Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen Stacked Key Committee with Democrats
Big League Politics has learned that Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen stacked the most important committee for moving legislation with a solid majority of non-Republicans, dooming many Republican bills to die.
Big League uncovered the revelation while reporting on why the Texas House Calendars Committee just killed the popularly-supported monuments protection bill, HB 583 — arguably an odd outcome for an ostensibly Republican-controlled Texas House with an 83-to-67 majority.
The committee in question is the final destination for ALL legislation in the Texas House of Representatives, and is often cynically referred to as “the place good bills go to die.”
Bonnen, the speaker, is entirely responsible for appointing members of Calendar Committee. Consider that,
Section 15. Standing Committee Appointments — (a) The speaker
shall designate the chair and vice-chair of each standing substantive
committee and shall also appoint membership of the committee, subject to
the provisions of Rule 4, Section 2.
(b) If members of equal seniority request the same committee,
the speaker shall decide which among them shall be assigned to that
(c) In announcing the membership of the standing substantive
committees, the speaker shall designate which are appointees and which acquire membership by seniority.
(d) The speaker shall appoint the chair and vice-chair of each standing procedural committee and the remaining membership of the committee.
(e) If a new speaker is elected to fill a vacancy in the office after the
appointment of standing committees, the new speaker may not alter the composition of any standing committee before the end of the session, except that the new speaker may:
(1) vacate the new speaker’s membership on any committee;
(2) make committee appointments for the member who was
removed as speaker;
(3) designate a different member of a standing committee as
committee chair; and
(4) fill vacancies that occur on a committee.
(Source: page 10 and page 28 of the official House Rules manual.)
While there’s no “majority” of Democrats on the committee, the case can be made that there’s not a “majority” of Republicans, either. Several members of the Texas House, who shall remain anonymous, confirmed that Speaker Bonnen stacked the committee to favor a less conservative composition — with a 5-5 partisan split (not counting Chairman Four Price’s tie-breaking vote).
The maximum majority possible would be 7-4 (but for some reason, Bonnen only allowed for a 6-5 majority, again counting Committee Chmn. Four Price.) It is widely known Bonnen and Four Price were the two former Speaker Joe Strauss was grooming as his replacement.
That means that at least one or two Republicans had to vote against monument protection legislation (and other conservative priority bills) for them to fail.
Where it concerns committee appointments, one House member stated, “After the half by seniority the rest are up to the speaker.”
The Speakers usually don’t stack the deck but could. But this rule does not apply to the Calendars Committee, explained the same House member to Big League Politics. “The calendar committee is all speaker chosen,” he remarked, adding that, “Seniority doesn’t apply to procedural committees like calendars.”
House majority breakdown versus minority:
(Source: Texas House of Representatives, official website.)
Per state rules, committees of the Texas House of Representatives are assigned half by seniority and half by the Speaker of the House. Representatives select three committees they wish to serve on, and half of a committee’s seats are filled in this manner based on seniority. In the case of equal seniority, the Speaker decides the seat. Once half of each committee is selected through this method, the Speaker appoints the rest of the committees.…Committees are assigned at the start of each legislative session. A majority of appointed members make up a committee’s quorum. The Speaker is not recognized as an “ex officio” member of any committee.