87th LegislatureState HouseThe Back MicThe Back Mic: Presumptive Speaker Announces Staff, Lawmakers Voice Gun Control Concerns, Chairman Alludes to Limited Capitol Access During Session

This week — the staffing lineup is announced for the presumptive speaker’s team, legislators pen a pro-Second Amendment letter, and rumors about COVID-19 restrictions in the capitol swirl.
December 4, 2020

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Presumptive Speaker Phelan Announces Staff

Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has all but secured the Texas House speakership ahead of the 87th Legislative Session. This week, the State Affairs Committee chairman announced the slate of political heavy hitters who have been tapped to serve as staff in the speaker’s office come January. 

  • Mark Bell — Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Kelly Mitchell — Executive Director of Speaker Operations
  • Jay Dyer — Director of Policy 
  • Zach Johnson — Special Advisor and Chief Director of District Operations
  • Enrique Marquez — Director of Communications
  • Cait Meisenheimer — Senior Advisor for Communications
  • Andrew Blifford — Director of Budget
  • Sydney Watts — Director of Administration
  • Margo Cardwell — General Counsel

In mid-November, Phelan announced the selection of Julia Rathgeber, a veteran political operative and advisor and most recently the president and CEO of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, as his chief of staff. 

Freedom Caucus Pens Letter on Gun Storage to Governor’s Council

The Texan Tumbler

On Thursday, the Texas House Freedom Caucus released a letter voicing opposition to what the group considers an infringement of Second Amendment rights at the hands of a government council. 

Addressed to Alan Tyroch, chairman of the Governor’s EMS and Trauma Advisory Council (GETAC), the letter read, “It is our current understanding that the Governor’s EMS Trauma Advisory Council (GETAC), which you lead as the chair, is considering adopting a position statement on firearms policy that could include a recommendation for the Texas medical community to engage patients and families in conversation on gun storage practices.”

The stated mission of the council is to “promote, develop, and advance an accountable, patient-centered Trauma and Emergency Healthcare System,” and the caucus argued that the definition “says nothing about empowering, encouraging, or otherwise advising health care providers to offer their opinions on gun storage practices to patients.”

Chairman Talks Potential COVID-19 Restrictions During Legislative Session

Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) reportedly gave lobbyists a preview of potential pandemic restrictions that may be in place during the legislative session, according to the Texas Tribune

Options for voting outside of the House chamber, testing upon entry, lawmakers requiring pre-planned meetings, mandatory face coverings, and a cap on the number of people allowed inside the building at once were all reported as potential courses of action. 

Geren chairs the influential House Administration Committee, which oversees the logistical ins and outs of the Texas House. 


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McKenzie DiLullo

McKenzie DiLullo serves as Senior Editor at The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Capitol Director during the 85th legislative session before moving to Fort Worth to manage Senator Konni Burton’s campaign. In her free time, you might find her enjoying dog memes, staring at mountains, or proctoring personality tests.