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Plastic Christmas tree shakes Texas politics

Plastic Christmas tree shakes Texas politics
DALLAS - The speaker of the Texas House of Representatives is under fire and having his Lone Star State pride questioned, all because he decorated the House floor with a giant made-in-China plastic Christmas tree.

The state\'s tree growers are up in arms and crying \'Bah Humbug\' over the 15-foot (4.6-metre) polyvinyl chloride tree that Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican from the west Texas town of Midland, had installed on the House floor.

They have supplied the State House with free trees and are ready to bring in a Texas-grown tree to replace the plastic model.

\"I think people can deduce for themselves about what it means to have a plastic Christmas tree from China in the Texas State House,\" said Lanny Dreesen, a spokesman for the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Texas Christmas tree growers produce about 150,000 trees a year and Dreesen said the trees are crops that are grown for the sole purpose of being harvested for the holidays. There has been a real Texas tree on the House floor for over 20 years.

The Christmas tree in question is a top-of-the-line plastic model that came with 3,500 lights and a retail price of $3,400 (1,970 pounds). It looks like an Oregon fir and was donated to Nadine Craddick, the speaker\'s wife, by a store in Austin.

\"It is a beautiful tree. It is well decorated and it is really hard to tell the difference,\" said Bob Richter, spokesman for the House speaker.

Maintenance crews at the House are happy about the plastic model because they do not have to clean up pine needles or fend off the occasional bug.

\"It is like a dirty little secret. A lot of people are using artificial trees now,\" Richter said.

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