In last week’s primary election, more than 80 percent of Republican voters in Texas voted against the practice of awarding Democrat lawmakers committee chair positions.
On the primary election ballot, Texas Republicans were asked to vote either “yes” or “no” on 10 propositions. Lawmakers will use the results of this vote as a guide for what policy to prioritize in the next legislative session.
Proposition 6 asked voters if they believed that “the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature should end the practice of awarding committee chairmanships to Democrats.”
Although a majority of Republican voters agree with this proposition, Democrats are continually promoted to committee chairmanships in the Republican-led Legislature, where they have the ability to kill conservative priorities.
When acting as committee chair, a lawmaker is responsible for setting their committee’s agenda and deciding which legislation will be considered for review. This means that a Democrat chairing a key committee could use their position to shoot down Republican legislation by simply not including conservative bills in the agenda.
The issue garnered increased attention in January 2021 when State Rep. Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) was elected speaker of the House. Before the vote for speaker, Phelan stated that he would continue awarding Democrats committee chair positions to promote bipartisanship and prevent the Texas Legislature from becoming as dysfunctional as D.C.
Despite being aware of Phelan’s intentions, all but two Republican lawmakers voted to elect him as speaker of the House.
Following Phelan’s election, State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) proposed an amendment to the Legislature’s governing rules that would have banned members of the minority party from chairing key committees.
In a subsequent vote, only four Republican lawmakers joined with Slaton to support the amendment.
Later, when the regular session of the Legislature officially convened, Phelan began appointing Democrats to chair important committees such as Business and Energy, Transportation, and Public Education, where the committee chairs repeatedly let Republican priorities die.
Top GOP lawmakers again failed to take action on the issue after an incident during the regular legislative session when a group of quorum-busting House Democrats fled the state in an attempt to stall conservative priority policy.
The Democrats involved faced no consequences, and Republican legislators again refused to ban Democrats from committee chairmanships.
Although Republican lawmakers have so far neglected to take action against the practice, last week’s overwhelming vote in support of Proposition 6 appears to show that Republican voters are paying close attention to the issue.