2.9.23 – Austin American-Statesman

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan Names Committee Chairs. Here’s Who’ll Lead the Groups.”
By John C. MoritzNiki Griswold

A group of people with signs that say committee.

Excerpts from this article:


[COMMENTS FROM DONNA GARNER:  The Texas House Public Education Committee now has (counting the chair and the vice-chair) 8 Republican members and 5 Democrat members.  The 8 Repubs are Buckley (Chair), Allison, Cunningham, Harris, Harrison, Hefner, King, Schaefer.  The 5 Dems are Allen (Vice-Chair), Dutton, Hinojosa, Longoria, Talarico. To view a list of the members of each House committee, please go to:  https://capitol.texas.gov/Committees/CommitteesMbrs.aspx?Chamber=H  ]


The Texas House stuck with its tradition of awarding committee chairmanships to both parties, but Democrats, who are outnumbered in the 150-member chamber, received fewer positions of power than they did in 2021 during the last legislative session.

Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, announced his committee chairmanship picks Wednesday.

Republicans, who hold a comfortable 86-64 House majority, won many of the most prestigious assignments: Angleton's Greg Bonnen, a six-term veteran was again tapped to head the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, and Corpus Christi's Todd Hunter, who is among the chamber's most senior members, given reign over State Affairs. The State Affairs Committee traditionally handles many of the most consequential, and often most controversial, bills in any given session.

Nine Democrats were given chairmanships:

  • El Paso’s Joe Moody (Criminal Jurisprudence)
  • Robstown’s Abel Herrero (Corrections)
  • Dallas County’s Victoria Neave Criado (County Affairs)
  • Houston’s Harold Dutton (Juvenile Justice and Family Issues)
  • Houston's Senfronia Thompson (Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety)
  • Mission's Oscar Longoria (Business and Industry)
  • Uvalde's Tracy King (Natural Resources)
  • Edinburg's Bobby Guerra (Resolutions Calendars)
  • Edinburg's Terry Canales (Transportation)

Notably, Phelan named Fort Worth Republican Charlie Geren to be speaker pro tem. The position is largely ceremonial, but was previously held by Moody in the last legislative session until Phelan stripped him of the title during the Democrats’ quorum break. 


Arguably one of the biggest shake ups was on the Public Education Committee. Phelan picked Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen, to lead the group, taking the chairmanship from the minority party. 

Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, previously held the position during the last legislative session, where he helped slow the progress of a controversial bill that restricted transgender youth's ability to participate in sports until Phelan redirected the legislation to a Republican-chaired special committee during a special session. House Bill 25 ultimately passed. 

The Public Education Committee is set to be the stage of a number of battles this session with Republicans looking to push a school voucher program that faces fierce opposition from Democrats and rural Republicans. 

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based conservative think tank, applauded Buckley’s appointment in a news release Wednesday. 

Representative Buckley will be an excellent chair for the House Public Education Committee, and we look forward to working with them this legislative session,” said Mandy Drogin, campaign director for TPPF’s Next Generation Texas initiative. “This is an important first step in ensuring that Texans have a system that respects the parent and ensures transparency and a high-quality education on school campuses.”


Every piece of legislation that lawmakers act on is vetted through committees, both in the House and Senate. The Senate named its panels late last month, about two weeks into the 140-day session that started Jan. 10.

Each committee member, regardless of party, gets to vote on whether to send a bill to the full chamber. But it's up to the committee chairs to decide which bills even get hearings and which ones get passed over.

And even if a bill is heard, the committee chairs decide if and when any vote will be called. Each committee has a vice chairman — often from a different party than the chairman — but vice chairs traditionally adhere to a chairman's wishes when they preside over a panel when the chairman is absent.

Matt Rinaldi, a former state representative who now chairs the Texas Republican Party, saw a mixed bag in this year’s bipartisan assignments.

The good: Opposition to Democrat Chairs clearly had an effect, as the # of Dems in leadership was significantly reduced,” Rinaldi said in a tweet.

The bad: Republicans awarded 8 of 33 standing committees to Democrats, including putting left wing Democrats in charge of important & partisan policy areas like criminal law, business, family Issues, and youth health.”


With the House and Senate having made their committee assignments, the bills lawmakers have filed since November can be scheduled for hearings.

That means individuals and interest groups with stakes in the outcome will be increasing their presence in the Capitol to either testify for or against the legislation on their radar or open back-channel connections to target lawmakers and their staffs in hopes to influence outcomes.


***Here is a list of the chairs and vice chairs of the Texas House Committees for the 88th legislative session. For a list of all the members on each committee go to the committee page on Texas Legislature Online