AUSTIN (KXAN) — When the state legislature convenes next month for the 88th regular legislative session, the composition of the Texas House of Representatives will include the most women ever.
The November election resulted in the number of female House members growing to 45, so they’ll soon make up 30% of the 150 seats in the lower chamber. The most growth is happening in the Republican caucus. The number of GOP women in the Texas House will double to 13, as seven female candidates emerged victorious from their respective elections.
Ellen Troxclair, the former Austin City Council member, will serve as the new representative for House District 19, which stretches into several Hill Country counties. Ahead of her taking office, the Republican already filed three bills, including one that would ban other Texas cities from copying Austin in creating a guaranteed income program.
“Young Republican women are ready to step up and do our part to protect our families and our communities,” Troxclair said, “and I’m just really thrilled to be a part of this class who I think are going to bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table and do good things for our state.”
The Democratic ranks in the Texas House will grow to 32 women, including the newest addition, Lulu Flores of Austin. She’ll represent House District 51.
“That is music to my ears,” Flores said during an interview with KXAN.
She previously served as president of the National Women’s Political Caucus, an organization that seeks to increase women’s political participation.
She finds it fitting now to start her time in office alongside a record number of other women, but she’d like to see more progress made.
“The more inclusive a body can be, I think, the better results you have because you have more voices at the table,” Flores said. “I’m hopeful that having more women in the legislature will add our perspectives and will bring those issues that we’ve had to deal with, and our experiences will come to bear on finding solutions — real practical solutions to things and equitable solutions.”
This high mark for female representation in the state legislature comes 100 years after voters elected the first woman to a seat in the Texas House. Edith Eunice Wilmans served only one term representing Dallas from 1923-1925, according to the Legislative Reference Library of Texas.
Sherri Greenberg, a former state lawmaker who is now a professor of practice at the University of Texas at Austin, said research shows more women serving in a legislative body help to build better consensus and raise specific issues to the forefront.
According to analysis published in the American Journal of Political Science, for example, two researchers found that congresswomen secure roughly 9% more spending from federal discretionary programs than congressmen. They also said women sponsor and cosponsor significantly more bills than their male colleagues.
“When you look at policies, of course, it varies according to the philosophies and parties of women — you can’t stereotype women, right?” Greenberg said. “However, there are some policies that you see that gain traction: for instance, maternal health, early childhood, health insurance. Some policies like that seem to gain traction, and in a bipartisan way, when more women are elected.”
She said she’d now like to see representation in elected offices statewide mirror the number of women participating as voters and living in Texas.
“I hope that by increasing the number of women who are elected to the Texas legislature that you will continue to see more progress on many of those issues that are nonpartisan and bipartisan,” Greenberg said, “particularly in workforce and health care and childcare, and some of those issues that are fundamental to everyone in our society.”
New female members of the Texas House
- Ellen Troxclair, House District 19
- Caroline Harris, House District 52
- Carrie Isaac, House District 73
- Angelia Orr, House District 13
- Terri Leo Wilson, House District 23
- Janie Lopez, House District 37
- Kronda Thimesch, House District 65
- Lulu Flores, House District 51
- Mihaela Elizabeth Plesa, House District 70
- Josey Garcia, House District 124
The 88th Legislative Session starts Jan. 10.