House Debates Rules While Senate Draws Terms During Frist Week of 88th Legislative Session

The first week of Texas' 88th Legislative Session is in recess until Jan. 17, ending a day of debates in the House and drawing of terms in the Senate. 

House Rules

Democrats will be allowed to chair certain committees in Texas' Republican-led House of Representatives. 

It is a new rule part of a package approved on Jan. 11 by House lawmakers. House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, has insisted on appointing members of the other party despite opposition from grassroots Republicans.

The vote is a victory for Phelan. House members will submit committee preference cards to Phelan on Thursday, Jan. 26. 

The rule is part of House Resolution 4, adopted during nearly three hours of debate. The new rules also removed House Rule 16, the COVID policy rule. Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, noted that any health and safety concerns could be brought to House Administration with existing procedures. 

Amendments on the floor also added penalties for members absent to impede the House's actions for political purposes. House Democrats stalled voting restrictions for 38 days in 2021

In the new rules, members who fail to meet the quorum may be fined, reprimanded, censured or expelled. Any member absent without leave faces a $500 fine. A House member cannot use their operating or campaign account to pay fines, according to HR 4. 

The House also passed House Resolution 3, which outlines the powers and duties of the Speaker of the House and House administration. During the Jan. 12 meeting, House members added a new provision this session: 

"SECTION 5.11. USE OF HOUSE RESOURCES FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES PROHIBITED. Pursuant to Section 51, Article III, Texas Constitution, house resources may be used only for a public purpose. A house member, committee, officer, or employee may not use or direct the use of any house resources to further any political purpose. In this section, "house resources" includes appropriated funds, property, services, personnel, or any other thing of value belonging to the government that comes into the custody, possession, or control of a house member, committee, officer, or employee by virtue of public office or employment."

Senate Terms 

With no debate, senators adopted Senate Resolution 8 for the 88th session. The resolution adopts the Senate rules of the 87th Legislation Session, but it does change the number of members for specific committees. Also included in the rules is a new Subcommittee on Higher Education within the Education Committee. 

  • Committee on Border Security is now a standing committee with five members
  • Committee on Business & Commerce adds two members, now 11 total
  • Committee on Education adds two members, now 13 total
  • Committee on Finance adds two members, now 17 total

As part of Senate Resolution 2, the Senate also adopted operating rules for the Redistricting Committee. As part of the resolution, virtual testimony can be provided at the committee's regional hearing on Jan. 25-28. 

The Senate referred Senate Bill 375, relating to the composition of Districts of the Texas Senate, to the Senate Special Committee on Redistricting. The bill is authored by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.

The committee consists of the following members: 

  • Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) - Chair
  • Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) - Vice Chair
  • Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston)
  • Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury)
  • Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe)
  • Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills)
  • Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville)
  • Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock)
  • Sen. Drew Springer (R-Muenster)
  • Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas)
  • Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo)

As a result of redistricting, Texas lawmakers must draw lots to determine how long they will serve. Those who drew odd numbers will serve four-year terms, while those who drew even numbers will serve two-year terms. Using a bowl, each senator pulled an envelope containing a number. 

Here is the result of the drawing:  

Two-Year Terms: Alvarado, Bettencourt, Blanco, Campbell, Eckhardt, Hinojosa, Huffman, Johnson, King, LaMantia, Parker, Paxton, Springer, West, and Whitmire.

Four-Year Terms: Birdwell, Creighton, Flores, Gutierrez, Hall, Hancock, Hughes, Kolkhorst, Menéndez, Middleton, Miles, Nichols, Perry, Schwertner, Sparks, and Zaffirini 


The House and Senate recessed on Jan. 12 until Tuesday, Jan. 17, when they will meet in a joint session to inaugurate Gov. Greg Abbott.

Texas' 88th legislative session began on Jan. 10. TEXPERS members can keep up with floor sessions, committee hearings, and other legislative events by watching live broadcasts on the House and Senate websites. 

TEXPERS, along with the Association's Legislative Committee and government affairs consultant, is monitoring the sessions, especially for any actions regarding public employee pensions. TEXPERS staff will regularly update this blog with the latest happenings that may interest trustees and administrators of public employee retirement systems. 


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