Featured: Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-La Joya, and wife Jennifer Ruiz-Longoria, along with their two daughters – Camilla Lee and Madison Lee – are featured on Monday, November 5, 2018, in the audience of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court in Edinburg, where the South Texas lawmaker was awaiting to receive a resolution congratulating him on being named Outstanding Young Alumnus by the University of Texas Law Alumni Association.
Photograph Courtesy JULIA BENÍTEZ SULLIVAN
Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, files for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, would be the first bilingual Mexican-American Speaker of the 150-member legislative body
“The history of Texas has been shaped and influenced by some of the most dynamic, colorful, and controversial elected officials. The Speaker of the Texas House, along with the governor and the lieutenant governor, ranks among the three most powerful officeholders in Texas politics, yet Speakers in the Texas House have enjoyed relatively limited visibility. Few Texans are fully aware of the office’s significance.”
– Briscoe Center for American History
The University of Texas at Austin
Rep. Óscar Longoria, D-La Joya, on Thursday, October 29, 2020, announced his candidacy for Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, a move that allows deep South Texas to continue generating more positive statewide news coverage for the Rio Grande Valley state legislative delegation and the region’s priorities and prominence.
“I am humbled by the support I’ve received from a bipartisan coalition of my colleagues in the Texas House, and today I formally declare my candidacy for Speaker of the House. I am running for Speaker to ensure that we have stability, civility, and integrity in the Texas House,” Longoria said. “The unprecedented challenges we face require a leader who can build consensus across the political aisle, across rural and urban communities, and across ideologies.”
According to the Texas House of Representatives:
The Speaker is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives. The Texas Constitution requires the House of Representatives, each time a new Legislature convenes, to choose one of its own members to serve as Speaker.
As presiding officer, the Speaker maintains order during floor debate, recognizing legislators who wish to speak and ruling on procedural matters. The constitution also requires the Speaker to sign all bills and joint resolutions passed by the Legislature. As a member of the house of representatives, the speaker may vote on all questions before the house.
The other duties and responsibilities of the Speaker are determined by the members of the House in the House Rules of Procedure, which are adopted by a majority vote of the members at the beginning of each regular session of the Legislature. The members give the Speaker the authority to appoint the membership of each standing committee, subject to rules on seniority, and to designate the Chair and Vice-Chair for each committee.
Under the rules, the Speaker is responsible for referring all proposed legislation to the committee, subject to the committee jurisdictions set forth in the rules. The rules also allow the Speaker to appoint conference committees, to create select committees, and to direct committees to conduct interim studies when the legislature is not in session.
Regardless of how he does in the rapidly developing race for Speaker of the House, Longoria, 39, will continue to represent House District 35, which encompasses Cameron and Hidalgo counties.
According to The Texas Tribune:
Republican state Reps. Trent Ashby of Lufkin, Chris Paddie of Marshall, John Cyrier of Lockhart, and Geanie Morrison of Victoria also filed on Thursday, October 29, 2020. In announcing his candidacy, Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-La Joya, became the third Democrat to enter the race. State Reps. Senfronia Thompson of Houston and Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio filed paperwork to run for the job last week.
The Texas Tribune is the only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.
More candidates are expected to file, though it won’t be clear which party will be in control of the House — and by how many seats — until after Tuesday’s (November 3 presidential) election, The Texas Tribune further noted.
“When campaign season concludes Tuesday, it will be time for our body to go to work for the people of our state. We will face unprecedented budgetary challenges in this session,” said Longoria, an attorney by profession. “With a near-decade of experience in the budget process, including two-terms as Vice-Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, I will ensure that we fulfill our duties to Texas families, that our kids have a quality public education, and that our state increases access to healthcare for all Texans.”
The position of Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives will become available on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 – the first day the Texas Legislature returns to work at the State Capitol in Austin – because the current Speaker did not seek reelection.
Last fall – October 21, 2019 – first-time Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, announced his plans to retire from the Texas House of Representatives at the end of his current two-year term, which takes place on Monday, January 11, 2020.
The successor to Bonnen will be elected by the 150-member state representatives on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. Seventy-six votes are required to become Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
“COVID-19 has reshaped the American landscape, and more than ever, we need healing, not strife. As Speaker, I will assemble a diverse coalition of leaders and work on behalf of all Texans to create a better tomorrow. Together we will bring our economy roaring back from this pandemic that has affected millions of Texans and thousands of small businesses across the state,” he said.
With Texas being one of the United States’ four minority-majority states – a term used to describe a state where people of color outnumber whites – and with the Lone Star State sharing the longest border with Mexico, Longoria noted the value of his bicultural and bilingual upbringing.
Hispanics comprise 38.8 percent of Texans, followed by 12.5 percent who are black, 4.7 percent who are Asian, and one percent who are Native American. Whites comprise 43 percent of the Texas population.
“If elected to be the first bilingual Mexican-American Speaker to lead this body, I will set a tone that respects all backgrounds, cultures, and viewpoints,” he said. “As the grandson of Mexican immigrants, the son of a migrant farmworker, and now the proud father of two daughters, I will work relentlessly to ensure that Texas is a beacon of cultural and gender equality.”
Gender equality, also known as sexual equality or equality of the sexes – which is also tied to women’s rights – is the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender, according to Wikipedia, which is a free online encyclopedia, created and edited by volunteers around the world and hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation
Longoria’s support for gender equality could take a high statewide profile if he is elected Speaker of the House. He is married to Jennifer Ruiz-Longoria, and they have two daughters – Camilla Lee and Madison Lee.
“Texas is stronger with diverse leadership, and women belong in seats of power in the Legislature. It is important to elevate women to positions of leadership so that all of our daughters have shining examples of the strength of Texas women,” Longoria said.
On Monday, November 14, 2016, Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, introduced House Joint Resolution 29, which proposed “a state constitutional amendment that would have required the governor’s appointments to state boards, commissions or other governing bodies of state agencies to reflect the gender composition of this state.”
House Joint Resolution 29 received a public hearing in the House of Representatives, but it went no further.
The total population of Texas is estimated at 26,956,958 people with 13,382,386 male and 13,574,572 female. There are 192,186 more women than men in the state, which is 0.71% of the total population. The Texas Gender Ratio is 99 men to 100 women (99:100) or 0.99.
A joint resolution, such as House Joint Resolution 29 by Muñoz, is a type of legislative measure that requires adoption by both chambers of the legislature but does not require action by the governor. A joint resolution is used to propose amendments to the Texas Constitution, ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution, or request a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Before becoming effective, the provisions of joint resolutions proposing amendments to the Texas Constitution must be approved by the voters of Texas.
A constitutional amendment is a change to the state constitution. A constitutional amendment is proposed by the legislature in the form of a joint resolution that must be adopted by both chambers of the legislature by a two-thirds vote and be approved by a majority of the voters to become effective.
According to the Office of Gov. Greg Abbott, the authority to make governmental appointments is one of the powers given to the Governor of Texas by the state’s Constitution.
During a four-year term, a governor will make about 1,500 appointments, including to such powerful entities as The University of Texas System Board of Regents, the Texas Transportation Commission, the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Texas Water Development Board.
The governor’s appointments power, which requires the consent of the Texas Senate, applies to:
• State officials and members of state boards, commissions, and councils that carry out the laws and direct the policies of state government activities;
• Members of task forces that advise the Governor or executive agencies on specific issues and policies; or
• State elected and judicial offices when vacancies occur by resignation or death of the office holder.
According to his official biography, Longoria was born and raised in South Texas. He is a product of Texas public schools, graduating from La Joya Independent School District. Longoria graduated from The University of Texas School of Law in 2007. Longoria attended South Texas College before transferring and later graduating from The University of Texas at Austin in 2003. He would later become a member of the Board of Trustees for South Texas College before successfully running for state representative.
Longoria has represented House District 35 for four two-year terms and will begin his fifth term, which also is for two years, when the Texas Legislature returns to work for its 140-day regular session in early January 2021.
“I will conduct this race with respect and decorum, attributes that have been hallmarks of my leadership style as a public servant,” Longoria said. “I commit to House members that we will work in unity – not division – to build a better Texas for generations to come.”
Longoria’s House District 35 encompasses both Hidalgo and Cameron County and includes the cities and towns of La Joya, Sullivan City, Peñitas, Alton, Mission, Edinburg, Hargill, Monte Alto, Edcouch, La Villa, Mercedes, Weslaco, Santa Rosa, Primera, Palm Valley, Combes, Harlingen, and La Feria.
In 2019 for the 86th Texas Legislature, Speaker Bonnen appointed Longoria as Vice-Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for a second consecutive session.
Additionally, Bonnen selected Longoria as a member of the newly merged Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee and House Calendars.
Longoria had previously been appointed in the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017 as Vice-Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee by former Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.
Prior to this powerful new appointment, Longoria had served two sessions as a member on the committee.
In Spring 2018, former Speaker Straus appointed Longoria to the Legislative Budget Board, which is tasked with recommending a budget to the legislature before the legislative session begins.
Also, Longoria has served as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Articles I, IV, and V, on the Investments & Financial Services Committee and Local & Consent Calendars Committee.
In the Fall of 2017, Longoria was the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award. This recognition is awarded to Texas Exes age 39 and younger who have made significant achievements in their careers and service to the university.
The following year, fall of 2018, Longoria was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award by The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. The Outstanding Young Alumnus Award honors a graduate, 40 years old or younger, who has made significant achievements in his or her career and service to the university.
He is a Life Member of the Texas Exes Association.
Prior to his tenure in the State House, Longoria served on the Agua Special Utility District as a Board Member, and as a Trustee for South Texas College. He owns and operates the Law Office of Óscar Longoria.
What does the Texas House of Representatives do?
The Texas House of Representatives is composed of 150 members, each elected for a two-year term.
A member of the House must be a citizen of the United States, must be a qualified elector of the state, and must be at least 21 years old. He or she must have been a resident of the state for two years immediately preceding election, and for one year immediately preceding election must have been a resident of the district from which he or she was chosen.
The House of Representatives, together with the state senate, constitute the Texas Legislature.
The duties of the Legislature include consideration of proposed laws and resolutions, consideration of proposed constitutional amendments for submission to the voters, and appropriation of all funds for the operation of state government.
All bills for raising revenue considered by the legislature must originate in the house of representatives. The house alone can bring impeachment charges against a statewide officer, which charges must be tried by the senate.
What is the legislative process?
In Texas, as in Congress and most other states, the lawmaking process involves four major stages: introduction, committee action, floor action, and enrollment. In a bicameral legislature like Texas, with both a House and a Senate, the first three stages must occur in each of the houses consecutively.
After the legislative chamber in which the bill is introduced completes action on the measure, the bill is sent to the second legislative chamber, where the process is repeated through the three stages.
The fourth stage, enrollment, occurs in the originating legislative chamber after the Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed on the final form of the proposal.
How often does the Texas Legislature meet?
The Legislature of the State of Texas, operating under the biennial system, convenes its regular sessions at noon on the second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years. The maximum duration of a regular session is 140 days. The governor is given authority under the state constitution to convene the legislature at other times during the biennium.
Such sessions are known as called or special sessions and are reserved for legislation that the governor deems critically important in the conduct of state affairs. Called sessions are limited to a period of 30 days, during which the legislature is permitted to pass laws only on subjects submitted by the governor in calling for the session.
How does the House differ from the Senate?
There are 150 members of the House of Representatives as opposed to 31 members of the Senate.
According to the most recent census figures, the ideal house district population is 113,243 as opposed to an ideal population of 547,952 for each senate district.
Senators serve four-year terms and represent a relatively large number of constituents, whereas House members serve two-year terms and represent a smaller number of constituents. House members are therefore able to remain more closely in tune to the needs and concerns of their constituents. For this reason, the state constitution requires that all bills increasing taxes or raising revenue for use by the state originate in the house of representatives.
For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).