Texas House Adopts New Rules, Adds Committees

Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011  |  Updated 10:15 AM CDT
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Texas House Adopts New Rules, Adds Committees

Texas State Preservation Board

North view of the Texas State Capitol building.

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The Republican-led Texas House unanimously adopted new operating rules Monday, including a provision that could further minimize the ability of Democrats to influence legislation.

The rules, which are adopted after the start of each biennial legislative session, will guide procedures in the chamber for the next two years.

This year's rules expand the number of House committees to include two new ones -- the Government Efficiency and Reform Committee and the Economic and Small Business Development and Workforce Committee.

The proposal also would put limits on a maneuver known as chubbing, the House equivalent of a filibuster that Democrats used in 2009 to kill a Republican effort to require voters to provide photo identification at polls. Democrats' influence this session is already limited after Republicans gained a 101-49 supermajority.

After a contentious speakers race earlier this month, the House also rejected a proposal to eliminate the longstanding practice of speakers seeking re-election to collect pledge cards from members at the end of legislative sessions.

The House also rejected a proposal that would allow the chamber to skip the committee process to immediately take up voter identification legislation, an issue that Gov. Rick Perry has declared an emergency. Like all House legislation, the measure must now wait for Speaker Joe Straus to make committee assignments before it can start its slog through the process.

Republicans are making stronger voter ID laws a top priority as a way to prevent fraud. Democrats say it's a partisan bill designed to increase GOP margins at the ballot box.

During the rules debate, lawmakers also rejected an effort to eliminate the requirement that men wear ties during the summer months.

In what was the first serious debate of the session, Republicans flexed their new supermajority muscle, easily defeating one Democratic amendment after the other.

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