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East Texas lawmakers land on legislative committees

By Glenn Evans
Jan. 31, 2013 at 11 p.m.

East Texas lawmakers won appointments Thursday to key legislative committees, including one area representative who will hit the ground running next week as a member of the state budget-writing House Appropriations Committee.

"We underfunded Medicaid last time, and that's got to be dealt with real quick," Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said of a supplemental budget bill that's needed to shore up the federal/state medical partnership that legislators funded for 18 months instead of 24 months when they met in 2011.

Coming into his sixth term in the Texas House, Hughes had asked Speaker Joe Straus for that committee assignment based on his seniority. Hughes opposed Straus when House members chose the San Antonio Republican to lead the lower chamber in Austin, first as a candidate and then as a supporter of Longview Republican David Simpson for the post.

Simpson bowed out on the first morning of the 83rd Legislative Session this past month, but concern remained that Straus would retaliate in the committee assignments he issued.

"(Appropriations) was a committee I requested based on my seniority, but still the speaker didn't have to give it to me," Hughes said. "We'll be preparing our budget, and once the Senate budget comes over - and depending on what it looks like - the House budget may be substituted for it."

Hughes is the only Northeast Texan on the Appropriations Committee.

Hughes also was named to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which vets bills dealing with the criminal code and courtroom procedures.

Simpson's assignments are to the County Affairs and Land & Resources committees. The later handles a range of bills including whether counties may create zoning regulations such as those within cities. It also is likely to field a request by the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority for authority to create Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones to attract businesses that in turn help fund highway projects in the zone.

The land and resources committee also is a natural for the lifelong timber man, one the sophomore lawmaker asked to join in his seniority request.

"I'm pleased with the assignments," Simpson said. "They both will help Gregg and Upshur counties."

Simpson's committees contrast somewhat with his 2011 assignments - Urban Affairs and Border & Intergovernmental Affairs, which saw little significant action that session.

He had made lemonade of those previous assignments, especially Urban Affairs, noting it put at least one rural member on the panel to vote against urban takeover.

"Perhaps this will give me an opportunity to vote 'yes' a little more," he said.

Freshman Republican Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall joins Simpson on Land & Resources. Paddie also was appointed to the Energy Resources Committee.

"Energy is an essential issue for East Texas and is one of the biggest economic drivers in our community," Paddie said in a statement. "I am looking forward to working on the Energy Resources Committee and continuing our trend in Texas of responsible energy production. Both of these committees are doing vital work in Texas, and I am proud to be a member of both."

Fellow first-time House member Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, captured seats on three committees including one that's brand new.

The Special Purpose Districts Committee forms this session to oversee bills related to groundwater conservation districts, hospital districts or other political entities that area residents decide at the ballot box to create.

Clardy also was appointed to the Local and Consent Committee, which fast-tracks noncontroversial bills such as ones honoring local heroes or designating dates such as Rusk County Day.

Clardy also landed on the Higher Education Committee, which puts him in the catbird seat for any legislation affecting Kilgore College or Stephen F. Austin State University.



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