Texas

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick presents the committee’s tasks with one Democratic chairman.

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lieutenant governor Dan Patrick on Monday announced Senate committee appointments, keeping his key aides in leadership positions. And, despite pressure from conservative GOP activists to bar minority party members from boarding committees, Patrick reappointed the Democrat. John Whitmire chair the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.

In a statement, Patrick, who chairs the Senate, said the committee’s mission “will ensure we succeed in addressing the priorities of the people of Texas.” While acknowledging the debate over appointing Democratic lawmakers to leadership positions, Patrick said: “The vast majority of bills voted in the House will receive bipartisan support. But make no mistake, the priority bills will solve the problems of the conservative majority in Texas.”

A small but vocal group of hardline conservative activists pushed for the election of legislative leaders such as Patrick and the speaker of the House of Representatives. Dade Phelan to refrain from giving leadership positions to Democrats, arguing that they will delay the passage of conservative legislation. Earlier this month, hundreds of activists poured into the galleries of the House of Representatives and the Senate wearing bright red shirts that read “Ban Democratic Chairs.”

This push also received support from Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi, former government representative The ban on the nomination of chairmen of democratic committees is among the party’s eight legislative priorities.

The debate has largely focused on the House of Representatives, which has a long tradition of appointing committee chairs from the minority party. Phelan, like speakers before him, argued that this promoted a sense of unity in the House and distinguished the Texas Legislature from the rank divisions of Congress. He rebutted claims that Democrats were against GOP legislation, saying that conservative priorities, which had the support of a majority of the House, were enshrined in law.

But the issue was less contentious in the Senate. Patrick’s governing philosophy is that the majority party should control leadership positions. During his tenure as head of the Senate, the number of Democrats in leadership positions declined. And Patrick has publicly stated that once Houston’s Whitmire leaves the Senate, he will no longer appoint Democrats to chair committees.

Whitmire, who has served in the Senate since 1983 and has long served as chairman of the commission that oversees criminal justice legislation, running for mayor of Houston in November.

Rinaldi appeared to approve of Patrick’s committee appointments and urged Phelan to “announce a similar plan to reduce and eventually eliminate Democratic chairmen in the House of Representatives, instead of continuing to defend the practice.”

“The Lieutenant Governor’s committee appointments give the Senate a good opportunity to pass all Republican legislative priorities this session,” Rinaldi said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. “We are also grateful that the lieutenant governor has responded to the party’s concerns about Democratic chairmen and reduced the number of committees from 32% before he took office to one during his tenure.”

Fourteen of the 15 Senate standing committees announced Monday will be chaired by Republican lawmakers. The 16th Special Committee on Redistricting will also be chaired by a Republican.

Sen. Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston, will chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee and the House Select Committee on redistricting. Huffman, an ally of Patrick’s, chaired the powerful finance committee last year after the senator for a long time Jane Nelson Flower Mound, who has chaired the budgeting committee since 2014, announced that she would not seek re-election. Nelson was appointed Texas Secretary of State. governor Greg Abbott earlier this month.

Huffman has already spent several months working on the budget, and last week released the Senate’s first draft budget. She will also chair the redistricting committee, which is expected to do minimal work on Senate political maps to dispel doubts about the legitimacy of the redistricting process last session.

Sen. Brian Hughes Mineola, another ally of Patrick’s, will also head two committees: on state affairs and on jurisprudence. In the last legislative session, the Republican chaired a powerful state affairs committee, from which he passed legislation banning abortion in the state after six weeks, one of the most restrictive bills in the country at the time. (U.S. Supreme Court repealed federal abortion protection in 2022, almost completely banning abortion in Texas). Hughes will also take over the law in place of Huffman.

Sen. Brandon Creighton, a Conroe Republican, retained control of the Committee on Education, which will now oversee higher education legislation in addition to bills affecting K-12 education. He will also chair a new subcommittee on higher education.

Conservative lawmakers have vowed to prioritize education: leaders like Patrick are aiming for higher education, and Creighton is advocating a “bill of parental rights” that is likely to limit what educators can teach children about race, sex, and gender in public schools.

“We’re gearing up for one of the most conservative sessions in Texas history, a visionary agenda that this country hasn’t seen,” Creighton said during Abbott’s inauguration last week.

Touting the strength of a new freshman class, with several members serving multiple terms in the Texas House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate, Patrick named three first-term senators as committee vice chairmen.

Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who previously served 24 years in the House of Representatives, will become Vice Chairman of the Committee on Business and Commerce; Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, who has served in the House for 16 years, will become Vice Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee; and Sen. Kevin Sparksthe Midland Republican, who is a conservative ally of Patrick, will be vice chairman of the nominating committee.

Sen. Mays MiddletonR-Galveston, who served four years in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate, will become vice chairman of the subcommittee on higher education.

Disclosure: The Secretary of State of Texas provides financial support to The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial sponsors play no role in Tribune journalism. Find the complete list them here.

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