The 87th Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 12 and it will be a tense time as lawmakers wait to learn their committee assignments.

The assignments make a difference in what issues will be the main focus for the legislatures during the new session. Some of the spots are more coveted than others because they provide more access to power or the state's pursestrings. 

Seniority plays a part in the committee selection as well as other factors, like where the district is located and what expertise the lawmaker may have.

Senate Committee spots are assigned by the Lt. Governor, who presides as President of the Senate.

During the 86th Legislature, Third District State Senator Robert Nichols was chairman of the Transportation Committee. He was also Vice-Chair of the Business and Commerce Committee.

Nichols, from Jacksonville has represented the 19 county district, which includes Henderson County, since 2007.

There are 55 standing committees in the Legislature, which means they operate on a permanent basis. 

In the Texas House Fourth District, Representative Keith Bell is beginning his second term. During the past session, he was on the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and the Public Education Committee.

During the session, he authored, either alone or jointly, 31 bills. 

Many were of a local nature, such as recognizing City of Athens Day or Cedar Creek Lake Area Day at the capitol. Others, like House Bill 4106 dealt with statewide issues.

HB 4106, which he co-authored, proposed to increase the penalty for certain types of intoxication assault cases. The bill was left pending in committee.

Another bill, HB 1625, made it a criminal offense for a person to file a false report of criminal conduct against an emergency responder. The bill was referred to the Criminal Justice Committee.

House Committee assignments are made by the Speaker of the House.

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