Legislature Convenes, Elects Speaker, Sets Committee Chairs and Membership
With 27 true freshman members, the 111th General Assembly convened this week to elect its speakers and leadership for the Senate and House before taking a break to allow for office assignments and possible moves. The body also includes three veteran and former House members elected to the Senate, as well as two former legislators returning after winning their elections.
After also reelecting state Treasurer David Lillard and Comptroller Justin P. Wilson to new two-year terms, the legislature agreed to adjourn until Friday, Jan. 18, when they will come back into session in time for festivities surrounding the inauguration of Gov. Bill Lee on Saturday, Jan. 19. The House will return to session the following week, following the MLK holiday break, while the Senate is set to return on Jan. 28.
Sen. Randy McNally was elected to a second two-year term as lieutenant governor and Senate speaker, while veteran Rep. Glen Casada handily won the speakership in the House. Before adjourning for a week the two leaders announced committee assignments, naming chairs and membership of those bodies that will be the first to vet legislative proposals.
In the Senate major changes occurred to a number of committees key to county governments and bills that traditionally impact them. Sen. Ken Yager, who was elected Republican caucus chair this year, will no longer serve as chair of Senate State & Local Government, which will now be led by Sen. Steve Dickerson. Likewise, Sen. Paul Bailey will now serve as chair of Senate Commerce instead of Senate Transportation now that Sen. Jack Johnson has become majority leader. Senate Transportation will now be chaired by Sen. Becky Massey. Senate Judiciary will have Sen. Mike Bell as its chair, a move from Senate Government Operations, where Sen. Kerry Roberts is now chair.
Additional Senate chairs include Sen. Delores Gresham continuing as chair of Senate Education, Sen. Rusty Crowe as chair of Senate Health. Senate Finance Ways & Means will continue to be chaired by Sen. Bo Watson, and Senate Energy will be chaired again by Sen. Steve Southerland.
Little remains unchanged in the House, where Speaker Casada expanded and restructured the committees. Chairs of only two standing committees are the same from last session. Rep. Curtis Halford will chair House Agriculture, while Rep. Ron Travis will continue as chair of House Insurance.
Committees that traditionally hear debate on most bills related to county government were most changed under the new system. For instance, Rep. John Crawford will now chair House Local Government, which now has three subcommittees (Elections & Campaign, Cities & Counties, and Property & Planning). Interestingly, four of the six members of the new Cities & Counties Subcommittee are former county commissioners (Chair Jerome Moon, John Crawford, Kent Calfee and Dave Wright).
House Transportation will be chaired by Rep. Dan Howell, whose committee now has two subcommittees (Safety & Funding, and Infrastructure). House State Government will have three subcommittees (Department & Agencies, Public Service & Employees, and Corrections) and will be chaired by Rep. Kelly Keisling.
New House Judiciary chair Rep. Michael Curcio will oversee four subcommittees (Civil Justice, Criminal Justice, Children & Families, and Constitutional Protections & Sentencing). Rep. Susan Lynn will now chair House Finance, with Rep. Andy Holt serving as chair of the subcommittee. Rep. Mark White will chair the restructured House Education committee, with its four subcommittees (Education Administration, K-12, Curriculum Testing & Innovation, and Higher Education).
Rep. Timothy Hill will head the new House Commerce Committee and its three subcommittees (Business, Utilities, and Banking & Investments). Rep. Clark Boyd will serve as chair of Consumer & Health Resources, which has two subcommittees (Consumer, and Employee Affairs). Rep. Martin Daniel will chair House Government Operations, while Rep. Bryan Terry chairs House Health, which has three subcommittees (Facilities Licensure & Regulations, Mental Health & Substance Abuse, and Public Health). A new committee, House Naming Designating & Private Acts, will be chaired by Rep. John Mark Windle, while Rep. Jason Zachary will chair House Calendar & Rules.