In the wake of the loss of the super colliding super conductor that would’ve put Texas on the global map, I cheered with optimism as a scientist was finally elected to Texas congress. He ran on a platform that he would correct the mistakes of funding that lead to recent waste in scientific funding. However I was stunned when, after his election, he was not appointed to the committee on science and technology. In fact he was appointed to a committee that had very little to do with anything (waste management). This was because, as we’ve discussed in our explanation of how Texas bills become laws, committee assignments have little to do with ones speciality or knowledgeable, but rather how senior the elected representative is.
While we’ll have section at the bottom with helpful links and sources, note that both the Texas house and senate have two different official websites that we’ll go ahead and link to now. In addition to the helpful links at the bottom of this page, we’ll continue to update this page with information about committee appointments and committee assignments as they happen.
Why do Committee Assignments Matter?
Before a bill is voted on in either the house or the senate, it first goes through the relevant committee. This works the same way whether you’re in Texas, Georgia or even at the federal Government level. The reasoning for committees is that chambers of congress cannot vote on every bill that gets filed (there’s just too many) so committees are a way of making the process “manageable.” If a bill fails to make it out of the committee (be it the Senate or House), the bill is dead. So the stakes are high.
What do they do?
Once a bill is successfully filed by an elected representative, the bill is assigned to the relevant committee. If the bill is first filed in the house then it is assigned to a House committee. If the bill is filed in the Senate, then it is assigned to a Senate committee. Once a bill is assigned to a particular Committee they’ll call in relevant experts and have a series of debates within the committee before voting. If the bill passes the committee in the respective chamber, then the bill goes to the floor of that chamber first (where it is debated) and then ultimately a vote from all members in that chamber.
All bills must go through this process, committees cannot be bypassed.
How Are They Chosen
If you’ve read the entire article up to now, you should be asking yourself “Well, how are committee assignments chosen then?” Good question. In Texas the Senate and the House have a different process but both rely on the head of the chamber (Speaker of the house and the Lieutenant Governor) determining committee assignments based on referrals from their own party.
How House Committees Appointments Are Made
In Texas, House committee assignments are made by the speaker of the house, according to the official Senate website (and note the importance of seniority): “The members give the speaker the authority to appoint the membership of each standing committee, subject to rules on seniority, and to designate the chair and vice chair for each committee. Under the rules, the speaker is responsible for referring all proposed legislation to committee, subject to the committee jurisdictions set forth in the rules. The rules also allow the speaker to appoint conference committees, to create select committees, and to direct committees to conduct interim studies when the legislature is not in session.”
However that’s not all of it. The first part, perhaps the most important part, explicitly makes reference to the importance of seniority. Via official house rules, half of a committees’ seats are assigned by seniority. In cases where representatives have equal seniority, the speaker makes the call on who gets the seat. After half of committee seats are decided, the Speaker of the House then chooses the rest of that committees appointments.
The most recent speaker of the house was Dade Phalen, who took over the position in 2021.
How Senate Committees Are Chosen
Senate committee assignments in Texas are appointments made by the Lieutenant Governor. The standing Lieutenant Governor is conservative radio talk show host Dan Patrick (but not the former ESPN talk show host).
Current House Committees
Here is the full list of all 34 (plus multiple subcommittees) current in the Texas house of representatives. Let’s take one example to show you how to see the activity (and current members) of a committee. On the previous link, click on any one of the committees from the list. We’ll take the first one, the Agriculture & Livestock Committee.
The red line points to “Bills Referred”–this will take you to the following page which indicate which bills were referred to the committee during the previous session. The list is split into two sections “Bills In Committee” and “Bills Out Of Committee.” The bills out of committee are the bills that successfully passed through the committe.
|Agriculture & Livestock
|Business & Industry
|Culture, Recreation & Tourism
|Defense & Veterans’ Affairs
|Homeland Security & Public Safety
|International Relations & Economic Development
|Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence
|Juvenile Justice & Family Issues
|Land & Resource Management
|Licensing & Administrative Procedures
|Local & Consent Calendars
|Pensions, Investments & Financial Services
|Ways & Means
Current Senate Committees
Below is a table of the current senate Committees in Texas in tabular form. Though their official website is hard to navigate and looks like it was built in the 1990s (one of the reasons we made this website), the official Texas Senate Website is actually full of information if you know how to access it. Notice that the Texas Senate has only 15 committees committees compared to the House’s 34 (not counting sub-committees).
|Business & Commerce
|Health & Human Services
|Natural Resources & Economic Development
|Veteran Affairs & Border Security
|Water, Agriculture & Rural Affairs
House Committee meetings: Every house committee in the Texas legislature keeps a list of every meeting that took place, the witness list for the meeting, and the minutes of the meeting. You can access this by clicking here and clicking on the relevant committee. This will pull up a list of every committee meeting from the session selected.
Watch and see upcoming house Committee Meetings: This page will be updated when the session begins with the schedule of house committee meetings. You will also be able to access a live stream of all committee meetings from this page.
Senate Committee Meetings: The previous link will take you to a page, similar to the first link that sent you to a list of house committee meetings, only this takes you to a list of Senate committee meetings.
Watch and see upcoming Senate Committee Meetings: The previous link will take you to a page that, after the session begins, will be updated with a schedule of all upcoming meetings by committee in the Senate.
Find Committee Assignments By Name: This reverses the structure and allows you to look for committee assignments by elected representative. As we discussed, most representatives will serve on 2-3 different committees with the more senior representatives being on the more “important” committees.