On Wednesday, second-term Texas House of Representatives Speaker Dade Phelan released his eagerly anticipated list of committee assignments.
Grassroots Republicans and GOP leaders fought for absolutely no Democrat chairs whatsoever. Statewide Dems subtly reminded their peers across the aisle that they’re still strong enough to torpedo legislation. In the end, the Speaker struck a familiar chord by not changing the ideological makeup of the committees by much while still reducing the number of Democratic committee heads.
In total, out of 37 chairs, there are nine Democrat chairmen, down from 13 during the 2021 legislature. Several, including pro-school choice Democrat Harold Dutton (now Juvenile Justice chair), were given chairmanships in other committees. The Democrat-run committees will be:
Business & Industry – Rep. Oscar Longoria
Corrections – Rep. Abel Herrero
County Affairs – Rep. Victoria Neave Criado
Criminal Jurisprudence – Rep. Joe Moody
Juvenile Justice & Family Issues – Rep. Harold Dutton
Natural Resources – Rep. Tracy King
Resolutions Calendar – Rep. Bobby Guerra
Transportation – Rep. Terry Canales
Youth Health & Safety (Select) — Rep. Senfronia Thompson
At least two committees, according to our first read-through, are now majority Democrat — the Business & Industry committee and the Corrections committee.
According to Phelan, there are 86 Republicans and 64 Democrats in the House — a 22-seat edge for the GOP but not a supermajority. Three-fourths of the committee chairmen are Republicans. Efforts were made to preserve racial and geographic diversity, and a little under half of committee chairs are from rural areas. But it’s never enough for the Left.
Statement from @TexasHDC chair @TMFtx on @DadePhelan’s committee assignments #txlege pic.twitter.com/UpOqr8wsFt
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) February 9, 2023
Phelan said he purposefully did not appoint any committee chairmen who are also on the gate-keeping House Calendars committee.
Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi told a conservative blog the assignments still amount to a win. Fully 81% of GOP primary voters indicated in a non-binding referendum that there should be no Democratic chairs. “Republican opposition to Democrat chairs clearly had an effect in reducing the number of Democrats in leadership,” Rinaldi said. This was echoed by Rep. Bryan Slaton, who took the point on this GOP-backed priority:
Today we experienced some victories. Our push took Dems from 13 chairs down to 8. Pressure also led to Dems not being appointed as chairs to key committees like PubEd & Pensions
I look forward to working with the grassroots to pass the other 7 priorities of the @TexasGOP #txlege pic.twitter.com/t80EUfAyEC
— Bryan Slaton (@BryanforHD2) February 8, 2023
From the hip: Republican chair assignments continue again this session to track to the more moderate wing of the House GOP. This includes Rep. Stephanie Klick who will remain as Health & Human Services chair, and new Public Ed chair Rep. Brad Buckley, who comes from a long line of public school advocates and has been critical of school choice legislation.
Following outrage regarding sate COVID-19 responses and deep concerns about transgender surgery among youth, as well as hopes of 2023 being the year of school choice in Texas after a nod from Gov. Greg Abbott, these assignments do not offer much in the way of immediate reform (using last session as the baseline, that is).
Conservative activists may not be feelin’ it (that’s how you pronounce “Phelan” by the way), but there’s a rainbow at the end of this storm. As was noted by Rinaldi, and as was observed in the 87th Legislature, Phelan has clearly supported a slow but incremental march toward greater conservatism. Democrats are still, and after all, the second-largest voting bloc in the House. They play a strong hand in appointing a Speaker who is not detrimental to their priorities.
As long as that political reality remains the case, conservatives can expect a sort-of reverse Texas Two-Step on the House floor: Two steps forward and one step back. And baby steps, at that.