Texas Legislature 2019

Most members of the Texas Legislature are white men — and so are the committee chairs

Four out of every five committee chairs this session are men, and 72 percent of chairs are white.

A view of the house floor during the second day of the 86th legislative session. Jan. 9, 2019.

Texas Legislature 2019

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

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Just about any way you slice it, power at the Texas Capitol skews white and male. But when you look at the legislators appointed to wield the most power, the underrepresentation of people of color and women is even more marked.

Four out of every five committee chairs are men, and 72 percent of chairs are white. Already holding a majority of seats in the Legislature, white legislators and male legislators are even more overrepresented among those who largely serve as gatekeepers of legislation at the Capitol.

The source of that discrepancy lies partly in the political makeup of chairs in the Senate, where all but two committees are led by Republicans — all of whom are white. The only Republican of color, Sen. Pete Flores of Pleasanton, is a freshman and was not appointed to chair a committee.

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Democratic state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville is the only person of color appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Republican who presides over the chamber, to chair a committee.

In the House, 13 of the 34 committees are led by people of color whose share of committee chairs is equal to their overall representation in the chamber. All but three of the legislators of color appointed to serve as chairs by Speaker Dennis Bonnen are Democrats. Rep. Angie Chen Button, the only woman of color among the Republican ranks, once again was appointed to chair a committee.

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In the Senate, women hold a slightly larger share of committee chairs than they do seats. But in the House, women are underrepresented among committee chairs. They hold 22 percent of seats in the chamber but just 15 percent of committee chairs.

The share of women appointed to serve as chairs this legislative session is down compared with the last legislative session, when former Speaker Joe Straus appointed women to lead about 18 percent of the committees. They were slightly underrepresented at the time.

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