House Speaker Joe Straus announced his committee chairs today, with little in the way of surprises. Not the least surprising was that this crop of committee chairs is slightly less fiscally responsible than the 2011 batch. Since the legislature is in session, it’s a good idea not loosen that grip on your wallet no matter who might be chairing what.
There are some notable exceptions, of course. Several Taxpayer Champions got chairmanships from Mr. Straus: Dennis Bonnen, Brandon Creighton, Gary Elkins, Dan Flynn, Linda Harper-Brown, Tan Parker and Larry Phillips.
The average rating on the Fiscal Responsibility Index for committee chairmen in 2011 a 63.3. With the committee assignments released today, that average drops to a 61.9 (again, looking at their scores from 2011).
The partisan breakdown is 15 Democrats to 27 Republicans, roughly mirroring the chamber’s 55 Dems to 95 Rs.
As we have long discussed, committee chairmen control the flow of legislation. There is no way to force a committee chair to hold hearings on legislation popular with the public and members but opposed by a speaker and the speaker’s committee chairs.
Some other thoughts on the selections…
The House Public Education Committee, now under the leadership of Jimmie Don Aycock of Kileen, seems designed to thwart serious efforts at education reform. Those hoping for more competition and parental options might have allies in the body, just not that many on the public-ed committee. Indeed, the committee looks like it was hand-picked by the pro-bloat “Parent PAC” that pushes for more spending and less oversight.
Meanwhile, the Appropriations Committee, chaired once again by Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, will benefit from the inclusion of Charles Perry, a CPA from Lubbock who has been a strong advocate for budget reforms, as well as conservative leader Bryan Hughes of Mineola and freshman physician Greg Bonnen of Friendswood.
Of the nine members of the Ways & Means Committee (chaired again by Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville), only the chairman and Angie Chen Button of Richardson have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Not exactly encouraging, but, again, the committee chair matters a lot.
The Public Health Committee will still be chaired by Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham, who championed the Health Care Compact in 2011. That’s very good news, considering the pressures being presented by Obamacare.
An interesting new committee, Special Purpose Districts, will be chaired by Taxpayer Champ Dennis Bonnen of Angelton. A recent report by Comptroller Susan Combs demonstrated the irresponsibility being perpetrated on the taxpayers by the proliferation of these special taxing districts around the state. Of the nine members, five have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
With the assignments made, the real work of governing can begin. Are you ready?