By Matt Briscoe
Austin–The 86th Texas Legislature kicked off in Austin today with the normal fanfare and ceremonies that come along with the day. One notable absence from today’s events was Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who we are told by staffers, was “summoned to Washington for urgent business pertaining to Texas.” Patrick’s absence came of somewhat of a surprise, as he has been uncharacteristically quiet since the November elections where he narrowly defeated Democrat candidate Mike Collier.
Meanwhile at the Capital, there were the normal swearing in ceremonies in both the House and over here in the Senate. Members of both chambers took their oaths of Office with family, friends and invited guests in tow.
From there it was right down to the formal business where over in the House, Angelton area Republican Dennis Bonnen was elected overwhelmingly as the new Speaker of the House, replacing the now former Speaker from the San Antonio area, Joe Strauss. The vote was 147 votes cast in favor with 0 nays. There were however 3 seats not present for the vote.
Across the rotunda in the Senate, a similar act played out under the watchful eye of Senator Jane Nelson who was at the gavel for the absent Lieutenant Governor, who among other things presided over the Senate chamber. After the required swearing in ceremony on the green carpet, the main order of business was to nominate a President Pro Tem of the Senate.
That honor went to Austin area democrat Kirk Watson who is now in his 7th Legislative session. Watson was nominated by the Dean of the Senate, longtime Houston area Senator John Whitmire. The President Pro Tem is largely a ceremonial title however, in the absence of both the Governor and Lt. Gov., Watson would in effect serve as the replacement.
Back over in the House, Governor Abbott took to the lectern to welcome the legislature back to work. In doing so, Abbott committed that this session would be the session where the lege finally fixes property taxes.
There was the formal procedure of adopting temporary rules and the temporary placement off staff, a procedural move that is required in the Legislature on the first day of session.
After a light, but busy day the chambers were adjourned until Wednesday morning where more parliamentary and governance procedures will take place.
Neither chamber will be able to cast votes on legislation until the 60th day of the session—a formality in place during every session. This is largely the time where members continue to file bills, take committee assignments, listen to filed bills in committee and generally get the feel for the legislative priorities of the session.
The House stands adjourned until 10:00 a.m. Wednesday. The Senate gavels in at noon.