House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh started the New Year on a feisty note, accusing Republicans of hypocrisy on taxes, illegal immigration and other issues. Then in a flip to make an acrobat proud, Naifeh promised to personally refrain from partisan squabbling in the election-year legislative session that starts next week. “I have to be bipartisan,” he told reporters today without a hint of irony. He added, “I hope you understand. I'm just setting the record straight.”
The speaker released a column that he wrote for his hometown newspaper in which he denounced the 22 House Republicans who voted for the governor's education reform legislation last session but then voted against funding it. Naifeh wrote that those Republicans “didn't have the stomach to do the right thing.”
More from the Naifeh column:
As you can imagine, the differences between Democrats and Republicans can be as stark as day and night. While we do have some House Republicans who act responsibly, there are a few who choose to let distorted partisan motives rule their every move, regardless of the merits of important issues.
The speaker also complained today because, in the last session, the GOP-run Senate failed to adopt House-passed legislation on the lottery, which would lower the grade point average eligibility for scholarships, and on immigration, which would require employers to verify the legal status of workers. He said Republicans oppose the Democratic immigration measure “not because of what's in the bill but because they're not sponsoring it.”
He predicted fights this session on those issues and more. He said he expects Republicans to oppose Democratic legislation to expand pre-kindergarten classes to more children. And, in a tight budget year in which the state faces an anticipated $150 million shortfall, he said he likely won't go for lowering the sales tax on food, a favorite Republican proposal. “I really want to know how you're going to replace that money,” Naifeh said.