Thursday, October 25, 2012

RIP Sen. Gallegos

Sen. Gallegos was laid to rest this week.  I first met him in 1996 in American Leadership Forum Class XVI, and he and I climbed the mountain together in Colorado during the wilderness experience.  The Senator was warm, engaging and, in many respects, larger than life.  He will be missed:  May he rest in peace.

Sen. Gallegos is on the November 6 ballot and has a Republican opponent, R. W. Bray.  However, it is a solid Democratic district, with Sen. John McCain receiving only 35.8% of the vote in SD 6 as the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.  Any votes cast for Sen. Gallegos will count, and assuming the Senator receives the most votes a vacancy in the office will occur when the votes are canvased in late November or early December.

Gov. Perry will then call a special election to fill the vacancy in SD 6.  The Governor has up to 20 days to call the election, and the election must be held on a Tuesday or Saturday occurring not earlier than the 21st day or later than the 45th day after the date the election is ordered.  If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the special election, a runoff election will be necessary.  Bottom line is the special election will occur some time between early January and early February, depending on how quickly the Governor believes the election should occur.  

I suspect the timing of the special election will depend on the outcome in SD 10 where Sen. Wendy Davis (D) is being challenged by Rep. Mark Shelton (R).  If Sen. Davis prevails on November 6, the Democrats will have 11 Senators, the Republicans 19, with 1 vacancy (Gallegos seat).  However, if Sen. Davis loses, the Republicans will have 20 Senators to 10 for the Democrats, with 1 vacancy.  In that case, the Republicans will have a 2/3rds majority in the Texas Senate until the vacancy in SD 6 is filled.

The Texas Constitution provides that the first 60 days of a legislative session shall be devoted to the introduction of bills, the holding of committee hearings, and the consideration of emergency items submitted by the Governor.  If Sen. Davis is defeated, Gov. Perry will be able to control the agenda in the Senate by designating items as emergency matters.  Until Sen. Gallegos’ replacement is selected, the Republicans would have the necessary 2/3rds votes to pass legislation on a party line vote.

Based on the election results on November 6, we will know 1) whether there will be a vacancy and resulting special election in SD 6; and 2) whether the Republicans will have the necessary 2/3rds votes to pass legislation on a party line basis until the vacancy is filled.  If both Sen. Gallegos and Rep. Shelton win on November 6, expect the election to fill the Gallegos vacancy to occur as late as possible during the session.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Texas Senate Committee Chairs

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst announced the appointment of new Senate committee chairs this morning.  Reappointed are:

·         Administration – Sen. Kevin Eltife
·         Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security – Sen. Craig Estes
·         Business & Commerce – Sen. John Carona
·         Criminal Justice – Sen. John Whitmire
·         Natural Resources – Sen. Troy Fraser
·         Veterans Affairs & Military Installations – Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

An appointment and reappointments that were previously announced last month are:

·         Finance – Sen. Tommy Williams
·         Health & Human Services – Sen. Jane Nelson
·         State Affairs – Sen. Robert Duncan

Four committee chairs did not seek reelection, and their replacements are announced as follows:

·         Economic Development – Sen. Bob Deuell replacing the retiring Sen. Mike Jackson
·         Education – Sen. Dan Patrick replacing the retiring Sen. Florence Shapiro
·         Finance (previously announced) – Sen. Tommy Williams replacing the retiring Sen. Steve Ogden
·         Jurisprudence – Sen. Royce West replacing the retiring Sen. Chris Harris

Shifts in committee chairs are:

·         Government Organization – Sen. Judith Zaffirini replacing Sen. Rodney Ellis
·         Higher Education – Sen. Kel Seliger replacing Sen. Zaffirini
·         Intergovernmental Relations – Sen. Juan Hinojosa replacing Sen. West

A new Committee on Open Government was created to work on rewriting appropriate sections of the Open Government laws and increase transparency in state government operations, and Sen. Rodney Ellis was named Chair.

New committee chairs are:

·         Sen. Glenn Hegar as Chair of Nominations
·         Sen. Juan Hinojosa as Chair of Intergovernmental Relations
·         Sen. Robert Nichols as Chair of Transportation, with Homeland Security responsibility being moved to Sen. Craig Estes

·         Sen. Dan Patrick as Chair of Education

Three committees are eliminated:

·         International Relations and Trade previously chaired by Sen. Eddie Lucio
·         Subcommittee on Flooding and Evacuations previously chaired by Sen. Mario Gallegos
·         Select Committee on Redistricting previously chaired by Sen. Seliger

If there was any doubt that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst intends to seek reelection in 2014, it was put to rest by his committee appointments.  According to his press release, realigning the committee appointments will allow “more time to focus on conservative solutions to issues.”  The press release further states that rotating the assignments will require “fresh conservative thinking and conservative solutions.”

Sen. Patrick regularly states that the 83rd Texas Senate, with at least five new members, will be the most conservative in history.  Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has realigned the committees to match that conservative shift.