The presumptive Texas House Speaker State Rep. Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) said he would appoint Democrats to chair various House committees during the 87th legislative session. Phelan says that the bipartisan system worked efficiently for more than a century and that he wouldn’t wish to change it.
“We will have Democratic chairs this session. We have had a process here for 172 years that’s worked pretty well,” Rep. Phelan told Texas Tribune. “A thousand people move here every day for a reason, and I don’t see any reason to change.”
He added that the “bipartisan” nature of politics in the Lone Star State worked well without the partisan acrimony pitting Republicans against Democrats.
Contrarily, the presumed “inclusivity” is why the voters’ will on issues such as constitutional carry has not been honored. Various pro-gun bills, including constitutional carry, referred to House committees headed by Democrats never make it to the Floor.
Similarly, Democrat-led House committees have killed bills addressing social issues such as abortion. For example, the proposed law prohibiting abortion after detecting the baby’s heartbeat was prematurely killed in the 86th legislation session before it reached the House floor after being referred to a Democrat-led committee.
Former Speaker Dennis Bonnen, a lukewarm supporter of expanded gun rights and an opponent of constitutional carry, used the same strategy to smother the constitutional carry bill and then blame the assigned House committee.
Bonnen appointed Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) to chair the House Homeland Security Committee, who eventually extinguished the bill sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford). Rep. Nevárez was a sworn opponent of the constitutional carry bill and any other pro-gun bills.
Bonnen’s predecessor Joe Straus used similar tactics to kill the constitutional carry bill citing “lack of support” before referring it to a Democrat-led committee where suppression was guaranteed.
If Phelan appoints Democrats on any strategic House committee handling gun-related issues, we may not make any progress on gun rights. In fact, having Democrats chair various committees is a trap that the presumptive speaker is laying. He can use those committees to kill any bill he doesn’t like by specifically sending it to them to do his bidding.
Several Republican lawmakers were already concerned about the potential implications of such actions. State Reps.
Kyle Biedermann (Fredericksburg) and Tony Tinderholt (Arlington) and freshmen Bryan Slaton and Jeff Cason urged the presumptive House speaker to prioritize Republican and voters’ interests during those appointments.
However, Phelan’s latest outburst shows that he will probably use the same tactics employed by his predecessors to stifle conservative issues he personally disagrees with.
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