With the exception of the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Railroad Commission (RRC), Texas’ administrative agencies are overseen by governing bodies whose members are not elected but appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate.
In fact, the number of appointed boards and commissions is a staggering statistic.
According to the governor’s appointments office, the Texas governor will make roughly 1,500 appointments every four years to 257 boards and commissions covering 14 different subject areas of government.
Board members usually serve for staggered six-year terms once confirmed, but the confirmation process is markedly different and more complex than the process for federal nominees, which simply requires U.S. Senate confirmation prior to the nominee entering office.
Texas allows the governor to make recess appointments even when the Legislature is out of session, which only meets for 150 days every two years, or for short special sessions called by the governor.
These recess appointees immediately assume their positions and hold office until they are confirmed or rejected. This allows appointees serving during the interim to short-circuit the need for confirmation.
Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson was recently confirmed this session by the Senate after past appointees to the post by Gov. Greg Abbott were unable to gain Senate approval.
But the governor doesn’t only make appointments to positions in the executive branch of government.
The Texas Ethics Commission (TEC), which is a legislative branch agency, is overseen by an eight-member board, four of which are appointed by the governor. The Texas Constitution requires the agency to set the salary and per diem rates for lawmakers, while state law vests it with enforcing campaign finance rules and lobbying regulations. TEC commissioners are not subject to Senate approval.
In the judicial branch, the governor also makes appointments to fill vacancies in office for district attorneys, district judges, justices of the appellate courts as well as justices of the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals.
The Senate Committee on Nominations is tasked with reviewing all nominees subject to Senate approval. It holds public hearings on each position before deciding on whether to recommend the nominee to the full Senate for approval, which under the constitution requires two-thirds of the chamber’s votes.
Every current appointee by Abbott is presently being reviewed for confirmation, ranging from the board of regents overseeing the many state university systems to boards that oversee occupational licensing regulations, water boards, and more.
The governor’s appointments office keeps a list of all boards and commissions and outlines the general qualifications those interested in applying to serve must meet, including age requirements, voter registration, and criminal background status. Each entity may have its own additional qualifications as well.
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Matt Stringer is a reporter for The Texan who writes about all things government, politics, and public policy. He graduated from Odessa College with an Associate Degree in Paralegal Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Leadership. In his free time, you will find him in the great outdoors, usually in the Davis Mountains and Big Bend region of Southwest Texas.