Balanced House, Balanced Committees
So how equitable was the equitable split Straus promised?
By Richard Whittaker,
12:08AM, Fri. Feb. 13, 2009
Two figures to muse over.
The Texas House of Representatives is split 76-74, advantage Republicans.
Chairmanships of House committees are split 18-16, advantage Republicans.
Seems Speaker Joe Straus was being truthful when he said that there would be some power-sharing in the new balanced House. True, the Democrats didn't get the chairs on any of the big three committees (Appropriations, Calendars, and State Affairs) but they did get the vice-chairmanships on all three, and the new chairs are all drawn from the Dem-friendly Gang of 11 (well, more Dem-friendly than a lot of old Tom Craddick appointees. Speaking of Craddick, the Midland oil man goes from speaker handing out appointments to member of Energy Resources and State Affairs.)
They're all raring to go: Appropriations was already meeting this afternoon, right across the corridor from Senate Finance, which has been able to take a lead on building its version of the budget.
A few eyebrows may be raised on the crime and punishment side, where Democrats get a much bigger role. Jerry Madden, R-Plano, is unexpectedly bumped down from chair of Corrections to vice-chair under Jim McReynolds, D-Lufkin. Even more significant may be that Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, gets Criminal Jurisprudence. If those rumors that he's considering a shot at attorney general are true, that's a potentially powerful stepping stone.
One appointment where the political rubber may have hit the road is over in Public Education. There's little doubt that Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, is broadly perceived as the Dems' leader on public schools (watching him argue with Ron Wilson about charter schools was one of the highlights of last year's Texas Public Policy Foundation annual policy orientation. But as a founding Gang of 11 member, Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, keeps his chairmanship, while Hochberg gets the not-insubstantial runner-up prize of being vice-chair.