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Inside Intelligence: About That 84th Legislature...

For this week’s nonscientific survey of insiders in politics and government, we turned our attention to the startup of the 84th Legislature, its committees and its leadership.

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The race for speaker started off the week and also our questions to insiders in government and politics, and there is good news for incumbent Joe Straus in the responses: 76 percent of the insiders think the challenge from Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, actually strengthened Straus. Turner lost that vote, 128-19, and Straus has a fourth term in the bag.

Senate committees are expected to be named at the end of next week, but we asked the insiders how fast or slow the House will be. Most don’t expect to hear about House committee memberships until the first week of February, with the rest split on earlier and later dates. Total them up, however, and 75 percent expect committees to be named sometime next month.

Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick said during his campaign that he would have fewer Democrats chairing committees than his predecessor, and said he might have none at all in those positions. Two in five insiders think two Democrats will win chairmanships, and 23 percent think it will be three. But 13 percent expect to see no Democrats in those spots, and 20 percent said only one will get through the gate.

We also asked the insiders to predict the surprises of the coming session, and those are included in the full comments, which are attached. Here’s a sampling:

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Will Scott Turner’s bid for speaker weaken or strengthen Speaker Joe Straus for this legislative session?

• "Glenn Beck robo calls statewide for Scott Turner were of little help and there seems to be a rising awareness that Straus maybe the only non patient in this asylum."

• "Every legislator voting for Straus must now convince his constituents that he can accomplish the conservative agenda that he campaigned on. That will be a TOUGH road because Straus will fight him every step of the way. One lieutenant complained to me last week that he couldn't pass a bill because another lieutenant talked against it on the floor. The majority of legislators then bowed to Straus to kill the bill."

• "If you try to kill the king, you'd better succeed."

• "Many members who were concerned about how much influence Empower Texans has, now know it's very little."

• "19 votes out of 150 - REALLY???? Those people need to take a basic math class if they are calling that a 'mandate' on how the House conducts business. "

• "With whom? House members? Strengthen. Tim Dunn et al.? Who cares? "

• "The Turner 'challenge' had about as much impact on Speaker Straus as that bug that hit his car windshield during his drive into Austin from San Antonio. "

• "This demonstrates with clarity and certainty the limitations of Michael Quinn Sullivan's reach. Yes, he has grass roots, a database built through numerous campaign organizations, but if Scott Turner's the best he can muster at the Capitol, he doesn't have much to fall back on."

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When will House Speaker Joe Straus appoint committees?

• "He's got to weigh all those IOUs and that takes a bit of time. He will penalize those who voted for him reluctantly and the 19 who voted against him. Sore winner!"

• "St. Patty's Day would be preferable, but that just ain't gonna happen."

• "What's the hurry?"

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If the Senate has a dozen committees this session, how many Democratic chairmen will Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appoint?

• "He must fulfill his campaign promise."

• "More than 0, but not by much."

• "You can have them pissing in or out the tent. Patrick's call!"

• "He better not cut out the Democrats for as Bob Bullock discovered when he axed the Republican chairs, idle hands are the devil's workshop."

• "He doesn't want to give the wily Dems (I hear you laughing) too much time to get mischievous."

• "Two of twelve. And they will be crappy committees at that."

Play pundit: What will be the biggest surprise when committee appointments are announced?

• "The Senate will have a special committee on education apart from its standing committee. The special committee will be created to allow the standing committee to handle its normal workload while the special committee looks at 'reform' issues and 'savings.' All this is to say school vouchers will be the number one education priority for Patrick."

• "Sen. Bettencourt named freshman chairman"

• "Repub primary voters will be SHOCKED that Dan Patrick actually will appoint 2 Democratic chairs after he PROMISED them than NO Democrats would receive Chairmanships!"

• "Senate freshmen as chairs. "

• "Patrick will replace Nelson on Finance."

• "Straus doesn't send the 19 to Siberia like past Speakers would have done."

• "Hunter won't be at Calendars"

• "Whitmire will not chair anything"

• "Paul Bettencourt will chair and serve as poster child for the Tough Nut Committee."

• "The number of Sophomore House members that are Committee Chairs."

• "The biggest surprise will be that there are no big surprises. Standard chairmen. They’ll move around a little, but same people. Same leadership. Boring will be the surprise"

• "In the Senate, no D's as committee chairs or vice chairs. "

Our thanks to this week’s participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Victor Alcorta, Brandon Alderete, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Walt Baum, Amy Beneski, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, David Cabrales, Elna Christopher, Harold Cook, Kevin Cooper, Randy Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Glenn Deshields, Holly DeShields, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Craig Enoch, Jack Erskine, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Tom Forbes, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Scott Gilmore, Eric Glenn, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, Jim Grace, Thomas Graham, John Greytok, Clint Hackney, Bill Hammond, Susan Hays, John Heasley, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Laura Huffman, Jason Johnson, Mark Jones, Russ Keane, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Dale Laine, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Leslie Lemon, Ruben Longoria, Matt Mackowiak, Jason McElvaney, Mike McKinney, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Keir Murray, Nelson Nease, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Sylvia Nugent, Todd Olsen, Gardner Pate, Robert Peeler, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Karen Reagan, Tim Reeves, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Carl Richie, Jeff Rotkoff, Tyler Ruud, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Nancy Sims, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Mark Smith, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Bill Stevens, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Sherry Sylvester, Sara Tays, Jay Thompson, Gerard Torres, Trey Trainor, Corbin Van Arsdale, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Alex Winslow, Angelo Zottarelli.

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