil revenues and the strong dollar.

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“We are just about out of easy answers,” he said. “The next answers are going to require a lot of work and a lot of creativity.”

Straus, a supporter of Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, also said the current political environment is detrimental to solving issues facing the state and the nation.

“I’m not sure this ongoing, seemingly never-ending presidential race has brought out the best in us,” he said. “I do not want to see fear and anger consume our politics. We need thoughtful people to stay engaged to try to work better whenever possible.”

He ended with a call to business community to stay – and get – involved.

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“You in the business community have a very important choice to make,” he said. “You can sit back and allow the shouters to dominate our politics. Or you can stand up and engage in the process of working toward thoughtful solutions on the issues that really matter.”

Despite his track record in the Texas Legislature, Straus will face two challengers in the Republican primary for his San Antonio House seat. While some within his party may disagree with some of Straus’ roadmap, he has caught the attention of higher ups in the Republican Party. Straus was recently named as head of the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, a national GOP group with the goal to increase GOP legislative strength.

The event was the Fort Worth Chamber’s Leaders in Government series sponsored by Kelly Hart & Hallman. 

Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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