(Pictured from left to right: Charles Schwertner, Lois Kolkhorst, Kel Seliger, Brandon Creighton)
As the head of the Texas Senate, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has the responsibility of making committee assignments for its 31 members. Three days after Patrick was sworn in for a new term, his office released Senate committee assignments for the 86th Regular Session with few but notable changes to committee leadership and makeup.
In the first week of session, both chambers of the Texas Legislature decide on rules, which include the standing committees for the legislative session. The Senate agreed on a few changes from the previous session on committees. The Agriculture, Water & Rural Affairs Committee has been split in two, creating a five-member Committee on Agriculture and a seven-member Committee on Water & Rural Affairs. The second major change is the creation of a five-member Committee on Property Tax. The Criminal Justice Committee was also reduced to seven members down from nine.
With six new Senators and one less Republican than last session, Senate committee membership looks different, but a few changes in the leadership are worth of note:
Sen. Charles Schwertner (R – Georgetown), in a letter to Lt. Gov. Patrick earlier this month, requested to not be re-appointed Chair of the powerful Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee, a position he had held for the past three sessions. As Reform Austin previously reported, Schwertner was accused of sending illicit messages and images to a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin. While the University Title IX investigation into the allegations proved inconclusive, the cloud of doubt around Sen. Schwertner lingers into the session. Accordingly, Patrick replaced him with Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R – Brenham) as HHS Chair. Notably, Schwertner was not even assigned as a member of the HHS Committee.
Sen. Kel Seliger (R – Amarillo) was removed from his chairmanship of the Committee on Higher Education and was taken out of both Senate education committees altogether. Replacing him as Higher Education Chair is Sen. Brandon Creighton (R – Conroe), who has not previously sat on the committee. In the 85th Legislative Session, Seliger butted heads with Patrick on several issues, including voting against private school vouchers and property tax caps, two of the Lt. Governor’s priorities.
Committee Chairs are powerful because they determine which bills get hearings, the first step in the process of any bill to become law. Here is the complete list of Senate committee chairs:
|Bryan Hughes||Administration Committee|
|Kel Seliger||Agriculture Committee|
|Kelly Hancock||Business & Commerce Committee|
|John Whitmire||Criminal Justice Committee|
|Larry Taylor||Education Committee|
|Jane Nelson||Finance Committee|
|Lois Kolkhorst||Health & Human Services Committee|
|Brandon Creighton||Higher Education Committee|
|Eddie Lucio, Jr.||Intergovernmental Relations Committee|
|Brian Birdwell||Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee|
|Dawn Buckingham||Nominations Committee|
|Paul Bettencourt||Property Tax Committee|
|Joan Huffman||State Affairs Committee|
|Robert Nichols||Transportation Committee|
|Donna Campbell||Veterans Affairs & Border Security Committee|
|Charles Perry||Water & Rural Affairs Committee|
The rest of the committee assignments can be found here.