Last month, Texas GOP delegates met and decided on eight priorities for the next legislative session at their convention.

One of those priorities is to stop awarding powerful chairmanships to Democrats.

In the Texas Legislature, the House of Representatives has 150 members. At the start of each 2-year session, the representatives choose one of their members to be the Speaker of the House. The members give the speaker the authority to appoint the membership of each standing committee (subject to rules on seniority) and to designate the chair and vice chair for each committee. The speaker is also responsible for referring all proposed legislation to a committee. It is then up to the committee chairs to decide which measures get hearings, and which ones get passed over.

In the Texas House, there has been a history of the speaker from the majority party appointing members from the minority party to leadership positions. However, within the last decade, Republican activists have become more vocal against the practice, as Democrats have used the power to hold up and kill conservative legislation.

During the last legislative session, of the 37 committee chairmanships in the House, nine went to Democrats including Business and Industry, Corrections, County Affairs, Criminal Jurisprudence, Juvenile Justice and Family Issues, Natural Resources, Resolutions Calendar, Transportation, and the Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety.

This was after Republicans tried to institute a rule to ban Democrat chairs in the Texas House. Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) killed the effort without allowing a vote.

Following pressure from the grassroots and action from several conservative lawmakers, 23 House lawmakers and candidates signed the “Contract with Texas,” which includes 12 demands for the next Speaker in the Texas House of Representatives to follow. One of the demands is that the speaker will not appoint Democrats to chair committees.

46 members—a majority of the House Republican Caucus—have said they will not vote for a speaker that awards Democrats with chairmanships.

Phelan has been the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives since 2021 and says he plans to run for Speaker again this next session. He narrowly won his reelection bid by 366 votes in the Republican primary runoff last month, and he currently faces two challengers for the speakership: Tom Oliverson and Shelby Slawson.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, as president of the Senate, appointed one Democrat to chair a committee last session and pledged he will not appoint a single Democrat chair this next session.

Holly Tkach

Holly Tkach is a summer fellow at Texas Scorecard. She is a rising senior at Baylor University majoring in Political Science and Communication.