Following a request from Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to create a special committee to focus on school safety, mental health, social media, police training and firearm safety in the wake of a mass shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released his list of committee members Wednesday afternoon.
The 11-member Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans will be chaired by Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) and includes two North Texans, Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) and Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) but also excludes state senators from areas where there have been recent mass shootings -- Sen. César J. Blanco (D-El Paso), Sen. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) and Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Galveston).
In his statement Wednesday, Patrick defended his appointments, saying the committee members represent a cross-section of school districts and communities of all sizes across the state.
Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), Chair
Sen. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe), Co-Vice Chair
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Co-Vice Chair
Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston)
Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury)
Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels)
Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen)
Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler)
Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock)
Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas)
Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo)
In a letter shared on Twitter Thursday morning, Gutierrez said Uvalde not having a voice on the committee was a "slap in the face."
"These special committee assignments are a slap in the face of the people of Uvalde. It's also a slap in the face to the people of Santa Fe and El Paso because they don't have a voice on this committee either," Gutierrez wrote. "This is just a stall tactic from Gov. Abbott. We already know what happens, we know why it happens, and we know what needs to be done to stop it from happening the next time. We don't need another Blue Ribbon committee. We need a special session so that we can start crafting common-sense solutions right now that are going to keep our kids safe."
Gutierrez said the committees aren't being asked to consider gun control reform, which he said he's hearing his constituents want, across party lines, and that the committees are meaningless because they can't enact legislation.
"This is a special legislative committee. Which by the way we've never had one of these before," Gutierrez said on MSNBC Wednesday. "This is meaningless. Without a session, we can't act."
Gutierrez said during the TV interview the governor held round table discussions and public forums after mass shootings in Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe High School and El Paso and didn't enact any changes during subsequent legislative sessions.
UVALDE SCHOOL SHOOTING
"He's trying to bamboozle you and the American public and the Texas public. Who knows when we'll be able to ever do something? This is the same M.O. Abbott has done session after session, massacre after massacre," Gutierrez said.
Patrick's committee is made up of three Democrats and eight Republicans, making it 27% Democrat and 73% Republican. The Republican party representation is slightly higher than the 31-member Texas Senate body, which is 42% Democrat and 58% Republican.
The committee's hearing is expected to be held on June 23, Patrick said, so that the families and the community of Uvalde who may wish to testify or take part have time to complete memorials and funerals.
Patrick said he also asked Nichols to coordinate with the House of Representatives Chair to hold their hearings on the same date, if possible, to accommodate both invited and public witnesses.