The Senate Shuffle

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst makes surprise committee switches

Dewhurst: "I appreciate the hard work and dedication of all the 31 fine members of the Texas Senate." Well, that's alright, then.

In a surprise announcement, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has taken the unusual step of shifting a swath of Senate committee appointments around with only four months to go before the elections. The question now this means for any work already done by these committees on their interim charges. Quick guide to who won and lost chairmanships after the jump.

Out: Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands
In: Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler
A surprising switch, since Eltife wasn't even on the committee before. Williams loses his seat and his chairmanship, but don't feel too sorry yet (see Transportation below.)

Business and Commerce
Out: Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay
In: John Carona, R-Dallas
Fraser stays on the committee, but this may turn out to be a demotion for Carona (in a weird coincidence, see Transportation below).

Economic Development
Out: Chris Harris, R-Arlington
In: Mike Jackson, R-La Porte
Harris is totally out, as is Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, who leaves to make space for Kip Averitt's Senate successor, Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury.

Out: Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio
In: Chris Harris, R-Arlington
A promotion for committee member Harris: However, Austinites may want to note that Wentworth and his fellow Travis County senator, Democrat Kirk Watson, are both removed, making way for Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, and Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. Good day for Huffman: The freshman senator also replaces Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, as vice chair of Criminal Justice and Dan Patrick, R-Houston, as vice-chair of Higher Ed (Seliger is busy as chair of the new Select Committee on Redistricting.)

Natural Resources
Out: Kip Averitt, R-Waco
In: Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay
With Averitt retiring, someone needed to fill his chairmanship: Fraser gets the gavel while Bob Nichols, R-Jacksonville, fills his vacated committee seat. However, this isn't a peaceful passing of the torch: Dewhurst has already issued a press release saying he will ask Fraser to "address federal encroachment" (ie organize a pro-polluter stand against the Environmental Protection Agency clamping down on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.) While he touts "Fraser's knowledge of Texas business and environmental regulation," the truth is that this has the air of a rather ghoulish attempt to turn this Senate committee into an extension of the GOP's anti-federal election strategy.

Out: Mike Jackson, R-La Porte
In: Bob Deuell, R-Greenville
With both Jackson and Vice-Chair Eltife moving on to better things, Deuell gets his first chairmanship and Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, gets promoted to vice-chair.

Transportation & Homeland Security
Out: John Carona, R-Dallas
In: Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands
This one will probably be seen as the big slap in the face. It's already being perceived as Carona's punishment for advocating for gas tax reform last session. Williams seems like an odd choice, to say the least: On a committee and an issue that will require consensus and hard work to get anything done, the heavy-handed (euphemism for "bullying") Williams seems like a bad pick.

Select Committee on Veterans Health
In: Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio
A totally new select committee: Wentworth's appointment as chair makes sense, considering the number of veterans in his district: But swapping Jurisprudence for this seems like a demotion.

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