Amarillo's Smithee to seek another House term


AUSTIN — State Rep. John Smithee, who in recent years has mulled retirement, said Wednesday he will seek another two-year term in House District 86.

He said there are pressing issues he intends to work on in the 2017 session.

“I’ve got some priorities that I want to get done in the next session, and one of them is sanctuary cities,” Smithee, R-
Amarillo, said in reference to legislation that would require local governments to enforce federal immigration laws.

Smithee, who chaired the House Insurance Committee for 20 years but now chairs the chamber’s Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee, is also a member of the House State Affairs panel.

Like its Senate counterpart, the 13-member House State Affairs Committee examines the pros and cons of the controversial sanctuary cities bills the Texas Legislature has failed to pass in recent sessions, even though Republicans outnumber Democrats almost 2-1 in the House and Senate.

Other legislation he intends to work on would deal with the Affordable Care Act, the health care law better known as Obamacare, as well as continuing his work on the Timothy Cole Commission, Smithee said.

The Cole Commission, named after the Texas Tech University student who died in prison after he was convicted two decades ago for a rape he did not commit, is reviewing wrongful convictions. A year from now, the 11-member panel is expected to recommend to the Legislature what the state can do to avoid the type of mistakes that sent Cole and other innocent people to jail.

Some of Smithee’s colleagues said they are glad he is seeking re-election.

“I think it is great for West Texas,” said state Rep. John Frullo, who in this year’s session succeeded Smithee as chairman of the House Insurance Committee.

“John Smithee is tied for third in seniority, and so any time you have a powerful chairman with that type of seniority in our part of the world, it is a good thing,” said Frullo, R-Lubbock. “John Smithee is a well-
respected legislator that people go to for advice.” 

Frullo and state Rep. Drew Springer said if Smithee is re-elected, the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains will continue having clout in the Legislature.

“I am glad to see him coming back,” said Springer, R-Muenster. “The seniority continues to grow in West Texas. It helps West Texas remain strong and we’ll keep working on that.”

It appears that Smithee, who was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984, might run unopposed again.

He has never faced a primary challenger or a Democratic opponent in a re-election campaign. In 2008, Amarillo attorney James Woods filed to run as a Democrat, but he withdrew from the race in late July, too late to remove his name from the ballot.

The filing deadline for the March 1 Democratic and Republican primaries is Dec. 14.



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