AUSTIN — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Monday delivered Republicans leadership positions to nearly every Senate committee, doling out few power positions to Democrats.
As lieutenant governor, Patrick decides which of Texas’ 31 senators are assigned to each committee. With 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats comprising the Legislature’s upper chamber, the likelihood of Republicans having a firm grip on legislation this session was always high.
Republicans will chair the most plum committees, where the details of some of the most influential and sweeping legislation will be hammered out during this year’s legislative session. Those include the committees that will shape the state budget, examine Texas’ public and higher education systems and work to strengthen Texas beleaguered electric grid.
At stake is nearly every aspect of lawmaking at the Capitol. Senate committee chairs have the singular power of deciding which bills that come to their desks should die and which should be reviewed in hearings before being sent to the Senate floor.
“The overwhelming majority of bills voted on by the chamber will have bipartisan support,” Patrick said in a news release. “But make no mistake, the priority bills will address the concerns of the conservative majority in Texas.”
Only one Democrat, Houston’s Sen. John Whitmire, will lead a committee. Whitmire will lead the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.
In the Texas House, committee chairs have been a highly partisan issue. Republican Speaker Dade Phelan has faced criticism from some GOP members of the House and the Republican Party of Texas for continuing the long-held tradition of appointing Democrats to chair some of the legislative committees on the lower House.
Patrick has faced no opposition from his party for continuing to appoint Whitmire to lead the criminal justice committee. Whitmire, now also a candidate for mayor in Houston, is considered conservative on public safety issues that his committee generally oversees.
North Texas senators will chair three committees. Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Granbury Republican who represents Mansfield and parts of Arlington, will lead the Senate committees on border security as well as natural resources and economic development. Rockwall GOP Sen. Bob Hall will lead the Senate Committee on Administration.
McKinney Republican Angela Paxton got her first appointment to the coveted Senate Committee on Finance. The budget writing committee will be at the center of focus this session as lawmakers decide how to spend a $32.7 billion budget surplus.
Dallas Democratic Sen. Royce West, who has been in the Senate for 30 years, will be the vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation. Since Republicans took over the lieutenant governor’s post in 1998, West served as chairman of different Senate standing committees continuously until Patrick won the post in 2014.
West, who headed intergovernmental relations for four sessions, and jurisprudence for three, had been relegated under Patrick to vice chairman of higher education. He served in that post from 2015-2021 but was bumped this year, for Mayes Middleton, R-Wallisville, a movement conservative and Patrick favorite who’s a freshman. Under Republican lieutenant governors Rick Perry and David Dewhurst, in 1999 and 2003, West headed the higher education subcommittee.
Sen. Nathan Johnson, another Dallas Democrat, will be the vice-chair of the Committee on Jurisprudence. He will also be on committees for administration as well as business and commerce.
Austin bureau chief Robert T. Garrett contributed to this report.
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