Lawmakers kicked off the 85th Legislative in Austin Tuesday afternoon.
Speaker Joe Straus was re-elected in a unanimous 150-0 vote by members of the Texas House Tuesday.
First elected in 2009, this will be the Republican’s fifth term as House Speaker.
Once sworn in, Straus stepped up to the podium and delivered a speech to the packed House chamber. Straus discussed his priorities and philosophy for the session.
“Compromise has become a dirty word in politics,” Straus said. “It’s a good word in this House.”
On the other side of the Capitol, lt. Governor Dan Patrick welcomed the state’s 31 senators and their families.
The day before session began, Patrick said he and Straus “will work together well this session.”
Patrick continued, “There is always a little drama during the session, you all know that, between the House and Senate, two different views.”
Patrick is anxious to pass an aggressive and conservative agenda through the Senate.
The director of The Texas Politics Project, Jim Henson said, “The senate has been much more focused on very ideologically driven issues, social issues involved with guns, abortion, and now gay-marriage and gender rights.”
Straus has faced criticism from fellow Republicans who consider him to be too moderate.
Henson said, “The House has been much more focused in recent sessions on economic issues like infrastructure and tax reform.”
Governor Greg Abbott addressed the House and Senate on the opening day of the session and in both chambers the Governor called for unity.
“We may be from political parties but we unite under one Capitol dome,” Governor Abbott said.
All three of the state’s top leaders have said lawmakers need to tackle problems in Texas’ Child Protective Services.
“Obviously CPS, that’s a top priority, you’re going to see a lot of time and energy put into that,” said
Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock).
Democrats also named the issue as an important and urgent issue that needs to be addressed. “One [issue] is CPS, obviously,” said Garnet Coleman (D-Houston)
That’s one of the very few areas where there is across the board consensus that something needs to be done and that ‘something’ will probably cost some money.
Gov. Abbott could declare CPS an ‘emergency issue,’ which enables the legislature act more quickly than they would under the normal rules.
The budget is also a top line issue for lawmakers.
Money will be tighter than last session, largely due to a decline in the oil and gas business.
That means lawmakers will likely say “no” a lot more than they did two years ago and programs will have to play defense with their funding.
Day one of session is very ceremonious, there is more celebration than substance but now that lawmakers have been sworn in and appointments have been made, legislators will be ready to get down to business Wednesday.