AUSTIN - The 85th Texas Legislature gaveled in to session Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol in Austin.
Lawmakers from across the state were accompanied by their families as they took the oath of office at noon. The proceedings were mostly ceremonial, but both the House of Representatives and Senate elected leaders.
In the House, Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) was unanimously re-elected to serve as Speaker of the House this legislative session. Straus has served as Speaker since 2009 and representatives on both sides of the aisle have praised his leadership. He ran unopposed for speaker in this session.
During his address, Straus called for House republicans and democrats to work together this session to solve the challenges facing Texas.
"Compromise has become a dirty word in politics, but in reality, it's how we find common ground to achieve economic good. And it is a good word in this House," said Straus.
Straus also laid out his top priorities for the session, taking aim at school finance.
"Our school finance system may be the legal definition of constitutional, but parents and tax payers know something different. They know that the system is broken and they know that it is our job to fix it," Straus said as lawmakers applauded.
Straus also said he wants to address mental health, CPS and ensuring the Texas economy remains strong. Some of the hotly debated issues this session will also be the bathroom bill, bringing back voter ID and sanctuary cities.
Across the Capitol on the Senate floor hundreds of peopled gathered for the first day, including lawmakers' friends, family, and supporters.
The Texas Senators' first order of business was election state Sen. Kel Seliger to the position of Senate President Pro Tempore.
That position is in charge of the Senate if Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is out, and acts as governor if both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are out of the state.
Seliger represents the panhandle area of Texas, and was elected to the senate in 2004.
Five different senators spoke in favor of Seliger including Sen. Kirk Watson, who represents Travis and Bastrop Counties. Watson was elected to the senate in 2006, enjoys the first day of session.
"It's an exciting day, I'll tell you, I never lose the excitement of walking onto the senate floor, and realize what a special place I get to work, on behalf of the people in my district in the state of Texas," said Watson.
Newcomer state Sen. Dawn Buckingham represents Burnet and Llano counties said it's been a long road to get here.
"We are just so excited to be here so it's been a lot path, and so we just really appreciate everyone giving us the opportunity to come and serve," said Buckingham.
Both senators tell KVUE they're ready to get to work.
"This time we don't have as much money, but we have great need, yesterday we had a federal judge issue another interim order, for our child protective services, so we have real, real needs, so it's going to require us to I think hit the ground running, in ways sometimes we haven't had to in the past when there's been more money in the budget," said Watson.
He also said there should be more discussion on public education and mental health
"I'm very optimistic about things that I care about moving forward," said Watson. "I will say there are some things at this point because we're not seeing as much talk about public education as I think we should, I don't think we're moving quite as fast as we should be in the area of CPS, but I'm confident now that we'll be gavelled in, that that will speed up, so I'm hopeful."
"My experience with my small business and medical practice is really just that that government doesn't do much well, so lets have a reasonable approach to government, cut it down a little bit, then it will cost us less, and we'll pay fewer taxes, and lets really look at patient centered healthcare, and education that's really focused around the individual student, things like that," said Buckingham.
The 31 senators, made up of 20 republicans and 11 democrats, are set to return back to the Capitol Wednesday at 11 a.m. The 150 members of the House, 95 republicans and 55 democrats, will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
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