New House, New House Rules
Reps reform committees, re-confirm limits on speaker's powers
By Richard Whittaker,
12:49AM, Thu. Jan. 29, 2009
Speaker Joe Straus may not be making his committee announcements until nearer Valentine's Day, but with the passage of House Resolution 2, the House Rules, at least he knows what committees there are to fill.
House Democratic Caucus Chair Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, admitted, "For most people, rules are like watching paint dry, but they are important, and now we know what they are, Joe will interpret them and enforce them. That's where the test comes down."
The rules clarify what it takes to replace a speaker (after much argument, a simple majority) but the biggest shake-outs were in committees: Fewer committees and fewer chairs; Several agencies and the bills that relate to them shifted around; and more members on the remaining committees, which Dunnam whole-heartedly supports. "You'd think," he said, "that with fewer members they'd have more influence, but you can stack committees and artificially make them sway one way or the other."
Most importantly, the newly-bolstered State Affairs becomes so important that neither its chair nor that of appropriations can sit on another substantive committee. Dunnam called it "a new super-committee, or rather the old super-committee come back. It's good that we've got this new 15-member committee that has a great degree of responsibilities on important issues in the state. That seemed to work well in the 90s."