Last session, 52% of bills never made it out of their first committee. Accordingly, which committee a bill is referred to and the membership of that committee is critically important to whether a filed bill becomes law or not. This is one of the reasons that the Lt. Governor and the Speaker have enormous power over the legislative process, because they appoint the committees and refer the bills.
Let's examine two issues in the context of Senate committee appointments: tort reform and gaming. Tort reform advocates were extremely unhappy with Senate State Affairs Committee last session for reporting out legislation that weakened tort reform. This session, Sens. Carona and Harris were replaced on the committee with Sens. Huffman and Williams, providing tort reform advocates a 5 - 4 majority on the committee.
Ordinarily, gaming legislation would also be referred to State Affairs. However, because gaming opponents now have a 5 -4 majority on State Affairs, I expect gaming legislation to be referred to Senate Business & Commerce Committee. In addition to Sen. Carona replacing Sen. Fraser as Chairman of Business & Commerce, Sen. Whitmire was added to the committee giving gaming supporters a solid 7 votes on Business & Commerce.
Tort reform and gaming were both apparent winners in the Senate committee appointments.