The 83rd Texas Legislature convened yesterday with appropriate pomp and circumstance. The so-called contest for the Speaker of the House was a non-event with challenger David Simpson (R-Longview) withdrawing and Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) being elected by acclamation. I only saw reports on one lawmaker who proudly and publicly announced he would have voted for Simpson had he not withdrawn. That doesn’t mean there weren’t others, but perhaps they saw no benefit in expressing opposition to the winner. Straus’s acceptance speech called for budget transparency and work on the state’s energy, water and transportation needs.
The Senate ceremony was mostly devoted to the selection and swearing in of Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) as the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate. In her acceptance speech Van de Putte called for restoration of education funding cuts and for a true spirit of compromise during the legislative session.
Both the Senate and the House will be adopting rules later this week. The Texas Tribune reports Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stating that the Senate would retain the two-thirds rule (requiring two-thirds of senators to agree to bring a bill to the Senate floor) although some are still speculating that there may be some specific exceptions to the rule as there have been in the last two legislative sessions.
Gov. Rick Perry gave the same speech to both chambers in which he urged fiscal restraint and tax relief in light of the increased revenue estimates, pushed transparency in budgeting and suggested it was time to address infrastructure issues.
The trend of the session became a little clearer this morning when Perry, Dewhurst and Straus “announced in a press conference that they agree on maintaining an austere budget” according to the Dallas Morning News’ Trailblazer blog. Straus said work could still be done on the infrastructure needs while keeping fiscal discipline.