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Texas Senate sets committees

January 18, 2019

Preparing to get to work in the new Texas Legislative Session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick shuffled the leadership of committee assignments in the Texas Senate. While most of the leaders of committees remain the same, there are some notable exceptions.

State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, was tapped to take over as chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, which had previously been led by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who asked not to be reappointed to the post after the conclusion of an investigation into a sexual harassment complaint.

Patrick also changed out leaders of the Higher Education Committee, the Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee, among others.

Committee leadership positions are a big deal in the Texas Legislature because chairs have big influence over key details of bills and what legislation even makes it to the floor for a vote. Committee chairs can also hamper bills they don’t support from gaining momentum.

The Texas House is not expected to make committee assignments until late January at the earliest.

Amarillo Republicans Kel Seliger, who had been chairman of Higher Education, will now lead the Agriculture Committee. Lubbock Republican Charles Perry had led the Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee, but that has now been split into two. While Seliger leads the Agriculture Committee, Perry will lead the Water and Rural Affairs Committee.

Other major committees remain largely unchanged. Friendswood Republican Larry Taylor will remain chairman of the Education Committee. Flower Mound Republican Jane Nelson will continue as chair of the budget writing Senate Finance Committee, and Houston Republican Paul Bettencourt will again lead a committee on property tax reform.

“The appointments I am making today call on all senators, including freshmen in both political parties, to play a significant role in crafting the bold and visionary public policies that will help accomplish the goals I identified in my inaugural speech — and set the stage for an even greater Texas for future generations,” Patrick said in a statement released to the media announcing the appointments.

Two Democrats will lead committees again this year. Houston Sen. John Whitmire will chair the Senate Criminal Justice Committee while Brownsville Democrat Eddie Lucio Jr. will head up the Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

With committee assignments now set, many of the committees will begin meeting next week. Nelson, for instance, has already announced she plans to hold her first meeting on Tuesday.

Patrick, who is elected statewide, oversees the Texas Senate. That role allows him to set committee assignments and determine which bills will be heard in which committees.

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