Texas legislature reconvenes with calls for unity, potential conflict

The 88th Texas legislative session got underway Tuesday, Jan. 10 at noon. 

First in the agenda, Sen. Kelly Hancock was elected president pro-tem. Later, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke about the new record-breaking budget surplus and the opportunity it offers.

"This is a once in a generation opportunity to put the state on a course of excellence literally for generations to come," said Gov. Abbott.

Next month, Abbott will lay out his priorities for lawmakers. That will be done in his State of the State speech.

The House was gaveled in by newly appointed Secretary of State Jane Nelson who once served in both chambers.

"You come from big cities, small towns, and sea sides, and deserts, but no matter where you come from we are all Texans, Yes. Yes," said Nelson.

Nelson’s call for unity was immediately tested with the selection of house speaker. Freedom caucus members wanted a change.

"To my Democrat colleagues, I commend you, you're brilliant, you've created an environment where republicans believe we can only get a few wins each session," said State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R), Hunt County.

Dade Phelan won re-election with a 143 to 3 vote. Priorities for the speaker include:

  • Home appraisal reform
  • Providing better healthcare access
  • Reigning in what he described as rogue DA’s
  • Dependable energy
  • Youth safety, which includes gun violence & sexualization
  • Border security

"Words of caution, please do not confuse this body the one in Washington D.C.," said Speaker Phelan.

Day one featured a lot of talk about common ground, but hard political lines are set.

"I know which side I'm on, and I know which side I will fight for," said State Rep. Carrie Isaac (R), Hays County.

State Senator Sarah Eckhardt (D), Austin, said her fear is that the session will see more of what she calls, retribution politics.

"My hopes are that we will find good, effective, efficient, fair and minimally intrusive laws that will better the lives of regular Texas," said Eckhardt.

For 139 more days, the Texas capitol will be filled with advocates, lobbyists and residents. As winter committee debates begin, it will eventually lead to floor fights later this spring.