Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst announced the new committee assignments for members of the Texas Senate late last week. As the presiding officer of the Texas Senate, the Lt. Governor exercises a number of important powers, including the power to appoint all Senate committee chairs and vice chairs as well as to appoint members to the various committees.
All bills must pass through the committee process before being considered on the floor of either the Texas Senate or Texas House of Representatives. In the House, each committee is assigned jurisdiction over a specific subject matter, and the Speaker refers legislation to House committees based on those subject matter jurisdictions. The Senate rules, however, do not specify subject matter jurisdictions for Senate committees. The Lieutenant Governor may refer legislation in the Senate to any standing committee or subcommittee, although unofficial subject matter jurisdictions are usually followed.
Per the new Senate committee assignments, I have been named Vice-Chair of the Senate Transportation committee. This committee consists of nine members and typically hears legislation relating to our state highway systems, airports, freight rail and passenger rail and seaport infrastructure and authority. Laws relating to transportation funding and operation of toll authorities, transit authorities and the Texas Department of Transportation are also handled by this committee. The actions of this committee are essential for managing the construction and maintenance of our state’s infrastructure in order to this keep up with our rapid population growth, particularly in North Texas.
I have also been assigned to serve on the Senate Education Committee. This committee also has nine members and hears bills relating to all aspects of K-12 education and public schools, including school finance legislation, curriculum issues, school district operations, school discipline and campus safety issues. The Legislature has a constitutional obligation to adequately fund public schools, so this committee is also of vital importance to our state.
I will also serve with three of my Senate colleagues on the Intergovernmental Relations committee. This committee oversees legislation relating to cities, counties, hospital districts and special purpose districts. Legislation referred to this committee typically include bills relating to the creation, expansion and jurisdiction of special purpose districts, country authority and laws that govern county government and city authority and laws that govern city government, including issues relating to annexation.
I was appointed to serve on the Government Organization committee, which is a six person committee. Traditionally, this committee has jurisdiction over legislation that is based on recommendations from the Texas Sunset Commission. The committee will work on many of the sunset bills that govern the efficiency and effectiveness of many state agencies as well as other legislation that will seek to make state government more effective and efficient.
Finally, I will serve on the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. This six person committee handles legislation that affects state and district courts and civil procedure and laws. As an attorney by trade, I look forward to offering my education and experience to this particular committee.
Upon announcing Senate committee assignments, Lt. Governor Dewhurst also announced his priorities this legislative session. These priorities include balancing the budget without raising taxes, improving public education and increasing highway capacity and drinking water resources for our state’s growing population. I, too, am committed to these goals and look forward to the work ahead of us this session.
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