Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is the Man of the Texas Senate and his first serious act as the No. 2 man in state government is complete: He’s filled Senate committee chairs.
By the looks of it, he more or less made good on a campaign pledge by putting almost all Republicans in those chairs. Two of the chairmanships went to Democrats — John Whitmire at Criminal Justice and Eddie Lucio at Intergovernmental Affairs.
Patrick had suggested during the 2014 campaign he might go all-Republican if he was elected.
The tradition of past lieutenant governors has been to sprinkle chairmanships a bit more liberally — if you’ll pardon the expression — to senators from the opposing party. Patrick doesn’t much adhere to Senate tradition, though, as Texans soon will learn.
Patrick’s immediate predecessor, David Dewhurst, followed that lead, as did his immediate predecessor, Bill Ratliff, and the man before him, Rick Perry, and the man who preceded Perry, the late Bob Bullock.
Lucio, I should add, got the chairmanship after voting with Republicans to do away with another Senate tradition — the two-thirds rule that required at least 21 votes in the Senate to send any measure to a full vote. What the heck, you do what you gotta do, correct?
As for payback in reverse, longtime GOP Sen. Craig Estes was denied a chairmanship after he abstained on the same vote. Did one thing have to do with the other? Well, I’m just askin’.
Perhaps the most closely watched chairmanship selection focused on the Education Committee. Amarillo’s Republican Sen. Kel Seliger has wanted to chair that panel. He sought it actively. However, he and Patrick aren’t exactly close, so the Education gavel went to Larry Taylor of Friendswood. Seliger’s consolation prize was to retain his chairmanship at Higher Education.
I guess that will be enough to sustain Seliger’s interest as the Senate slogs through its business.
But the place won’t be as friendly as it has been for, oh, most of the past century.