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Political Science

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� �� �� � �� � � ������ ��������������� �� � �� � ���� � � ������� ��������������� Page 2 | Landmarks 2007 STORY: LAURA GUTSCHKE PHOTO COURTESY OF: PETE LANEY H E’S WORKED WITH for a charter service. (He later owned an aerial some of the icons of Texas poli- spraying service.) tics, sat with titans of business He decided to run for the House of Represen- and addressed a national televi- tatives in 1972 after four-term veteran Ralph sion audience to introduce the Wayne chose not to run again. Redistricting 43rd President Of The United States. caused Laney to face off against a four-term fel- But, when James E. “Pete” Laney (‘65, B.S. in low Democrat Delwin Jones. agricultural economics) reflects upon the bench- “I had listened to people complain about prob- marks of his 34 years as a state representative, lems with the government, but they did not want including a record-tying five terms as speaker of to do anything about it—some of them didn’t the House of Representatives, the group he refers even vote,” said Laney. THE GROUP HE REFERS TO THE to the most is the constituents. When constituents contacted his office in the district or at the Texas Capitol with issues rang- MOST IS THE CONSTITUENTS ing from problems with retirement benefits to in- put on pending legislation, Laney had one man- date: take care of them. When the Legislature Grass roots, down home and cordial might was in session and 16-hour workdays were the best describe Laney’s first race. Friends managed norm, he still made time to meet with individuals his campaign, wrote news releases and helped who came by his office, especially those with dis- him design campaign brochures, all without pay. abilities or other physical hardships. Laney and primary opponent Jones occasionally After fellow representatives elected him traveled together to public forums. Laney went speaker in 1993, Laney enacted new rules on on to win the primary and the seat, taking office how legislation is processed to increase public in 1973. access to the proceedings. Jones and Laney have remained friends “I wanted to let the public have input in the throughout the years, and Jones returned to the process, and to make sure members of the House House of Representatives in 1989 after switching had an opportunity of having their legislation to the Republican Party. After becoming speaker heard. Every member of the House has a constit- in 1993, Laney appointed him to important com- uency, and that constituency needs to be repre- mittees, including chair of the House Redistrict- sented in the legislative process,” said Laney. ing Committee. And by constituency, he means all the people in Texas, regardless of voting record or party affiliation. Staying in touch with the people of his district became a greater challenge over the last three decades because of Texas’ population growth and county shifts with each of the last three re- districting measures. When he first took office on Jan. 1, 1973, Laney’s district consisted of about 75,000 people in Hale and Swisher counties and part of Lubbock County. In his last term, Laney represented the recently redrawn House District 85, which stretches across 16 counties and in- cludes about 150,000 people. WHY POLITICS Laney was born in 1943 and grew up on a fam- MAKING A MARK IN AUSTIN ily farm seven miles northwest of Hale Center In his first term in the 63rd Legislature, Laney that was also one and a half miles from where his and about half of the representatives were fresh- great-grandfather, originally started farming in men because of the Sharpstown Stock-Fraud 1905. In high school, Laney participated in many Scandal that resulted in the departure of several extracurricular activities and at Texas Tech Uni- incumbent politicians. In addition, newcomers versity was active in student government and Phi filled the three most powerful Texas government Delta Theta fraternity. positions: Gov. Dolph Briscoe, Lt. Gov. William P. Despite serving on the Student Senate at the “Bill” Hobby and House Speaker Price Daniel, Jr. university, he had no political aspirations after “The institutional memory was not there, so graduation. He worked on the farm and, after there was a big learning curve for us. But, it was earning his pilot’s license in the early 1960s, flew also an advantage to us new ones because there Page 3 was a more level playing field,” said Laney, who and helped them with their legislative programs. POLITICAL CHANGES was appointed to the Agriculture, Environmental I may not have been enamored with a legislator’s Starting in the1990s, Republicans progres- Affairs and Transportation committees. bill, but if it was important to him and his con- sively made more gains in the House, Senate and The learning curve was further facilitated in stituents, then we had a process available for statewide offices. In 2003, Republicans controlled 1974 when members of the House and Senate them to sell their program. Only if the program the House of Representatives for the first time in came together for a constitutional convention to adversely affected my district did I interject my- more than 120 years, and Republican Tom Crad- attempt to re-write the Texas Constitution. Al- self into the process,” said Laney. dick from Midland was chosen as speaker. Laney though members failed by three votes to have a One of Laney’s close friends was fellow Demo- continued to work as diligently as usual in the final document presented to voters, Laney said a crat Bob Bullock, who had served as a repre- House, even though his committee assignments silver lining of the seven-month event was that sentative, secretary of state, comptroller and were less prestigious than in years past. many working relationships were forged between lieutenant governor. Bullock, who died in 1999, members of both houses. When he returned to Austin in 1975, for his second term, new House Speaker Bill Clayton appointed him chairman of the Committee on Administration, a position he retained for eight years. In effect, the post made Laney, Clayton’s right-hand man in running the House of Rep- resentatives. He next served as chairman of the Committee on State Affairs for 10 years under House Speaker Gib Lewis. During his first 20 years of public service in Aus- tin, Laney provided leadership on economic devel- opment, health care and public education issues that especially benefited rural and smaller cities. Laney garnered statewide praise in 1991 for authoring an ethics reform bill, which is still in effect today, that required greater public ac- countability of legislators. LEADER OF THE HOUSE In 1993, Laney was elected unanimously as I WORKED HARD ‘PETE’ LANEY’S OBSERVATIONS ON Speaker of the House. His first major order of POLITICS, FARMING AND MORE business was changing House Rules governing the legislative process. The Calendar Committee, FOR THE PEOPLE “When Bush was elected president, we didn’t export Texas politics to Washington which votes on which bills move to the House for as we had hoped. We imported Washington consideration by all, was required to meet pub- licly. In addition, a series of deadlines was im- IN MY DISTRICT politics to Texas.” “Production agriculture is the only busi- plemented for proposed bills to make their way was outspoken—completely opposite of Laney’s ness in the world where the producer goes through to the House body, eliminating the last- soft-spoken, congenial disposition. But, the two to market and says,” ‘What will you give me minute flurry of activity that often saw legisla- shared a mutual friendship and a love for Texas. for this product?’ It’s one of the few indus- tors considering hundreds of bills in the last few “Bob and I wanted to do what was best for tries that does not pass its expenses on.” days of the session. Texas, and when that’s your main objective, then “There are people you meet in life whom Perennial watchers of Texas politics describe it’s easy to get along, and things go better in the you admire and from whom you can learn, Laney’s five terms as speaker as an era of bipar- legislative process,” said Laney. and you want to take advantage of what tisanship. To that end, Democrats Laney and Bullock they know. I definitely did that. It started in “My committee chairmen were both Democrat met for breakfast once a week with Repub– my family with my grandfather and I con- and Republican. I appointed them because of their lican Governor George Bush when the three tinue to learn from others today.” abilities, not their party affiliation,” said Laney. served together. “I’m thankful to my supporters for plac- He also encouraged members to vote what was When Governor Bush was declared President ing their trust in me for so long. I’m thank- best for their constituents and did not punish mem- of the United States in mid-December 2000, he ful for the opportunity to represent the bers if they voted their district over their party. asked his friend Laney to introduce him to the values and ideas of this area—hard work, “You’re elected to the House by your district worldwide audience. From the podium of the fairness, integrity and bipartisanship. I’ve constituency and you’re elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, Laney introduced the always said it’s amazing what you can ac- House by the other 149 house members so, as new president and spoke of how Bush worked complish when you don’t care who gets speaker, you serve two constituencies,” Laney with members of both parties to take care of the the credit—and, together we have accom- said. “I worked hard for the people in my district, people’s business in Texas. plished a lot.” - From news release an- but I also worked hard for my fellow legislators nouncing Laney would not seek re-election Page 4 | Landmarks 2007 As part of statewide redistricting, Laney’s dis- Capitol Fund Drive, which solicited private fund- FACT FILE trict was redrawn in 2003 heavily favoring Re- ing for the restoration of the State Capitol and Family: Married the former Nelda Mc- publicans. The 16-county district is now shaped was vice-chair of the Texas Capitol Restoration Quien (B.S. ’65) in 1963. All three of their like a small “t”—stretching as far north as Hale Celebration. Nelda created a series of collectible children and their spouses are graduates of County with the city of Plainview to 200 miles Capitol ornaments and raised millions for pres- Texas Tech. KaLyn Laney oversees the Gov- south to Reagan and Irion counties. It extends ervation of the Capitol. To date, she has now de- ernmental Relations Department for the State from Terry County and the city of Brownfield in signed 24 ornaments for various organizations, Bar of Texas; Jamey Phillips, an attorney, lives the west to Jones County in the east—just above including Keep Texas Beautiful. in Lubbock is married to attorney Ronald the city of Abilene. Despite the district being Phillips and they have four sons; and J. Pete, an attorney, lives in Austin is married to Melo- about 62 percent Republican, Laney won re-elec- tion in November 2004 with almost 59 percent LANEY CREDITS nie and they have one son. of the vote. Public Service: The list of committees, boards and commissions who have benefited After more than three decades of public ser- vice, Laney announced his retirement from the HIS SUCCESS from Laney’s presence is extensive. In addi- ALSO TO HIS House in December 2005, and his term expired tion, he was elected president of the National on Jan. 9, 2007. Speakers Conference, chairman of the South- The list of awards from many diverse groups ern Legislative Conference and to the execu- WIFE, NELDA that represented teachers, police officers, fire- tive committee of the National Conference fighters, universities, children, health care pro- of Sate Legislatures. He currently serves as Chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Ranching Heritage Association and is a member of the board of trustees for the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. Awards: Some of the awards include Out- standing Texas Leader of the Year by the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute; Texan of the Year by the Texas Legislative Conference; Advocacy Award for Public Offi- cials by the Child Welfare League of America; Friend of Education Award by the Texas Class- room Teachers Association; Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1988 and Outstanding Ag- riculturist in Public Service Awards in 1993, both from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; Distinguished Alum- nus Award in 1991 by Texas Tech Alumni As- sociation; and an honorary doctorate from Wayland Baptist University. viders, agriculture and business on the local, Laney continues to farm cotton in Hale Coun- state and national level over the years are a testa- ty, and he works his public schedule around ment to the value of Laney’s public service. spending time with his children and five grand- Laney credits his success also to his wife, Nel- sons. Laney also serves on the executive com- da, whom he met while they attended Texas Tech mittee of the Southern Legislative Conference, University. Each legislative session, until their which fosters intergovernmental cooperation children reached high school age, Nelda, KaLyn, between the 16 states in the South, and on the Jamey and J Pete, moved to Austin, giving him executive committee of the National Speakers a stable, calming home life that kept him cen- Conference, which is composed of current and tered amid the flurry of Capitol activity. Laney former speakers of state legislatures. returned home each week to stay in touch with And, despite the latest flavor of rancor in Aus- his district. tin politics, Laney still believes in the importance Nelda taught school in Hale Center after grad- of public service. To that end, he’s working with uation and later established a reputation for her- college-aged students to encourage them to be- self as a selfless, dynamic volunteer in Austin and come involved in the political process. West Texas circles. She was co-chair of the “Because I’m not running for re-election, peo- ple think I’m not busy, but I am,” said Laney. Page 5
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