Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, the vice chairman of the House committee charged with investigating ethics complaints, was identified today as the House leadership member who allegedly warned a colleague that lawmakers who fail to support Speaker Joe Straus for re-election could face retribution through redistricting.
Rep. Charles L. "Chuck" Hopson, chairman of the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee, made the disclosure before the committee went into closed executive session to discuss the allegation. Phillips recused himself as vice chairman of the panel and was participating in the closed session. He was not immediately available for comment.
Hopson ordered the inquiry after Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, released a statement saying that a member of Straus' leadership team warned him that members who fail to support Straus in the speaker's race could be punished when lawmakers redraw legislative districts next year.
Hughes, who withdrew his support for Straus in making the allegation, did not identify the member and turned the name over to Straus, who in turned gave it to Hopson. Straus, a San Antonio Republican who faces two opponents in his bid for a second term as speaker, has denounced the allegations as "outrageous."
House members will choose a speaker after the 82nd Legislature convenes on Jan. 11. Conservative groups are waging a high-profile campaign to oust the incumbent speaker, saying the 150-member House needs more conservative leadership after Republicans broadened their majority by picking up 22 seats in the Nov. 2 election.
-- Dave Montgomery