East Wing Anxiety Builds with Stall
in Patrick Committee Lineup Picks
January 20, 2023
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick had the Texas Senate in state of suspense on Friday night amid extended deliberations on the chamber's leadership lineup and division of responsibilities for the new regular session after leading its members to believe that committee assignments would be dished out several days ago.
The apparent delay in Senate committee appointments stems from lascivious tales of romance with a bipartisan twist based on unsubstantiated speculation in and outside the Legislature's upper chamber. Beyond the salacious rumor mill, however, Patrick could be snagged more decisions on the potential shifting of responsibilities related to the Texas power grid, heath care and other high-level priorities that the Senate plans to tackle in the regular session that's nearing the end of its second week.
Two of the hottest questions center on whether GOP State Senator Charles Schwertner of Georgetown will stay on as chairman of the Business & Commerce Committee and whether the panel will continue to oversee the Public Utility Commission and Electric Reliability Council of Texas as the grid operator.
GOP State Senator Joan Huffman of Houston appears poised to keep the role that she landed late last year as the Finance Committee chair. Patrick picked Huffman to replace Republican Jane Nelson as the Finance Committee leader after she announced that she wouldn't seek another term in her home district in 2022. Nelson has a new position now as the Texas secretary of state as a Governor Greg Abbott appointee.
Republican State Senator Kelly Hancock of Richland Hills could be the biggest loser for the majority party when Patrick unveils his new leadership team after alienating the lieutenant governor during a fight on electricity pricing in the aftermath of the Texas power grid collapse in the peak of a record winter storm two years ago. Patrick retaliated by replacing Hancock with Schwertner as the Business & Commerce Committee boss.
The prevailing sentiment in the east wing is that Hancock is still doing time in the Patrick doghouse. Thanks to a new role as the Senate president pro tem, Hancock was seated on the front row at the inauguration earlier this week when Governor Greg Abbott and Patrick were sworn into third terms. Hancock - ironically perhaps - is considered to be one of Abbott's few close friends on either side of the rotunda.
Patrick announced at the inaugural ceremony that Republican State Senator Brandon Creighton of Conroe would chair the Education Committee and oversee the state's colleges and universities as well. The Higher Education Committee that Republican David Dewhurst created in 2009 is being relegated to second-tier status as a component of the same Senate committee that deals with public schools. Creighton chaired the Higher Education Committee in 2021 after Patrick gave Amarillo Republican Kel Seliger the boot from panel's chairmanship for refusing to march in lockstep with him.
Republican State Senator Lois Kolkhorst is Brenham is expected to continue as the Health & Human Services Committee chair - a post that she's held for the past four years. The Senate roster heading into the current session included Republican State Senators Bob Hall of Edgewood and Brian Birdwell of Granbury as the chairs of the Administration Committee and the Border Security Committee respectively.
GOP State Senator Paul Bettencourt of Houston - a high-ranking Patrick lieutenant - expects to hang on to the chairmanship of the Local Government Committee that had appeared to be created for him two years ago.
more to come ...