Despite Republican control of the Texas House, Democrats will once again be given chairmanships to House committees.
State Rep. Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont), the presumptive House speaker, made the confirmation during an interview with The Texas Tribune ahead of the start of the session on Tuesday.
“We will have Democratic chairs this session. We have had a process here for 172 years that’s worked pretty well. A thousand people move here every day for a reason, and I don’t see any reason to change,” said Phelan.
In the interview, Phelan praised the bipartisan nature of politics inside the Texas Capitol, saying its a model that works “pretty darn well” and is not always about “Republican versus Democrat” or “left versus right.”
The comments came after four lawmakers signed their names onto a letter last month, urging Phelan to consider the fate of Republican priorities when deciding whether to appoint liberal Democrats to oversee certain committees in the Texas House.
The Republicans on the letter included State Reps. Tony Tinderholt (Arlington) and Kyle Biedermann (Fredericksburg), as well as incoming members Bryan Slaton and Jeff Cason.
Appointing Democrats to serve as hatchet-men on key legislative committees was a strategy heavily utilized by former Speakers Joe Straus and Dennis Bonnen. During the last session alone, constitutional carry—a longtime legislative priority for Texas Republicans—was killed by a Democrat-led committee, as was a bill to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected.
Phelan did not reveal which committees he would appoint Democrats to lead.
During the interview, he also discussed the upcoming session and projected $1 billion shortfall, saying lawmakers had to “look at everything” when it comes to potential budget cuts.
Marijuana and gambling expansion, which have been floated by some as possible solutions to Texas’ budget deficit, were ruled out as short-term fixes.
“If you wanna discuss those two as revenue sources, do it through the prism of a long-term commitment because it will not fix the current budget deficit or the ’22-’23 budget issues,” said Phelan.
Members of the Texas House will cast their votes for speaker after being sworn in on Tuesday.