The Texas House of Representatives will have a new speaker for the 81st Texas Legislature that starts on January 13. We aren’t yet 100 percent sure who it will be until the votes are cast, but it won’t be Tom Craddick, who has been Speaker since 2003. The Austin American-Statesman reports that

Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, claimed Sunday night that he has the votes to be elected the next speaker of the Texas House and released a list of 85 supporters.

He is holding a press conference at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Capitol.

The vast majority of Straus’ 85 supporters are Democrats: 15 Republicans and 70 Democrats.

The Statesman is also reporting that Craddick has withdrawn from the race. He will likely throw his support to an alternative to Straus.

During the sessions when Tom Craddick was speaker there has been very little progress in criminal justice reform issues. Craddick became speaker in 2003.

There will be improved prospects for some decent criminal justice reform bills to pass if a new speaker is elected. The incoming Legislature will be split almost evenly with 76 Republicans and 74 Democrats.

It remains to be seen whether the new speaker will appoint a new chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The current chair, Aaron Pena, was a supporter of Craddick and did his bidding last session by killing the Innocence Commission bill and not putting a lot of effort into other criminal justice reform issues, but Pena has abandoned Craddick and is listed as one of Straus’ 85 supporters.

We did our small part in the change in leadership. We created the TMN PAC last year in part to support people who would support new leadership for the Texas House.

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