State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, finds herself on the outside looking in after a reshuffling of the membership of the Legislative Budget Board this week.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Thursday announced that he was appointing three senators — Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls; and Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler — to join the now lone Democrat on the panel, Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of McAllen.
House Speaker Joe Straus on Tuesday appointed three members — Drew Darby, R-San Angelo; John Otto, R-Dayton; and John Zerwas, R-Simonton — to take slots on the LBB belonging to members who are not returning next legislative session.
The LBB consists of 10 members — five each from the Senate and the House, with seats reserved for the chambers' presiding officers as well as the chairs of each chamber's budget and finance committees. The remaining seats are appointed by the speaker and lieutenant governor.
Because the LBB plays a leading role in developing the budget ahead of every legislative session, the vacancies on the LBB were drawing attention this summer. In addition to the House members slated for departure, two Senate spots — one for departed Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams — were vacant.
Nelson will take over Williams' spot at the head of Senate Finance and on the LBB.
On the House side, Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is still House Appropriations chairman, but all three of Straus' appointees to the LBB are Appropriations subcommittee chairman. As such, all are potential successors to Pitts on Appropriations and to Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, as Ways and Means chairman.
A question going forward, though, has to be whether this lineup of budget writers will remain stable into next session. Dewhurst, of course, is leaving, and it will be up to his successor to decide whether to keep these new appointees. These may not be the people that Republican Dan Patrick or Democrat Leticia Van de Putte would choose. Stay tuned.
GOP lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick has earned the endorsement of the political arm of the Texas Civil Justice League.
"Senator Patrick's business experience provides unique perspective and will enhance his ability to help guide the healthy Texas business environment and job market," said Carol Sims, TCJL PAC Treasurer.