At first blush, House Speaker Joe Straus’ new committee chairs indicate he heard the message voters sent in November — welcome news for taxpayers. Perhaps the biggest win is seeing liberal Rene Oliveira removed from the Ways & Means chairmanship, replaced by Taxpayer Pledge signer Harvey Hilderbran.

Speaker Straus (R-San Antonio) released his committee assignments for this 82nd Session of the Texas Legislature today, appearing to re-set the House leadership in a for more positive way for conservatives.

There are now 40 committees in the House, with 39 chairmen. State Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) is pulling double-duty, chairing both Calendars and the special HD 48 election contest.

As Speaker Straus promised, he continued his trend of balancing committee chairs to reflect the partisan balance of the House: 71% are Republicans and 29% Democrats. How well these committee chairs steward their power on behalf of the wishes of Texas’ voters’ remains to be seen, of course.

For example, while 66 House members (44%) have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge just nine (or 23%) of the committee chairs have done so.

On the other hand, we were very excited to note that of the 39 committee chairs, 18 are individuals endorsed by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility for re-election in November.

One significant committee re-alignment is in Transportation. State Rep. Joe Picket (D-El Paso), last session’s chair, spent the fall campaigning for increasing the gasoline tax. He’s been moved to chairing Defense & Veterans Affairs. The new Transportation chairman is State Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman).

For more than a year, we privately and publicly called for Mr. Oliveira (D-Brownsville) and Mr. Pickett to be removed from those specific chairmanships. We are very encouraged by Mr. Straus’ recognition of the need for better leadership on both of those important committees.

As we have said repeatedly here at Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, what matters most are the public policy outcomes. That’s the only reasonable measuring stick by which the legislative session, and the actions of the individual legislators, can be measured.

We wish the men and women the best as they now get diligently to work leading their committees on behalf of the people of Texas.

List of Committee Chairs
1. Agriculture & Livestock: Representative Rick Hardcastle (R-Vernon)
2. Appropriations: Representative Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie)
3. Border & Intergovernmental Affairs: Representative Veronica Gonzales (D-McAllen)
4. Business & Industry: Representative Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont)
5. Calendars: Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi)
6. Corrections: Representative Jerry Madden (R-Richardson)
7. County Affairs: Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)
8. Criminal Jurisprudence: Pete Gallego (D-Alpine)
9. Culture, Recreation & Tourism: Representative Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City)
10. Defense & Veterans’ Affairs: Representative Joe Pickett (D-El Paso)
11. Economic & Small Business Development: Representative John Davis (R-Houston)
12. Elections: Representative Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood)
13. Energy Resources: Representative Jim Keffer (R-Eastland)
14. Environmental Regulation: Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown)
15. General Investigating & Ethics: Representative Chuck Hopson (R-Jacksonville)
16. Government Efficiency & Reform: Representative William “Bill” Callegari (R-Katy)
17. Higher Education: Representative Dan Branch (R-Dallas)
18. Homeland Security & Public Safety: Representative Sid Miller (R-Stephenville)
19. House Administration: Representative Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth)
20. Human Services: Representative Richard Peña Raymond (D-Laredo)
21. Insurance: Representative John Smithee (R-Amarillo)
22. Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence: Representative Jim Jackson (R-Carrollton)
23. Land & Resource Management: Representative Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville)
24. Licensing & Administrative Procedures: Representative Mike Hamilton (R-Mauriceville)
25. Local & Consent Calendars: Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston)
26. Natural Resources: Representative Allan Ritter (R-Nederland)
27. Pensions, Investments & Financial Services: Representative Vicki Truitt (R-Keller)
28. Public Education: Representative Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands)
29. Public Health: Representative Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)
30. Redistricting: Representative Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton)
31. Rules & Resolutions: Representative Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio)
32. State Affairs: Representative Byron Cook (R-Corsicana)
33. Technology: Representative Aaron Peña (R-Edinburg)
34. Transportation: Representative Larry Phillips (R-Sherman)
35. Urban Affairs: Representative Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston)
36. Ways & Means: Representative Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville)
37. Select Committee on State Sovereignty: Representative Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe)
38. Select Committee on Voter Identification and Voter Fraud: Representative Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton)

Election Contest, Select (Previously announced): Representative Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi)
Joint Committee on Oversight and HHS Eligibility System: Representative Fred Brown (R-College Station)

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."