Senate assignments good enough for Tarrant County

Posted Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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It's easy to overreact in search of meaningful actions at this point in the Texas legislative session.

Lawmakers are ready to change the world. A horde of news media reporters is there to record the big steps and catch whoever seems to make a wrong step.

But these sessions are designed to start slowly. The state constitution says the first 30 days must be devoted to the filing of bills. Committee hearings on those bills don't get under way until the 30 days after that.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, came out with his committee assignments Friday, a bit earlier in the session than normal. It was enough to warrant some headlines, because it's important to know who will play a role in early hearings on what legislation.

It's also easy to overestimate the importance of membership on this committee or that. The real power in the Senate is in the hands of Dewhurst and the people he appoints to chair the various committees. The lieutenant governor finalized that list back in October.

Dewhurst booted Fort Worth Democrat Wendy Davis off the education committee.

Education is one of her favorite issues, and she sat on that committee in the last session. Her sentiments run counter to those of Dewhurst and committee Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston.

But it's not like Davis was going to be able to stop or pass key education bills in committee, notably the bill Patrick says he'll introduce to spend public dollars sending some students to private schools. Her strength on these issues is on the Senate floor, acting in concert with other senators.

Davis was named vice chairwoman of the Open Government Committee, will return to the Transportation Committee and the Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committee and will serve on the Economic Development Committee. All of these spots are important to Tarrant County.

Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, was named vice chairman of the Economic Development Committee in his freshman year as a senator. Hancock previously served six years in the House.

Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, remains the chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, will serve on the Higher Education, Government Organization and Economic Development committees.

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