February 5, 2015
By John Coppedge
East Texas sophomores trump more senior members in committee assignments
In the Texas House of Representatives, the Speaker, elected by his fellow members, holds great power. One of the greatest powers is the Speaker’s control of the composition and leadership of the various committees that hold hearings and bring legislation up for a vote (or block legislation from ever seeing the light of day).
While a few committee assignments are made on the basis of “seniority”, the majority of them are made by and at the sole discretion of the Speaker. And all of the CHAIR and VICE-CHAIR appointments are made by the Speaker.
For the average citizen and voter this matters only in that it is better for you if your State Representative serves on good committees and can be effective in passing legislation that benefits you and your fellow citizen who elected that person in the first place. Or alternatively, they are more capable of stopping legislation that is detrimental to you and your community.
It is therefore somewhat instructive to look at what happened in Austin when Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced the committee assignments for the upcoming legislative session.
Our immediate region is represented by four State Representatives. They are all Republican.
Bryan Hughes represents District 5 in Camp, Morris, Rains, Smith (part), Titus and Wood Counties.
David Simpson represents District 7 in Gregg and Upshur Counties.
Chris Paddie represents District 9 in Harrison and Panola Counties.
Travis Clardy represents District 11 in Cherokee, Nacogdoches and Rusk Counties.
Hughes is one of the longer serving State Representatives in Austin. He is entering his 7th term. Simpson in entering his 3rd term. Paddie and Clardy were rookies last session and are entering their second terms. So Hughes and Simpson have 16 years of legislative experience that they bring to the table this session. Paddie and Clardy bring 4 years combined experience.
Another major thing separates the two pairs. Hughes and Simpson have been in a very small minority who have serially challenged the election of Speaker Straus. And these were quixotic efforts that were doomed from their outset. But they persisted. Paddie and Clardy did not challenge Speaker Strauss’s certain re-election as Speaker.
So fast forward to yesterday when the all important committee assignments came out.
Hughes was appointed to Appropriations Committee but that was a “seniority appointment” and not a “speaker appointment” He only got one “speaker appointment” and that was to Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee. While I am sure that that committee does good work, it is hardly one of the major or powerful committees in the Texas House.
David Simpson will serve on the Agriculture & Livestock Committee and the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. And the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee was a “seniority appointment”. And again, the Agriculture and Livestock Committee is important, but it is not considered a “plum” appointment or major committee.
Contrast that with how the other two did.
Chris Paddie was appointed to the Transportation Committee, the House Administration
Committee and VIC E CHAIR of the Energy Resources Committee. The Energy Committee is a major committee and especially important for East Texas.
Travis Clardy was appointed to Higher Education Committee, Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee, Federal Power and Responsibility Committee and VICE CHAIR of Local and Consent Calendars Committee. Local and Consent Calendar Committee is one of the two “choke point” committees that control the flow of legislation and determine which bills come up for votes. Higher Education Committee and Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committees are major committees and the newly formed Federal Power and Responsibility Committee will play a role in the continuing battles between the States and Washington, D.C.
So you have two East Texas Representatives who publicly challenged and criticized the Speaker, even after he was assuredly going to be re-elected. Those two have a combined seniority of 16 years going into this session. They received no appointments to be CHAIR or VICE-CHAIR of any committee and received a total of four committee assignments, two of which were “seniority appointments”. And the two “speaker appointments” they got were to relatively minor committees in the big scheme of things.
And you have two relative newcomers, who bring a combined 4 years of legislative experience to this session. They did not join the futile movement to dethrone the Speaker. Just by the nature of their recent arrival, they have no “seniority appointments” but have managed, between them to be appointed to seven committees and each was appointed VICE-CHAIR of a committee.
The rookies are already better positioned to represent East Texas and East Texans than are the veterans, who seem to not understand or care that they may be jeopardizing their constituents’ best interests.
Me thinks they do more harm to their districts than they do good and by a large measure.