We’ve already talked about how Texas Committee Assignments come to be and their critical importance in getting legislature through. If a bill does not make it through the senate or house committee, the bill does not become law. To become law, a bill is going to have to pass through both Senate and House committees so the stakes are high.
As discussed, seniority (outside of party) is perhaps the most important factor in determining a representatives committee appointment. As libertarian and podcaster Dan Carlin once put it, “parties want to see if the representative is going to play ball.” For that reason, first time elected representatives seldom get appointed to important committees. Important being committees that deal with issues most volatile in the public or “important” to the state or party that occupies the majority.
With that in mind we’re going to look at recent bills that caught the attention of the public and then look at their committee assignments. We’ll do a deep dive on one bill, the open carry law, to show how the sausage is made and then list out which committees have been assigned to some of the states most controversial bills.
What Does the Clerk Do?
Committee Clerks are responsible for scheduling meetings and handling some of the logistics surrounding who is going to testify as an expert witness. Even though each committee (see important links at the bottom) publishes their schedule online and registration to testify is open to the public, we’re going to put the Clerk’s contact information for each committee we discuss here.
The Open Carry Hand Gun Law
Much has been discussed about Texas’ new law allowing people to carry hand guns in public without a permit. This bill has been a long time coming for Texas based conservatives. Since we’ve already walked the bill stages, let’s get to the committee that handled it.
House Committee Assigned
This bill was immediately referred to the house committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety. This committee has three democrats and six republicans. The clerk of this committee is Rep. James White of Texas’ 19th district having served since 2010.
|Rep. James White
|Rep. Rhetta Andrews Bowers
|Rep. Vikki Goodwin
|Rep. Sam Harless
|Rep. Cole Hefner
|Rep. Eddie Morales
|Rep. Jared Patterson
|Rep. Matt Schaefer
|Rep. Tony Tinderholt
The clerk of this committee is Roel Benavides and can be used at (512) 463-0133, Room: EXT E2.146
After the bill passed through the house committee and ultimately the house, the bill was then assigned to a Senate Committee. This where things get a little messy but the bill was assigned to the Senate Special Committee on Constitutional Issues.
|First Elected/Assumed Office
|Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa
Other Relevant Committees
The Texas Heartbeat Bill which dealt with Abortion (a perennially controversial issue in Texas) was sent to the State Affairs committee in the Senate. After passing through the Senate (the bill began in the Senate) the bill was assigned to the senate committee on Public Health. The author of the bill, Sen. Bryan Hughes, also chaired the committee that the bill was assigned to in the house. Though it sounds like a conflict of interest, the reality is that someone (a republican presumably) was going to present a heartbeat bill to Texas congress.
Another big issue that came to pass in the last session, was over gun control and the capacity for open carry without a license (HB 1927). In the house, the bill went to the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety which seems reasonable. However after passing the house, the bill was then assigned to the Senate Committee on Constitutional Issues.
This assignment was justified on the grounds that the bill was framed as a constitutional issue (that the second amendment guarantees the right to gun ownership without a permit). The pseudo name proponents gave for the bill was even “constitutional carry.”
Finally let’s talk about house bill 3979. A bill concerning critical race theory and what students should be required to learn about the founding of the country. As well as those that founded it and those teachers who are asked to teach it. It’s not every day that the house committee on Public Education is thrust into the limelight but this was an odd year in which concerns over Critical Race Theory hit a fever pitch. Due to this reality, the bill found its way to a committee run by Democratic representative and 36 year veteran Harold Dutton Jr. This, and many other reasons, lead to the bill receiving a flurry of amendments prior to the house even voting on it.