At the end of Speaker Bonnen's first session with the big gavel, consensus is that his even-handed approach gave the members more authority to legislate, especially out of committee. Is this true?
One way to examine is to compare the percentage and number of bills voted out of several key committees from the 84th to the 86th sessions.
In the above graph, the bars represent the percentage of bills passed out of committee of those referred to the committee and the circles reflect the total number of bills voted out for the 84th, 85th, and 86th sessions.
*** One caveat is that there were more committees in the 84th and 85th sessions than the 86th, so the numbers may be artificially higher for some committees. Another caveat is that the total number of bills filed (excluding resolutions) was slightly lower in the 86th (7,324) than the 85th (6,631) and 84th (6,276) for House and Senate bills, providing more opportunities for referrals. ***
In some committees, the percentage of bills voted out of committee was up from 84th: State Affairs, Public Education, Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence. Yet on others (Criminal Jurisprudence, Elections, and Juvenile Justice & Family Issues) the percentage and total bills went down. In County Affairs and Ways & Means, the percentage was more or less the same from the 84th to the 86th.
--> The big finding here is the increase in bills out of State Affairs -- the workhorse of the chamber and temporary home to many of the most important bills. Former Speaker Joe Straus drew ire from conservatives for using State Affairs as his personal legislative graveyard. The 86th session seems to have reversed that trend, at least temporarily.
It is hard to definitively say that Speaker Bonnen did not have his thumb on the committee scale (or that Speaker Straus did) but the increase in legislation out of key committees made many members happy as their bills got at least more of a puncher's chance to fight another day.