We still have to get through November, but we already know, we’re looking at quite a different landscape in the Texas Legislature in 2013. For one, the seniority shift means a lot of jockeying for the plumb offices inside the main Capitol. Why be stuck in the back end of the extension when you can be under the Pink Dome itself?
In all seriousness, the landscape of the legislature is shifting, and it will take strong, bold leadership to sculpt it favorably for conservatives. We cannot afford for our electoral victories on Tuesday to go wasted. What exactly is at stake? In both chambers, committee chairs have opted not to run for reelection or suffered electoral defeat in the primary. Now, the committees typically shift anyway regardless of the size or make-up of the freshman class. But our incoming freshmen and our seasoned veterans both need to realize what the opportunities may be. One example: in both the House and the Senate, the education committees (Public Education in the House, Education in the Senate) are chair-less, and this is going to be a big session for education. Are we going to have chairmen in both committees who are committed to efficiency in the classroom and the administration building? Or are we going to have leaders sold out to the unions and superintendents and keen to keep status-quo regulation and spending?
In losing quite a bit of seniority, Republicans will find themselves taking a back seat for committee appointments. According to current House rules, the chair and vice chair of each committee are determined solely at the Speaker’s discretion. Half of the remaining committee members are chosen by seniority, which means those who have been there the longest get one committee of their choosing (members aren’t guaranteed their choice, but the longer they’ve been there the more likely it is they’ll get what they want). The other half of the committee members are chosen at the Speaker’s discretion. This is true for the make-up of all committees except for the procedural committees of Calendars, Rules & Regulations, Redistricting, and Local & Consent Calendars. Given the seniority rule, with the loss of a lot of Republican seniority, long-time Democrats will have a greater chance of getting their seniority picks. This could mean danger for the House Public Education, House Ways & Means, House Insurance, House Public Health and others.
A conservative’s work is never done. We have to remain vigilant – not just because the run-off election in July will determine the path for four House seats and one Senate seat (and two of the House races feature committee chairmen). There is a lot at stake going into the 2013 session, and a lot of big issues facing the state. Leadership is necessary in our movement. We need someone willing to take the Legislature in a conservative direction that means real changes to how we spend money and how we collect it. So take a breather, gather your wits – and be ready to charge ahead with an eye on January.