The delegation includes several representatives who have served a decade or longer, along with two newly-elected House members, Reps. Nate Schatzline (R-Fort Worth) and Salman Bhojani (D-Euless). Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) has served the longest among the delegation, since 2000.
Members could begin filing bills on November 14. While most of those filed by Tarrant delegation members so far are routine, a few involve larger state issues.
Reps. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake), Schatzline, and Geren have authored legislation relating to limits on property taxes that can be imposed on a homestead owned by a disabled or elderly person. The limitation would not apply to school districts. It also would require a constitutional amendment.
Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) authored House Bill (HB) 382 to amend the Texas Health and Safety Code to provide a “defense to prosecution” for possession of marijuana or hemp products. According to the bill, no offense is committed if a product is labeled to purport with state and federal law or is purchased from a retailer the accused “reasonably believed” was authorized to sell the product.
Two of the state senators are newly elected, Sens. Phil King (R-Weatherford) and Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound); however, they are not new to the Capitol, having served before in the lower chamber.
Parker has joined with Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood) in proposing legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 330, that would shore up the security and resilience of Texas’ electric grid. It would create a “Grid Security Commission” that will “evaluate, using available information on past blackouts in ERCOT, all hazards to the ERCOT electric grid, including threats that can cause future blackouts.”
Whether grid-related legislation will make any headway this session is questionable given Gov. Greg Abbott’s statement that “everything that needed to be done, was done to fix the power grid.”
Not only the legislation proposed but the committees upon which a member sits can be key in what legislation gets passed.
Several Tarrant County legislators have held powerful committee chairmanships in the past and are likely to again in the upcoming 88th Legislative Session commencing at noon on January 10.
Sens. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) and Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) both chaired committees in the last session, Veterans Affairs and Border Security respectively. Committee chairs are appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
In the House, Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) appoints committee chairs.
Goldman served as chair of the House Committee on Energy Resources while Klick chaired the House Committee on Public Health. Capriglione has recently chaired the Tarrant County Delegation.
Phelan has appointed Democrats to these positions in the past, including Collier as chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) as chair of the Committee on Business and Industry.
However, 18 House Republicans have called on Phelan not to appoint Democrats, who hold a minority in the chamber, as committee chairs this session. Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) challenged Phelan for speaker, but was unsuccessful in a vote by the House Republican Caucus in December. Tinderholt says he plans to call for a floor vote at the beginning of the session.
Committee members and chairs will be appointed toward the beginning of the session, so it remains to be seen what action Phelan will take.
Committees play a vital role in the Texas Legislature. Bills must be heard in committee meeting, usually scheduled by the committee chair, before it can move to the Calendars Committee and then on to the floor for a vote. Legislation can easily get stalled in committee if a chairperson does not favor it.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.