House Committee Assignments: The Losers

As mentioned yesterday, last week’s unveiling of committee assignments by House Speaker Joe Straus provided cause for celebration for some lawmakers. But just as some were heavily rewarded, others were deliberately snubbed.

Here’s Texas Scorecard’s ranking of the “Losers” who got shafted by leadership:

Jason Isaac

Despite cozying up to House leadership and suffering the consequences (as evidenced by his deteriorating voting record), State Rep. Jason Isaac (R–Dripping Springs) has been repeatedly kicked to the side and passed over in favor of other members for committee assignments and priority legislation. Despite entering his fourth legislative session, Isaac was passed over for a chairmanship and assigned regular positions on two new committees.

Indeed, Isaac provides further evidence that you can’t make friends with your enemies by making enemies of your friends.

Drew Springer

Like Jason Isaac, State Rep. Drew Springer (R–Muenster) has repeatedly carried water for House leadership even when doing so made him appear foolish. But in exchange for his efforts, Springer hasn’t been promoted—he’s been kicked to the curb.

A prominent ally of Texas Farm Bureau and a representative of 22 rural counties, Springer would have been a logical choice to serve as vice chairman of the Agriculture committee. Instead, he was passed over for far-left Democrat State Rep. Mary Gonzales of El Paso to unite the leadership of that committee in Democratic hands.

Many in the Capitol also reported that Springer expected an appointment to the Appropriations Committee, but he did not receive that promotion either. He also lost his seat on the Local & Consent Calendars Committee in favor of the Redistricting Committee, which is not expected to do any work during this non-redistricting session.

Drew Darby

When outgoing Appropriations Chairman John Otto announced his retirement as soon as the last session adjourned, State Rep. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo) was the odds-on favorite to gain his spot leading the budget-writing committee.

As the session approached, Darby repeatedly sought media attention and spoke in favor of draining the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (or, the “rainy day fund”) in order to deal with a minor shortfall in projected revenue. And when House leadership released their budget, Darby was one of its biggest defenders.

But despite putting in the work, Darby was passed over for the post in favor of Richmond Republican John Zerwas.

Tony Dale

When committee assignments were released, there was no bigger victim than State Rep. Tony Dale (R–Cedar Park). A well-meaning but skittish legislator, Dale can often be found supporting conservative legislation—at least until he’s told by leadership to back down.

Such was the case last session when Dale put forward an amendment to the budget seeking to defund diversity training and divert the money to border security efforts. Though a majority of Republicans supported Dale’s amendment, it failed when liberal Republicans joined with Democrats to kill it.

The vote became a major issue on the campaign trail and Dale was forced to betray his own amendment to provide cover for lawmakers like State Rep. John Raney (R–College Station) who voted against him.

What did Dale get for his loyalty? He was removed from both the Local & Consent Calendars and Homeland Security & Public Safety committees.

Article V Supporters

A priority issue for Gov. Greg Abbott and the Republican Party of Texas, a resolution adding Texas to the list of states calling for an Article V Convention to rein-in the federal government is expected to be a major issue this session.

Though an Article V resolution passed the Texas House on the last possible day last session only to be defeated in the Texas Senate, many observers theorized that Straus only allowed the measure to pass because he knew it was DOA in the other chamber. This session, the Article V movement has an ally in Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who named it a priority issue last fall.

With the Article V resolution being heard in Senate State Affairs this week, Straus’ committee assignments this session give evidence to the late-passage theory. Straus  appointed a select State and Federal Power and Responsibility Committee, to which an Article V resolution will be referred, that includes GOP lawmakers cherry-picked to block the measure.

Gov. Greg Abbott

No officeholder was shown more disrespect in the announcement of committee assignments than Gov. Greg Abbott. By once again appointing State Rep. Byron Cook (R–Corsicana) to chair the State Affairs committee, Straus has signaled that he intends to hold the governor’s priorities hostage.

Last session, Cook was instrumental in butchering the governor’s legislative goals including genuine ethics reform, ending sanctuary cities, and other issues. Coupled with his appointments of Article V opponents to the committee that will review Convention of States resolutions, the assignments can be viewed as nothing other than an all-out attack on the governor and his agenda.

Cecil Bell

A social conservative lawmaker who hasn’t found problems with leadership, State Rep. Cecil Bell’s (R–Magnolia) committee assignments are another interesting example of conservative-leaning lawmakers who are nonetheless on the Straus “team” being passed over for prominent roles.

Though Bell was appointed Vice Chairman of the Land & Resource Management Committee, where he will serve under Democratic Chairman Abel Herrero of Corpus Christi, he lost his seat on Appropriations to make room for a Democrat.

Tan Parker

As the Chairman of the House Republican Caucus, State Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) would be expected to have a place on several prominent committees and improve each session. Instead, he’s been quarantined to an island.

Like last session, Parker retains the gavel for the Investments & Financial Services Committee, but has lost seats on other prominent committees. Notably, Parker was booted from the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee where he could have advocated for property tax relief. He was also kicked off the Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility, where he could have promoted passage of the GOP’s Article V legislation.

Instead, Parker’s counterpart, Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner, was appointed to the select committee.

John Zerwas

Though the Richmond Republican may believe that he is a “winner” due to House leadership tapping him to chair the Appropriations committee over State Rep. Drew Darby (R–San Angelo), State Rep. John Zerwas has actually been imperiled by the decision.

By selecting Zerwas, the Democrat coalition has thrust him into the spotlight where he will be forced to defend the spending spree proposed in the House budget, raiding the rainy day fund, and other issues sure to draw the ire of conservatives.

At the end of the session, Zerwas will likely be battered and broken from being caught between a rock and a hard place. On one side is the Texas Senate’s budget bulldog Jane Nelson (R–Flower Mound) and on the other is the Democrat coalition in the Texas House.

Texas Republicans

When committee assignments were announced nobody was more snubbed than Texas Republicans, including party officials, convention delegates, and everyday voters.

As could be expected from the leader of a Democrat coalition, Speaker Joe Straus’ assignments are masterfully engineered to obstruct major Republican priorities from making it to the floor of the Texas House.

Prospects are bad for the Republican Party’s top five legislative priorities.

  • Constitutional carry will be referred to a Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee with only one member who supports the legislation.
  • Attempts to end or even diminish abortion will likely fail in Public Health where a majority of lawmakers support abortion-on-demand.
  • Increased border security funding or even maintenance of current funding levels is likely to be opposed by a majority of the Appropriations Committee.
  • An Article V Convention of States has been placed in jeopardy though the appointment of members who oppose the effort to the Select Committee on State and Federal Power and Responsibility.
  • Any hope to abolish or curtail property taxes has been sharply curtailed, as Rep. Dennis Bonnen, who championed a proposal to make minor cuts to the state sales tax as an alternative last session retained the chairmanship of Ways and Means.

In other words, Straus, as leader of the Democrat coalition in the house, has positioned himself to deliver for his base and obstruct the top priorities of the majority party.

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Cary Cheshire

Cary Cheshire serves as Vice President of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the premier project of Empower Texans. A 6th Generation Texan, Cary attended Texas A&M University was active in a number of conservative causes including Ted Cruz's Senate campaign. He has also worked on campaigns to elect conservatives to both Congress and the Texas Legislature. Cary enjoys college football, genealogy research, and the occasional craft beer.

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