Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
The Texas Legislature has reached an overdue milestone in its history: Enough women lawmakers have now been elected over the course of 177 years to fill all 181 seats of a single legislative session, and then some.
The Legislature that convened Tuesday for its 2023 session is still mostly white and male. Seventy percent of lawmakers are men. At least 54% of lawmakers are white and nearly half are white men. But the incoming Legislature also has the highest number of women lawmakers in at least the last five sessions.
Though still significantly outnumbered by the more than 5,000 men who have served over the years, the addition of roughly a dozen new women lawmakers pushed the all-time tally of women elected to the state’s halls of power to 192 — up from 179 at the start of the last legislative session two years ago.
This year, women lawmakers took 54 of the 181 seats at the Capitol. There are twice as many Democratic women lawmakers as Republican. However, unlike in previous legislative sessions, there are far more Republican women in the House than lawmakers named “John.”
The Legislature is still far less diverse than Texas as a whole
While the share of white Texans continues to shrink, the racial and ethnic composition of the Legislature continues to fall short of matching the state’s demographics.
If the composition of the Legislature were aligned with the state’s demographics, there would be close to an equal number of Hispanic and non-Hispanic white lawmakers. Instead, there are still more than twice as many white legislators as Hispanic legislators. Hispanic Texans make up 40% of the population but hold just 25% of seats in the Legislature.
The dearth of diversity is particularly bad among Republicans, who hold a large majority of legislative seats. The GOP did make some strides in the last election. The number of Republicans of color increased from five at the start of the 2021 legislative session to 11 this year.
The return of state Sen. Pete Flores to the Capitol means Republicans in the Senate won’t all be white this legislative session. Flores became the first Hispanic Republican state senator after winning his seat in a 2018 special election upset. He lost reelection but made a comeback, in part thanks to redistricting.
Though largely outnumbered on a partisan basis, Democrats have a more diverse slate of lawmakers. Roughly half of Democrats in the Legislature are Hispanic, and there are more Black Democrats than there are white.
Age breakdown in Texas Legislature
The minimum age to serve in the Legislature is 21, but the Legislature trends older as a whole. In fact, the average age of state lawmakers has gone up over the last few legislative sessions.
The average age of a lawmaker this year is nearly 55. Senators tend to be older than House representatives, though the chamber is gaining younger members like Republicans Mayes Middleton, who is 41, and Morgan LaMantia, who at 36 will be the youngest senator.
Democratic state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the longest-serving woman and Black person in the history of the Legislature, is the oldest member at 84. State Rep. Caroline Harris, a first-year Republican lawmaker, is the youngest at 29.
The age group most represented at the Capitol is between 50 and 64.
Education breakdown in the state Legislature
The Legislature is a workplace where more than a third of members are attorneys, so most lawmakers have postgraduate degrees. Just 33% of adult Texans have bachelor’s degrees or higher.