The beginning of each legislative session is an opportunity for returning members and newly-elected legislators to get to know one another. While each member is there to do the same job of representing the needs of his or her constituency, each legislators' background is unique. Through other members, legislators learn about issues facing Texans across the state that may be specific to their areas. Since there are thirty-seven new members, nearly 25% of total membership, returning members are busy teaching "freshmen" the ropes.
Seniority and personal preference are major factors in determining committee assignments. The backgrounds of the legislators are important in deciding on which committees they will serve. Occupation, community activities and the geographical location of the district help the Speaker determine to which committees members can most effectively contribute.
The diverse occupations of members make the legislature a truly unique atmosphere. Over 11% of the members list farming/ranching/agriculture as their primary or secondary occupation. There is a flight instructor, horse breeder, chiropractor, car dealer, minister, architect and a pharmacist. Seven members are insurance agents, while three are engineers.
The majority of members are businessmen and businesswomen. Some are restaurant owners while some others are CEO's of large companies. Businessmen and businesswomen make up about 40% of the composition of the House. Attorneys with a myriad of specialties lend their expertise to the legislative process, making up 32% of the House membership.
Members' districts are as diverse as the individual members are, ranging from large rural areas to densely populated urban areas. The largest House district in terms of square mileage is represented by Rep. Pete Gallego from Alpine in West Texas. His district is composed of 13 counties and encompasses 38,733 square miles. The smallest house district is District 137 in Houston and is represented by Rep. Scott Hochberg. This district measures only 14 square miles. By comparison our district, comprised of Fannin and Grayson Counties, contains 1,874 square miles.
I encourage you to contact me with your questions or comments regarding state issues. My office has established a local phone number which will be forwarded to me in Austin to save you the cost of a long distance call. This number is (903) 891-7297. You can also reach me by writing to P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768-2910 or by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Mike Barnett