Speaker Dade Phelan shakes up Texas House leadership with new chairs on key committees

A committee hearing room featuring plexiglass dividers on Jan 4, 2021. (Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune)

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Republican Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan shook up the chamber’s committee leadership Thursday, signaling who his top lieutenants will be during his first session overseeing the lower chamber.

State Rep. Greg Bonnen, a Friendswood Republican, will now oversee the budget-planning House Appropriations Committee, replacing state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake. Bonnen is brother to former House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who retired after one term at the post following a scandal over secretly recorded comments he made about other House members.

In another move, Houston Democrat Harold Dutton will now chair the Public Education Committee. Dutton replaces state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the longtime chair who in 2019 helped pass massive reforms to the state’s school finance system.

Dutton’s appointment is particularly notable since he has joined Republicans in supporting the growth of charter schools and other forms of school choice outside of traditional public schools — often a major point of division in educational politics. In past sessions, Dutton has authored legislation that would provide charter schools with more state funding and authority to run programs for students who have dropped out or are at risk of doing so. Many other House Democrats are opposed to the expansion of charter schools, which have more freedom from state regulations than traditional school districts.

The House Redistricting Committee, which will be particularly powerful this year, will also have a new chairman: State Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi. Hunter replaces state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford. Hunter will spearhead the redrawing of the state’s political maps for the House, a once-in-a-decade process that lawmakers are expected to tackle in a special session later this year.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, replaces state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, as chair of the House Administration Committee; state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, replaces state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, as chair of the House Calendars Committee, and state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, will serve as chair of the House State Affairs Committee, which Phelan oversaw during the 2019 session.

With assignments now out, legislation that has been filed can begin getting referred to committees for a potential hearing. Over in the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last month announced committee assignments for the 2021 session.

Aliyya Swaby contributed to this report.