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The Selection of Committee Chairs

The Selection of Committee Chairs

A committee chair serves as the parliamentary head of a committee. The chair sets the committee’s agenda, determining when—or in many states, whether—bills will be considered. Other responsibilities of a committee chair typically include: 

  • Calling the committee together to perform its duties.
  • Presiding and maintaining order over meetings.
  • Deciding all questions of order subject to appeal.
  • Supervising and directing the staff of the committee.
  • Preparing, or supervising the preparation of, reports of the committee for submission to the body.
  • Taking custody of all papers referred to the committee and transmit them to the clerk of the chamber as required. 

Because committees play such a key role in the legislative process and significant power frequently is given to the chair, committee leadership selections are carefully considered by the body's designated "appointing authority." But who is the appointing authority?  

Most often, it is the presiding officer of a legislative assembly. In 63 of the nation's 99 legislative chambers, committee chairs are appointed by the president of the Senate or the speaker of the House.

 

Alabama House
Louisiana Senate and House
Ohio Senate and House
Arizona Senate and House
Maine Senate and House
Oklahoma House
Arkansas House
Maryland Senate and House
Oregon Senate and House
California Assembly
Massachusetts Senate and House
Pennsylvania House
Colorado House
Michigan House
Rhode Island Senate and House
Connecticut House
Minnesota House
South Dakota House
Delaware House
Mississippi Senate and House
Tennessee Senate and House
Florida Senate and House
Missouri House
Texas Senate and House
Georgia Senate and House
Montana House
Utah Senate and House
Hawaii Senate
Nevada Assembly
Vermont House
Idaho House
New Hampshire Senate and House
Virginia House
Illinois Senate and House
New Jersey Senate and General Assembly
West Virginia Senate and House
Indiana House
New Mexico House
Wisconsin Assembly
Iowa House
New York Assembly
Wyoming Senate and House
Kansas House
North Carolina House
 

 

Sometimes, another legislative leader—such as the president pro tem, the speaker pro tem or the majority leader—selects the committee chairs. This is true in 16 chambers.

 

Colorado Senate
Iowa Senate
North Carolina Senate
Connecticut Senate
Michigan Senate
North Dakota Senate and House
Delaware Senate
Missouri Senate
Oklahoma Senate
Idaho Senate
Nevada Senate
Pennsylvania Senate
Indiana Senate
New York Senate
South Dakota Senate

 

In 13 chambers, standing committee chairs are appointed by a committee—such as a committee on committees, rules committee or management committee.

 

Alabama Senate
Minnesota Senate
Washington Senate and House
California Senate and Assembly
Montana Senate
Wisconsin Senate
Kansas Senate
New Mexico Senate
 
Kentucky Senate and House
Vermont Senate
 

 
 There are other ways in which committee officers are selected. In some legislatures, a vote of the Senate or House is necessary.
  • In Alaska, the appointment reports made by the Senate and House Committees on Committees must be accepted by a vote of the respective chamber. 
  • In the Hawaii House, the majority party designates the standing committee chairs and vice chairs; the resolution with the appointments of all committee officers and members must be approved by a vote of the body, however.
  • The Nebraska Unicameral Legislature selects committee chairs by secret ballot on the floor. 
  • In the South Carolina House, each standing committee elects a chair from its membership. 

 

Seniority also may be the basis for committee chair selections. 

  • In the Arkansas Senate, the chair is the committee member from the majority party who has the most seniority.
  • In the South Carolina Senate, the chair is the committee member from the majority party who has the most committee seniority.
  • In the Virginia Senate, the chair is the committee member from the majority party who has the most seniority.  

Contact for More Information

Brenda Erickson
Legislative Management Program
NCSL - Denver
(303) 364-7700

 

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