Originally posted by Dallas Morning News Editorial 3:19 PM on Nov 13, 2018.
We’re willing to admit it if you are. We didn’t know enough about state Rep. Dennis Bonnen before he came out of nowhere to wrap up the race for Texas House speaker before it really seemed to begin.
We’re guessing the learning curve was as steep for us as the hill Bonnen, R-Angleton, will have to climb to make sure the state Legislature stays on track for all Texans.
For now, we are cautiously optimistic. Or, at the very least, willing to give Bonnen the benefit of the doubt based on some important signals that he isn’t in league with the most extreme elements of the majority party that would bring this state’s business to a grinding halt.
Bonnen has already received praise from Gov. Greg Abbott and outgoing House Speaker Joe Straus, who said, “I trust that, under Dennis’ leadership, the Texas House will continue to be a place where members work together and put the best interests of Texans first.”
We have had differences with Bonnen in the past. He represents the 25th District, an industrial area, home to oil refineries, manufacturing and chemical plants. As such, when he chaired the Texas committee for House Environmental Regulation, we were disappointed by his efforts to slow-walk critical environmental legislation in 2007 by promising to enact those reforms — two years later.
Bonnen is undoubtedly conservative, and that’s to the good. But he’s also respectful of the House’s tradition of bipartisanship on behalf of the whole state.
One way that Bonnen pledged to show leadership in his new role is in the makeup of House committees. Some of the more staunch conservatives — members of the House Freedom Caucus — wanted only Republicans to chair committees while historically both Democrats and Republicans received those assignments. “I am committed to continuing that legacy of greatness that makes the Texas House stand out from other legislative bodies,” he said during a Capitol news conference.
More encouraging was Bonnen’s pledge to make public school financing the top legislative priority in the next session. We’ve opined plenty on these pages how critical public education is to the success of not only Dallas but all of Texas. Our hope is Bonnen can lead in a way that threads the needle of boosting state funding for education while helping local government provide some property tax relief. But we also want to see tangible solutions and not an exercise of throwing money at a problem.
Some Republicans hoped the departure of Speaker Straus might open the door to someone who aligns with/is the puppet of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The midterm elections were a huge yellow flag to the GOP. Be careful with getting too far to the fringe. Voters want to see results, not partisan bickering. We’re anticipating Rep. Bonnen will do what’s necessary to get the results Texans need.