“Following last week’s tragedy in Uvalde, conversations about the issues outlined by Gov. Abbott are already underway in the Texas House and will continue to be a top priority in the months leading up to the next school year and the legislative session,” said Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).
“There are two things that are owed to the victims, their families, the Uvalde community and the entire State of Texas – solutions and answers. The misinformation swirling in the days since the shooting has been nothing short of troubling, and the investigations into these matters must be swift and thorough. Our chamber will get to work immediately, taking a well-informed and comprehensive approach to crafting the House’s response to this horrific tragedy, as we await the results of these investigations to help inform the work we have been called to conduct.”
On Friday, Phelan announced that he was creating a special investigative committee that “possesses the power of subpoena and is authorized to conduct depositions and initiate discovery.”
Phelan appointed Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) as chair, Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) as vice-chair, and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman as a member.
“The fact we still do not have an accurate picture of what exactly happened in Uvalde is an outrage,” said Phelan. “I established this investigative committee for the dedicated purpose of gathering as much information and evidence as possible to help inform the House’s response to this tragedy and deliver desperately needed answers to the people of Uvalde and the State of Texas.”
The speaker also gave new, related charges to the existing Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety, as well as the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.
Further, noting that each represents a place where a mass shooting has occurred, Phelan appointed five new members to the select committee: Reps. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood), Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso), Tracy King (D-Batesville), John Kuempel (R-Seguin), and Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa).
Meanwhile, in the upper chamber, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick created an 11-member “Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans” in response to Abbott’s call.
The special committee includes eight Republicans and three Democrats: Sens. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler), Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Royce West (D-Dallas), and Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo).
Nichols will chair the committee and Creighton and Kolkorst will serve as co-vice chairs.
“These three leaders have the experience and knowledge to lead this important committee,” said Patrick. “The committee members also represent a cross section of school districts and communities of all sizes across the state.”
Patrick stated that he asked Nichols to hold a hearing on June 23 or shortly after.
“I want to give the families and the community of Uvalde time to complete all funeral services before beginning hearings so those who wish to testify may take part,” said Patrick. “I have asked Chair Nichols to coordinate with the House of Representatives Chair to hold their hearings on the same date, if possible, to accommodate both invited and public witnesses.”
Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio), whose district includes Uvalde, criticized Patrick for the committee’s membership and, more broadly, Abbott for his call for committees instead of a special session.
“These special committee assignments are a slap in the face of the people of Uvalde,” said Gutierrez. “It’s also a slap in the face to the people of Santa Fe and El Paso because they don’t have a voice on this committee either.”
Gutierrez called the creation of a special committee “just a stall tactic from Governor Abbott.”
“We already know what happens, we know why it happens, and we know what needs to be done to stop it from happening the next time,” said Gutierrez. “We don’t need another Blue Ribbon committee. We need a special session so that we can start crafting common sense Solutions right now that are going to keep our kids safe.”
Update: This article was updated to include Speaker Phelan’s announcement of a new committee and new committee appointments on Friday, June 3.
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.