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Texas House Speakers Oral History Project -
James E. "Pete" Laney
JAMES E. "PETE" LANEY
Pete Laney. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
The 73rd Legislature's regular session, January 12 to May 31, 1993.
The 74th Legislature's regular session, January 10 to May 29, 1995.
The 75th Legislature's regular session, January 14 to June 2, 1997.
The 76th Legislature's regular session, January 12 to May 31, 1999.
The 77th legislature's regular session, January 9 to May 28, 2001.
Born on March 20, 1943, in Hale County, James E. "Pete" Laney graduated from Hale Center High School in 1961. He earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics at Texas Tech University. He became a successful cotton farmer and first won election to the Texas House of Representatives in 1972. Named to serve on the key Committee on Administration as chairman, he held that post for four terms and then became chair of the Committee on State Affairs for a decade. His peers unanimously elected him speaker in 1993.
Following his unanimous election to the House's top post, Laney oversaw massive reforms in state government. Laney increased the appointment of women, African Americans and Mexican Americans to committee chairs and to positions of responsibility within the House. Laney guided initiatives on education, water, transportation and healthcare during his tenure.
Laney also made improving the efficiency of House operations a top priority. Under his direction, the House adopted a new system of deadlines for legislation to prevent a backlog of bills from being submitted in the closing days of sessions, as had frequently happened in the past. Many observers believed that his management of the House calendar enabled the Legislature to finish its business by the end of each regular session. Special sessions became the norm during the 1980s, but not a single one was called during Laney's decade as speaker. House members widely considered Laney a "member's speaker," lauding him for his efforts to ensure that House authors of legislation got full credit for their work.
Starting in his second term in 1995, Laney established a close, collaborative relationship with new Republican Gov. George W. Bush while maintaining his longstanding relationship with Democratic Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.
The night when George W. Bush was declared the winner of the hotly-contested 2000 presidential election by the United States Supreme Court, the Republican president-elect made a national address from the Texas House chamber and asked his Democrat colleague Laney to introduce him.
Among his honors, Laney served as Chair of the Southern Legislative Conference and President of the National Speakers Conference. He received the Outstanding Texas Leader award, given by the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute and the Helen Farabee Leadership Award for the Texas Perinatal Association. He is the recipient of the Gerald W. Thomas Outstanding Agriculturalist Award. Texas Tech University named him a Distinguished Alumnus and Wayland Baptist University has conferred on him an honorary doctorate.
Married to Nelda McQuien, Laney and his wife live in Hale Center on the Texas South Plains and have three children, KaLyn Laney, Jamey Laney Phillips and J Pete Laney and five grandsons, Austin James Phillips, Grant Alexander Phillips, Gavin Anderson Phillips, Holden Laney Phillips, and Clayton Jack Laney.
– Interviewed by Patrick Cox