With the 2023 Texas Legislative Session about to start, more grassroots groups are pressing their Republican state representatives to stop giving Democrats powerful committee chairmanships.

The Legislature convenes on Tuesday, January 10, and Texas House members are expected to vote Thursday on the rules that will govern the chamber this session, though debate on House rules changes could begin on Wednesday or be pushed back to Friday.

In the past week, several grassroots groups increased pressure on GOP lawmakers to support a rule change that ensures the Republican-majority Legislature has Republican-run committees—a Texas GOP legislative priority that was supported by 81 percent of Republican primary voters (1.5 million Texans) in March 2022.

“Why is this such an important issue?” asked Kaufman County Conservative Republicans:

Currently, the Speaker awards chairmanships to Democrats as well as Republicans. Last session, despite a Republican majority, approximately 40% of House committees were chaired by Democrats. This must change! Our voters clearly gave Republicans a majority in the Legislature and expect Republicans to lead.

KCCR put pressure on area State Rep. Keith Bell (R–Forney) by posting a message to social media advising district voters to contact Bell about stopping the “corrupt practice” of appointing Democrat committee chairs.

They also texted the message to about 7,500 area voters.

The message also recommended Bell support State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) for speaker of the House. Tinderholt backed a ban on Democrat chairs when it was proposed last session and has an A+ career rating on Texans for Fiscal Responsibility’s Fiscal Responsibility Index.

After learning about the texts, Bell responded to a member of the group that the message was “untruthful” and “not the proposition on the ballot,” though he seems to be referring to the speaker vote and not the practice of appointing Democrat chairs.

“I will honor my pledge, the plank and vote for [House Speaker Dade] Phelen,” Bell said. “I have no issue defending my Speaker vote or any others, for that matter.”

Bell’s latest rating on the Fiscal Responsibility Index is an F (58).

Also last week, the Rockwall County and Collin County Young Republicans sent State Rep. Justin Holland (R–Heath) a letter asking him to back a ban on Democrat chairs. Holland’s current Fiscal Responsibility Index rating is a C- (70).

“Committee chairs have the power to kill important bills,” the groups note in the letter, which includes a list of key bills killed by Democrat committee chairs last session and legislation that could be killed this session.

The Republican Round Table of Collin County sent a letter to lawmakers last week, signed by 277 elected officials and grassroots activists, asking Phelan and area representatives to back a ban on Democrat chairs. They also said last session’s quorum-busting Democrats should be kept out of vice-chair positions too.

“Why should they be rewarded?” said Collin County Commissioner Darrell Hale, a Round Table member who signed the letter.

Two Republican lawmakers have proposed rules amendments banning Democrat committee chairs: State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royce City), who championed the change last session, and State Rep. Steve Toth (R–The Woodlands).

A coalition of conservative grassroots leaders from across Texas sent a letter to Toth, asking him to help unify Republican support for Slaton’s amendment.

Kaufman County Conservative Republicans summed up the grassroots’ expectations:

“After an election where Texas Republicans won every statewide office by double digits and grew our State Senate and House majorities, conservatives should expect a bold session focused on delivering the priorities Texas Republicans campaigned upon.”

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.