Texas House of Representatives Speaker Joe Straus announced committee assignments Jan. 31, setting up the Legislature for the next phase of the session: making laws.
Lawmakers have been filing bills since late last year, but no public hearings or floor debates in the House could begin until the committees were formed.
The committee assignments are the most anticipated moment of the legislative session, as lawmakers wait to see which legislation they'll be influencing for the rest of the session.
"These committees will shape the success of our state and impact the future of Texas for generations to come," said Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-District 51, who was appointed to the Business and Industry Committee and the Economic and Small Business Development Committee. "My experience as vice chair of the House Interim Committee on Manufacturing will be beneficial in my roles on both committees to help address building a skilled workforce, providing quality jobs to increase employment for Texans and increasing economic development in District 51 and our communities across the state."
Straus, R-San Antonio, named fellow Republicans to lead 24 of his 38 committees, increasing the number of Democrats in leadership positions by four compared with last session—a nod to the seven seats Democrats gained in the House during the November elections.
“Throughout this process, I considered members’ individual expertise and strengths to address our state’s challenges, and to ensure the House committees reflect the geographic and demographic diversity of Texas,” Straus said. “These appointments will allow every member of the Texas House to make a meaningful contribution.”
Straus also created three select committees: Committee on Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility, Criminal Procedure Reform, and Transparency in State Agency Operations.
Among the committee chairs, six are women and 32 are men; 26 are white, seven are Hispanic and five are black.
The committees range from the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which writes the budget, to the Ways and Means Committee that deals with revenue, and committees that vet bills on oil and gas, education, health and human services, transportation, and more.
Some bills get hearings, and some do not—that decision is always up to the chair person—which makes the chair persons the some of the most powerful people on the House floor.
Once the committee hears testimony and vets the bill, lawmakers may change it to gather more support, and then the bill has to go to another committee, the Calendars Committee, to decide if the bill gets a floor debate and vote.
The speaker will create the same basic committees every session but also shifts or combines them, depending on the priorities of the session. Committees stand until the next election cycle in two years and in the interim investigate larger issues for the next session.
Rep. Tan Parker, R-District 63, was named chairman of the House Corrections Committee. He will oversee legislation dealing with the state’s criminal justice system, which he said employs more than 37,000 people, has an annual budget of $3.1 billion, houses more than 150,000 inmates in 111 correctional facilities and supervises 87,000 parolees.
"It is a tremendous honor to lead the work of the Corrections Committee for the 83rd Legislative Session," Parker said. "I am committed to putting forward thoughtful work in managing the committee and advancing legislation that will empower our correctional system to operate more effectively and efficiently.
"With this role, I have been given a rare opportunity to improve our correctional processes in order to further safeguard the security of all our families, and it is a challenge that I am humbled to accept."
Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-District 130, a retired police officer, was appointed vice chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, and he was reappointed to the Transportation Committee.
"I am honored to serve on these committees again this legislative session. For over 30 years I have dedicated my career to law enforcement. I am proud to offer this experience as the vice chair of the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee," Fletcher said.
"During the 82nd [legislative] session, the Transportation Committee found funding mechanisms for many of our congested roadways in Harris County. After many impact studies and much planning, the residents of Harris County are now seeing the progress on these roadways, including Highways 290, 249 and the Grand Parkway," he continued. "It's critical that our state's infrastructure be improved and expanded to help keep Texas and the United States strong and competitive."