Originally posted on Dec 16, 2018 by Bob Campbell for OA online.
Angleton Republican Dennis Bonnen’s presumptive election as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives when the 86th Legislature convenes Jan. 8 in Austin has the support of area Republicans who say his familiarity with the oil and gas concerns in his East Texas district bodes well for the Permian Basin.
Having announced last month that he’d secured the backing of 109 members of the 150-member House, including 31 Democrats, Bonnen “has quite a bit of the downstream side of our industry with petrochemicals processing and refining in his district,” said Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa.
“He has a good understanding of the severance tax and that has served him well in the last two sessions as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,” Landgraf said.
Referring to the state’s tax of 7.5 percent of market value on natural gas produced and 4.6 percent on oil, Landgraf said, “We produce more severance tax revenues than any other part of the state.
“Rep. Bonnen has been relied on by members from every corner of the Legislature. He is one of the smartest members of the House and understands the needs individual members have in their districts.
“He has the ability to get things done. The way this unfolded was that Rep. Bonnen was drafted by a group of members when the other members running for speaker weren’t able to get traction. Once he threw his hat into the ring, he was able to secure the number of votes he needed and to do so in short order.”
Both Landgraf and Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, have said they’ll vote for Bonnen.
Landgraf said Bonnen and former Speaker Joe Straus. R-San Antonio, who is retiring, “have two different leadership styles.”
Predicting Bonnen won’t accrue the opposition from conservative Republicans that Straus did, the Odessa representative said Bonnen “has always been independent and not associated with any particular faction” even while serving as Straus’s speaker pro-tem.
“That autonomy will be very appealing as he presides over the House,” Landgraf said. “We have a great relationship and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
Bonnen is a 46-year-old Houston native who graduated from St. Edward’s University in Austin and was first elected to the Legislature in 1996, representing District 25, which includes Matagorda County and southern Brazoria County with the cities of Lake Jackson, Freeport, Bay City, Palacios and Angleton.
Bonnen is chairman-CEO of Heritage Bank in Pearland. His wife Kimberly is an associate attorney with the Houston-based Vinson & Elkins, which is considered the No. 1 law firm in the nation for energy, oil and gas law. Rep. Greg Bonnen of Friendswood is his brother.
Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance President James Beauchamp said Bonnen “came out of nowhere” after the candidacies of GOP Reps. Drew Darby of San Angelo, Four Price of Amarillo, Phil King of Weatherford, Tan Parker of Flower Mound, Eric Johnson of Dallas, John Zerwas of Richmond and Travis Clardy of Nacogdoches all failed to catch fire.
“There were a lot of candidates, but none of them had much traction,” said Beauchamp, former longtime chairman of the Midland County Republican Party. “I had thought somebody might come out of nowhere in that process and that’s exactly what happened.”
Asked his view of the House’s having tightened from a 95-55 Republican advantage before the Nov. 6 election to 83-67 now, he said, “There is a new balance and I hope there will be more workableness among Republicans and Democrats to get things done.
“There are a lot of issues like school finance.”
Referring to the “Robin Hood” system of making rich school districts help support poor ones, Beauchamp said, “Since it went into effect in 1994, 24 percent of all the Robin Hood money in Texas has come from the Permian Basin.
“I don’t know a lot about Bonnen except that he was part of the Straus team and yet is supported by people who didn’t like Straus. He has a broad base of support.
“We need someone in the speakership who has an understanding of the Permian Basin and is willing to listen. When you look at the overall economic impact of the Basin on the state’s economy and, frankly, the state budget, to be in support of us isn’t favoritism, it’s good business. We have two percent of the people in Texas and 10 percent of the tax base.”
Ector County Republican Chairman Tisha Crow said Bonnen will not have the problems Straus did with the party’s more conservative wing becoming disdainful.
“Most House members feel he brings integrity and knowledge of the job and that his word is reliable,” Crow said. “He will pursue the ideas our party is built on, consider everyone’s opinion and be fair to all the members.”
She said Straus particularly caught flak for blocking conservatives’ proposed legislation.
“There were bills that Straus did not allow to emerge out of the Calendars Committee and get through to a vote on the floor,” Crow said.
“It’s always exciting when we’re going to have change and I believe it will be a positive change.”