The Texas House speaker wants to investigate the series of conflicting reports surrounding the timeline of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, as well as the police response. Republican Speaker Dade Phelan announced an investigative committee on Friday, along with another committee to look into policy decisions outlined by Gov. Greg Abbott in response to the Uvalde shooting.
Philip Jankowski covers Texas politics for The Dallas Morning News. He’s based in the Austin bureau. He told Texas Standard the House is going beyond Abbott’s request to create special committees to take up policy topics in light of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde.
“It’s a three-person panel that is being tasked with investigating the shooting itself,” Jankowski said. “So instead of just looking at this from a policy standpoint, which I know that they will use part of what they are going to learn, this is more about examining the actual sequence of events and the police response into the horrible tragedy.”
Phelan is also heeding Abbott’s to address certain policy topics related to the Uvalde mass shooting including school safety, mental health and gun safety to name a few. Instead of naming new committees like the Senate did, however, the House is issuing new charges to the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee as well as adding new lawmakers whose districts have been affected by mass shootings to serve on the House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety.
“There has been a lot of criticism that these are just going to be another committee that’s going to come out with recommendations,” Jankowski said. “And that, you know, in the case of the roundtables that happened after Santa Fe and El Paso and Midland Odessa, there were recommendations for firearm restrictions and basically none of them were adopted.”
Listen to the full interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Why did Speaker Phelan say he wanted an investigative committee to look into the circumstances surrounding the Uvalde shooting? Was that something the governor called for?
Philip Jankowski: The governor requested special committees in both the House and the Senate to look at solutions, possible legislation. But this is something different. It’s a three-person panel that is being tasked with investigating the shooting itself. So instead of just looking at this from a policy standpoint, which I know that they will use part of what they are going to learn, this is more about examining the actual sequence of events and the police response into the horrible tragedy.
It seems like there are already investigations on that score. I think the Texas Rangers, perhaps DPS, are looking into that range of questions?
And the Justice Department. And the Uvalde County District Attorney’s Office. There are several different agencies looking at this. But I think that at the least it appears that the speaker is very concerned with what has sort of unfolded in the days since the massacre, the sort of the drip, drip, drip of incorrect information that is being corrected. And just the revelation that all of those officers were in the halls of Robb Elementary School for like 45 minutes before they entered the classroom has really led to these investigations. And I think the speaker, I know he’s at least been on Twitter, talking about how people need to know about what happened during that time. So that’s what I think that this investigative committee is all about.
What sort of committees has the House created and who will be chairing them?
Speaker Phelan hasn’t created any new committees, but he’s responded by picking several members of the House that represent areas that have been affected by mass shootings to serve on the Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety. And he’s also put new charges on the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. Basically, that is his response to the governor’s call to have special committees on this.
Have Phelan, Patrick or Abbott responded to the feeling voiced by many Texans that these actions are just window dressing?
None of them have certainly come out and said that they are in favor of calling a special session, something that the governor would have to do in order to address any sort of legislative goals in response to this. There have been calls from a multitude of Democrats, a few Republicans, for a special session, mainly seeking new restrictions on firearms, red flag laws, universal background checks, raising the age on semiautomatic rifles, purchases to 21.
But yeah there has been a lot of criticism that these are just going to be another committee that’s going to come out with recommendations. And that, you know, in the case of the roundtables that happened after Santa Fe and El Paso and Midland Odessa, there were recommendations for firearm restrictions and basically none of them were adopted. So that’s kind of what a lot of Democrats are afraid is going to happen this time around.