During this past legislative session, banning Democrat committee chairmanships in the Texas House and Senate was a key legislative priority for the Republican Party of Texas.
Despite the RPT’s priority, the Texas House has refused to stop the practice, while the Texas Senate officially ended it in December.
Prior to the 88th legislative session, the RPT voted on various priorities to determine the party priorities and platform for the next two years. Among the party’s top priorities was banning Democrat chairs, to ensure that all legislative Republican priorities are given a fair opportunity to become law.
Among the legislators who agreed to end the practice were Republican State Reps. Mark Dorazio (San Antonio), Carrie Isaac (Wimberley), Terri Leo-Wilson (Galveston), Nate Schatzline (Fort Worth), Matt Schaefer (Tyler), Brian Harrison (Midlothian), Richard Hayes (Hickory Creek) and Cody Vasut (Angleton).
However, others like Republican Rep. Lynn Stucky (Sanger) defended the practice, saying there are “good Democrats.” State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Allen) was also defended by Texas Democrats after he made no indication to the RPT that he would be on board with getting rid of the practice.
On the first day of the legislative session in January, two Republican state representatives called on their fellow conservative lawmakers to listen to their constituents and pass a rule aligned with the RPT’s priorities.
On the second day of the legislative session, a lawmaker proposed changing the rules of the House to disallow minority party members from holding committee chairmanship positions.
In February, Phelan appointed eight Democrats to chairmanships, including the following:
Oscar Longoria (D–Mission) to the Business & Industry Committee
Abel Herrero (D–Robstown) to the Corrections Committee
Victoria Neave (D–Dallas) to the County Affairs Committee
Joe Moody (D–El Paso) to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
Harold Dutton (D–Houston) to the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee
Tracy King (D–Uvalde) to the Natural Resources Committee
R.D. “Bobby” Guerra (D–Mission) to the Resolutions Calendar Committee
Terry Canales (D–Edinburg) to the Transportation Committee
After Phelan decided to place Democrats in positions of leadership, multiple county Republican Parties, including Ellis County, censured Phelan for going against the RPT’s principles and priorities. Other counties, including Harris, Dallas, Travis, Smith, and Parker, also supported resolutions censuring him.
In October, Phelan doubled down on his support for placing Democrats in leadership positions, saying he has no plans to stop appointing Democrats to key committee chairmanship positions as long as he believes they are “the most qualified.”
Meanwhile, in the Senate, the practice has ended.
At the beginning of the legislative session, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that Democrat State Sen. John Whitmire (Houston) would continue to chair the Committee on Criminal Justice. However, Patrick said that if Whitmire won the Houston mayoral race, the Senate would have zero Democrat chairs. On December 10, Whitmire won the race and will be sworn into his new position on January 2. He will be replaced by Republican State Sen. Pete Flores (Pleasanton) as chair of the Criminal Justice committee.