AUSTIN,Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The regular session of the Texas legislature got underway Tuesday shortly after noon.
With lawmakers now back in town Governor Greg Abbott issued a welcome and a warning. He told both House and Senate members the hard work before them will not be limited just to education reform and property tax cuts.
"We must address the challenges of the shootings that take place in our schools, to make sure our schools are a safer place for our kids. We must respond to the damages and challenges by Hurricane Harvey and other storms, and we must address and face up to the challenge of mental health in our time that I know Senator Nelson is leading the charge on,” said Governor Abbott.
In the House the vote tabulation board turned a solid green. The vote was for Dennis Bonnen, a Republican from Angleton, who was elected as the new Speaker. Bonnen essentially secured the position weeks before the session began by gaining commitments from Republicans and Democrats.
Tuesday he encouraged House members to work as friends and not let partisan politics get them sidetracked.
"I can tell you from experience the tough conversations are even tougher when they're between strangers, or even worse adversaries, that is why I have a charge for all of us, I want us to get to know one another even better,” said Speaker Bonnen.
In the Senate, Senator Kirk Watson was made President Pro-Tem. The Austin Democrat also offered a similar message of unity.
"Our priorities must be driven by their effects on all of our people especially the people who will define our future, it’s how good faith principles lead good servants to the common good,” said Watson.
While Watson’s selection is mostly symbolic, the Senator does become the leader of Texas when the Governor and Lt. Governor are out of state. So, technically, on this first day of the 86th Regular Session Watson was in charge at least in the Senate. Lt. Governor Patrick was in Washington at the White House where the president is ramping up the bitter partisan fight over border security.
The Lt. governor will be back in town Wednesday where he will hold a media briefing with the speaker and Governor Abbott.
It could provide an indication about how long unity under the dome will last.
It's unclear if Patrick will try to push another bathroom bill and Tuesday Speaker Bonnen said he didn't want that kind of distraction.