The legislative committee that says whether the state should kill or keep state agencies now has a full complement of members and can start asking questions of a list of the state's biggest agencies. The Senate side of the panel was set earlier. Now House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has added his folks to the mix.
Straus chose Reps. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. San Antonio attorney Lamont Jefferson, who's with the Haynes and Boone law firm, will serve as the House's public member. Reps. Linda-Harper Brown, R-Irving, and Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, will remain on the commission. The panel is chaired by Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy; Bonnen will serve as vice-chairman.
Sunset reviews a list of agencies every two years and recommends which ones should die — the Residential Construction Committee got the axe earlier this year — which ones should live, and most often, which ones deserve plastic surgery. This year's list has an unusual number of big and important agencies on it, which is another way of saying the lobbyists will be out in force to try to win changes they want and preserve things they don't want changed. A partial list, with partial lists of the players, includes the Commission on Environmental Quality (companies affected by clean air and water laws, polluters, environmentalists, utilties), the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (developers, bankers), Department of Information Resources (hardware and software vendors, consultants), Department of Insurance (guess!), Public Utility Commission (electric utilities, mainly, but the cast is large and expensive), Racing Commission (the bill that comes out could be a legislative vehicle for expanded gambling), Railroad Commission (oil companies of all sizes and kinds, utiltities, environmentalists), Department of Transportation (everybody from contractors to farmers to businesses to drivers, frustrated and not), Water Development Board (farmers, developers, planners, and other warriors).
Hegar wants the panel to start working this month.