Travis Clardy on the bathroom bill and the relationship between Texas’ top political leaders

The Texas Tribune hosted a conversation with Travis Clardy, Republican candidate for Speaker of the Texas House. The talk was moderated by Texas Tribune co-founder and CEO Evan Smith.

State Rep. Travis Clardy, one of six Republicans running for speaker of the Texas House, said Tuesday that the “bathroom bill” kept lawmakers from focusing on more important things during the 2017 legislative session.

One of the things that the House should have prioritized, according to Clardy, was how Texas finances public education. One year before the session, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding the state's public school funding system as constitutional, while saying it could be a lot better. But the Legislature didn’t pass any major fixes.

He said the House should have sent a message that it was more interested in classrooms than bathrooms.

The representative from Nacogdoches sat down with The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith during an hourlong event Tuesday. You can watch the replay above. Here are a few highlights:

The “bathroom bill”

Clardy said it was a "mistake" that the bathroom bill didn’t get an up-or-down vote in the House last session.

"I think we wasted so much time in trying to fight against that bill when we had a good, reasonable alternative,” he said, referring to a bill by state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, which Clardy referred to as a reasonable measure.

The House could have voted on it, and then “moved on,” Clardy said.

He also said that every bill considered by the House in the last session was looked at through the spectrum of the “bathroom bill.”

“The last session was hijacked, derailed, in large part because of that bill hovering over everything else,” he said.

The representative also argued that the House could have done a better job at communicating its priorities to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and the Republican-dominated Senate, as opposed to just reacting to their bills.

“You either are a pitcher or a catcher,” Clardy said.

The race for speaker

Clardy said that the Texas House needs a new leadership style, one that’s different than outgoing Republican Speaker Joe Straus’ more passive approach.

“We need somebody more vocal, more affirmative, more assertive,” Clardy said.

He said that the new House leader should work with the governor and the lieutenant governor, but also step up when it’s necessary.

“We do need to have someone that can keep the lines of communications open with the governor and with the Senate and that would be someone distinct from what we saw in the last session,” Clardy said.

To keep those lines open, Clardy said that the top Texas political leaders should meet prior to each session to talk about what is going to be a priority.

“Let’s prove to the citizens of Texas that Republicans still know how to govern,” Clardy said.

Loyalty to the Republican Party

Clardy said that Texas Republicans should not be chastised for voting differently than the majority of the party.

“When I stand up there on January 8th and put my left hand on the Bible and take the oath, I don’t take an oath to the Republican Party of Texas,” said Clardy, who described himself as a proud Republican.