Texas Legislature news
- From the Houston Chronicle, 31 Jan 2003
Craddick plays conservative card
Speaker names tight-fisted Republicans to key House positions
By CLAY ROBISON and ARMANDO VILLAFRANCA
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN -- Speaker Tom Craddick flexed his conservative muscles
Thursday, naming a House committee lineup that puts tight-fisted
Republicans in key leadership positions.
Democrats weren't entirely shut out of prominent appointments. Among
others, Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, was named to the largely
ceremonial speaker pro tempore post, and Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston,
was picked to chair the Ways and Means Committee.
But the House power structure was overhauled to reflect the new
Republican majority and the conservative outlook of the first GOP
speaker of modern times.
Legislators from Harris County, including six Republicans and four
Democrats, will chair 10 of the House's 42 committees.
As expected, veteran Rep. Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, will chair a
revamped, budget-writing Appropriations Committee, which will be on
the front lines as legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Perry fight to
close a $9.9 billion revenue shortfall without raising taxes.
Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, will chair the Calendars Committee,
which schedules bills for floor debate, and in past sessions has
killed hundreds of bills by not putting them on the calendar.
Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena, will head the Urban Affairs
Committee, which will tackle bills crucial to local governments.
Craddick called his assignments a "microcosm" of the Texas population
and said minorities and women will have leadership positions in
proportion to their membership in the House.
"We tried to balance it (the new leadership) across the board ... and
I think we did a really good job," he said.
Craddick said Democrats, who represent 41 percent of the House
districts, will hold 34 percent of the leadership posts.
Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus,
said some key committees, such as Appropriations, will be heavily
influenced by Republicans.
"Any semblance of fairness or bipartisanship is just a facade. The
core committees, where the power is, are totally dominated by ...
hard-core, ideological partisans," he said.
The Texas Conservative Coalition, in a written statement, bragged
that its membership includes "chairs of almost every major policy and
rule-making committee" appointed by Craddick. Republicans will chair
29 of the 42 House committees, and Democrats will chair 13.
Other major appointments included:
· Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, to chair the Public Education
Committee, which will be at the center of any reform to overhaul
the "Robin Hood" school finance law. Craddick has said he will urge
the governor to call a special session on that issue if lawmakers
fail to act before this session ends June 2.
· Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, to chair the Insurance Committee,
which will handle bills attempting to crack down on high homeowners'
insurance rates. Smithee is one of only two House committee chairmen
to keep the same jobs they held under Craddick's predecessor,
Democrat Pete Laney.
· Rep. Ken Marchant, R-Coppell, to chair the State Affairs Committee,
which handles a variety of major legislation.
· Rep. David Swinford, R-Dumas, to head a new Government Reform
Committee, which will study state agencies and programs for cost
savings. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appointed a similar panel in the
· Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, to chair a new Select Committee
on State Health Care Expenditures to seek cost-savings and examine
quality of care.
· Rep. Steve Wolens, D-Dallas, to head a new Select Committee on
Ethics, which will have jurisdiction over lobby regulation and
As he had promised, Craddick made major changes in the appropriations
panel after winning a change in the House rules to eliminate
seniority as a factor in the committee's makeup.
Only eight of his 29 appointees served on the committee in 2001 under
Laney. Seventeen members of the revised panel are Republicans,
including two freshmen.
Veteran lawmakers who got bumped included Democrats Garnet Coleman
and Scott Hochberg of Houston and Paul Moreno of El Paso.
Heflin said he supports the tight-fisted budgetary approach advocated
by the governor and legislative leaders. He vowed to assess the
state's financial condition "from the ground up" and write a budget
within the comptroller's grim revenue forecast.
"The action is where the budget is," Coleman said, admitting he was
disappointed at losing his seat on the panel.
Coleman said budget writers, during this time of recession, need to
balance their decisions with "compassion" for people in need of state
He said some members of the new Appropriations Committee share his
views but added, "We'll have to wait and see whether they'll be able
to exercise that compassion."
Woolley, the new Calendars Committee chairman from Houston, said she
was "honored by the trust that Speaker Craddick has put in me."
"There has not been a Republican chair from Harris County since I've
been here, not in the major committees," she said.
Turner, the new speaker pro tem, or assistant presiding officer, is
one of four black Democratic lawmakers from Houston named to
leadership positions. The others are Wilson, the new Ways and Means
chairman; Rep. Harold Dutton, chairman of the Juvenile Justice and
Family Issues Committee; and Rep. Al Edwards, renamed to chair the
Rules and Resolutions Committee.
Wilson, who also was named to the Legislative Budget Board, said
Craddick's appointments reflect the most diverse makeup of committees
in his 26-year House tenure.
"We have more African-American chairs than ever before," Wilson said.
The Ways and Means Committee, which Wilson chairs, would initiate
action on any revenue bill that may be necessary to balance the new
state budget as well as any other tax and revenue issues. Although
leaders have vowed to avoid higher taxes, the governor already has
acknowledged that lawmakers may have to raise fees for some state
Rep. Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, will chair the House Redistricting
Committee. Although legislative and congressional maps were redrawn
before the 2002 elections, U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
reportedly has been pressuring Texas lawmakers to redraw Texas'
congressional districts again to try to increase Republican strength.
Crabb said it was "very likely" the Legislature will write a new
redistricting bill, but he said he hadn't spoken with DeLay.
Other House committee chairs from Harris County are Joe Nixon, R-
Houston, Civil Practices; Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, General
Investigating; and Peggy Hamric, R-Houston, House Administration.
Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, will chair the Environmental
Laney, who was House speaker for 10 years before Republicans gained a
majority in the Nov. 5 elections, was named to seats on the
Agriculture and Livestock and Transportation committees.
Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, chairman of the Mexican American
Legislative Caucus, said he was pleased that Hispanics received
leadership positions. But he said he was disappointed that Moreno was
removed from the Appropriations Committee and that Rep. Irma Rangel,
D-Kingsville, was demoted from chair to vice chair of the Higher
Three state senators from Houston chair Senate committees named
earlier this month by Dewhurst. They are Democrat Rodney Ellis,
Government Organization; Democrat John Whitmire, Criminal Justice;
and Republican Jon Lindsay, Nominations.
- "If there is a will, there is a Way"
The lone-star state of Texas is most proud with its
new and powerful constellation of Republican stars.
The lone- star state of Texas may never secede from
the Union, but it surely looks like a galaxy....
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