Discover more from LoneStarLeft’s Newsletter
We Finally Have House Committees
And what does that mean for Democrat and Republican priorities?
The first 30 days of the Texas legislative session are typically dedicated to introducing bills. Then, by the last week of January/first week of February, the Speaker (Dade Phelan) assigns each member to their House Committee assignments. This year, the time seemed to drag on waiting on these assignments, but Phelan finally announced the member placement in committees this week.
Over the last several months, the far-right was up in arms about banning Democrats from holding committee chairmanships. The fringe even attempted to band together to block Dade Phelan from becoming speaker over the Democratic chair issue. To no avail. However, it seems that Phelan has made some compromise with them, as there are five fewer Democratic chairs than there was last session. Those include:
Oscar Longoria for the Business & Industry Committee.
Abel Herrero for the Corrections Committee.
Victoria Neave-Criado for the County Affairs Committee.
Joe Moody for the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
Harold Dutton for the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee.
Bobby Guerra for the Resolutions Calendar Committee.
Terry Canales for the Transportation Committee.
Senfronia Thompson for the Youth Health & Safety Select Committee.
How do bills get passed (or blocked) in the Texas House?
Members introduce/file a bill with the House Clerk.
It’s up to Speaker Phelan to determine which ones go to the committees.
The bills Phelan decides to send to committees are read on the house floor and sent to their perspective panel.
Then, it’s up to the committee chair to take up the bill (or not).
After the committee votes on the bill, it’s sent to the Calendars Committee (not to be confused with the Resolutions Calendar Committee).
It’s up to the Calendar Committee to schedule the bill to be voted on by the full House.
Of course, if the bill passes the full House, it goes to the Senate to vote on. And if it passes the Senate, it goes to a Conference Committee to work out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill before it goes back to the House again for a final vote.
So, there are a lot of steps for a bill to become a law and many places for Democratic priorities to die.
The Calendars Committee is the Democrats’ biggest roadblock to getting legislation to the full House.
The Calendars Committee chair is West Texas Republican Dustin Burrows. This is a massive problem for people in Texas who believe in progress.
Representative Burrows has a history of voting against protecting victims of sex trafficking and expanding research and access to cancer treatment. We also recently learned that he takes in money from coal power plants. On top of that, he’s a millionaire living in a $1 million home in a city where the poverty rate is 5% above the national average. While being wealthy alone isn’t problematic, he’s expressed a desire to cut business regulations this session, which usually indicates greed at the sacrifice of workers.
If Democrats can pass their agenda items in committees, the legislation will be at Burrow’s mercy whether it moves forward. Since Burrows already has a history of voting against marginalized communities in favor of big business or coal polluters, it’s concerning that he’s at the helm of the decision to move legislation out of committee or not.
How will committee assignments be favorable for Democrats?
The Business & Industry Committee oversees issues related to economic development, regulation of business practices, taxes and fees, and workplace safety standards.
So, bills like Jared Patterson’s social media ban for anyone under 18 likely won’t be taken up by this committee and will die. But Shawn Thierry’s bill offering a tax credit to food stores that open locations in food deserts will likely get heard in this committee. Committee chairs won’t choose to pick up legislation along party lines because a lot of legislation is non-partisan. However, for social issues, it matters.
While Oscar Longoria is considered more moderate, he’s unlikely to take up some of the Republican’s extreme agenda, like changing the definition of a sexually oriented business.
Any bill which proposes a criminal penalty would go to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which Joe Moody will chair. So, something like bail reform would come through this committee. Similarly, if a Republican files a bill to legalize shooting refugees at the border, we can count on Joe Moody to block it.
Based on committee assignments, we have a good chance of increasing the minimum wage and legalizing marijuana or seeing those bills make it out of their committees. But, of course, they’ll still have to pass the full House and Senate.
School vouchers will not make it through the Public Education Committee, even though a Republican chairs it. There are enough pro-public education Republicans to ensure that doesn’t happen. So it’s unlikely that teachers will get the $15,000 raise James Talarico proposed.
Unfortunately, this session will give us a new slew of voter suppression bills. There won’t be any changes to the abortion laws; they could get worse. Common sense gun laws won’t happen this year, and the GOP will escalate their attacks on the border and asylum seekers.
Yes, we’re in for another extremist session, but we have some good fighters.
Now is the time to trust the Democrats in the House to block and prevent every piece of oppressive and hateful legislation that the right pushes. They’re smart, and they’re capable. The committee hearings will likely begin next week. Stay tuned.