The Back MicThe Back Mic: Committee Formed to Study UT Football Move, Legal Opinion Requested on Quorum Break, Suburban Democrat Draws a GOP Challenger

This week — the lieutenant governor forms a committee to study UT’s conference change, a lawmaker asks Paxton to weigh in on the quorum break, and a GOP staffer challenges a Democrat.
July 30, 2021

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Lt. Governor Forms Committee to Evaluate UT’s Big 12 Exit

News of the University of Texas’ impending departure from the Big 12 Conference to the Southeastern Conference sent shockwaves across the state. The fiscal implications for the other institutions of higher education, especially those in the Big 12, are enormous.

To fully evaluate those corollaries, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has formed a select committee in his chamber that will meet on Monday.

“Collegiate athletics bring Texans together in celebration of our state’s rich athletic heritage and our Texas identity,” Patrick said.

“It is vital that the Texas Senate understand the economic and athletic impact of the University of Texas leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.”

The Texan Tumbler

The committee will be chaired by Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and vice-chaired by Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe). Its membership includes:

  • Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound)
  • Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe)
  • Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury)
  • Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen)
  • Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola)
  • Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)
  • Charles Perry (R-Lubbock)
  • Beverly Powell (D-Burleson)
  • Drew Springer (R-Muenster)
  • Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood)
  • John Whitmire (D-Houston)

Three House members have also been invited, each the representative of one of the three Texas schools that would remain in the Big 12:

  • Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco)
  • Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock)
  • Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth)
Opinion Requested on Constitutional Right to Break Quorum

Rep. James White (R-Hillister) filed a request for opinion with the Office of the Attorney General asking whether Texas legislators “have a constitutional right to break quorum?” The request is in response to the ongoing quorum break by Texas Democrats who flew to Washington D.C. at the beginning of this month’s special session.

White also asked for a ruling on whether the seats held by truant members can be vacated and filled by special election. Governor Greg Abbott has hinted at the option previously.

The group has remained in D.C. and appears to have no plans of returning until the session expires in early August.

“Minority dissent and quorum requirements are hallmarks of constitutional republicanism,” White told The Texan.

“Neither one is exclusive from the other. In fact, both have a long legacy beginning with the colonial governments of the Founding Era, through two constitution conventions, to include the constitutional develop of Texas from 1824 to present.”

During America’s founding, the Constitutional Convention of 1787 delegates grappled with quorum requirements and where to draw the line. Some argued for a quorum of supermajority, so that business could not be taken up without most legislators in attendance. Others argued for a quorum of minority, so that a minority could not do what House Democrats have done to bring legislative proceedings to a halt.

The Texas House requires 100 members of its 150-person constituency to establish a quorum.

An opinion by the attorney general is non-binding and provides more guidance than prescription.

Capitol Staffer to Challenge Rep. James Talarico

Caroline Harris, the policy director for Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), has announced that she will challenge Rep. James Talarico (D-Georgetown) in House District 52 next year.

“I’m running because that district is conservative, and I think we deserve to be represented in that way,” Harris, a Round Rock native, told The Texan in an interview.

“We need someone who supports voter ID rules, securing the border, who will support the police, and most importantly, who will not walk off the job.”

Talarico — who is among the quorum-breaking Democrats currently in Washington, D.C. — won election to the House by flipping the seat in the 2018 “Beto Wave.” He recently said on national television that he does not support voter ID.

She added, “I’m super frustrated that these bills can’t pass because the Democrats, my representative included, flew away to DC on a private jet.”

As Hughes’ policy analyst, Harris has worked on the election reform bill closely with the senator, who is its author. She has been with Hughes’ office since the fall of 2014.

Regardless of redistricting’s outcome, Harris said she’s committed to running to represent her home district “no matter what the lines look like.”

“Caroline Harris loves Texas and she embodies Texas values,” Hughes told The Texan.

“I’ve seen her intellect, her work ethic, and her grasp of policy, and I know she’ll be a strong voice for common sense conservative values in the Texas House.”

At age 27, Harris’ challenge to Talarico, age 32, will likely make the race the youngest bout across Texas state campaigns.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.