Despite being sworn in over three weeks ago, lawmakers in the Texas House can’t begin work due to a failure by leadership to release committee assignments.
In the Texas House as with other legislative bodies, lawmakers are assigned to committees where the majority of work on legislation actually gets done. Until that happens, the wheels grind to a halt with lawmakers being able to do little more than come up with ideas and wait.
So why hasn’t House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio) released his committee assignments?
Ever since conservatives took over the Texas Senate in 2014, the Texas House has deliberately and strategically dragged their feet in order to prevent conservative reforms from passing. While the Senate fast-tracks conservative legislation, the House stalls them in order to dilute or kill the bills.
How does it work?
With a fixed duration of 140 days, the Texas Legislative session is much like a football game.
Just like in football there are two teams – the Democrat coalition in the Texas House led by Straus – and the conservative Texas Senate led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
So far, Patrick has come out in a hurry-up offense. Knowing that the clock is ticking and they only have limited time to pass conservative reforms, the Texas Senate has been working quickly and diligently. They’re on track to already pass two of the session’s most important bills next week.
But unlike their colleagues in the upper chamber, the Texas House is a ball-control team that waits until the very last minute to snap the ball. Because legislation must be passed before the clock runs out, the House’s delaying tactic empowers both the Democrats to exert inordinate influence over legislation.
The game is already playing out as the Texas Senate is moving quickly on conservative reforms deemed emergency items by Gov. Greg Abbott.
A major ethics reform package and a measure to ban sanctuary cities both passed through committees in the Senate this week and are expected to pass the chamber next week.
Conservatives should keep close watch on the House as the session progresses and hold lawmakers to the promises they made on the campaign trail. If too few conservative reforms fail to make it over the goal line, citizens should remember who it was calling the plays.