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Texas Legislature convenes in 85th regular session


Lawmakers gathered at the state Capitol in their respective houses on Jan. 10, opening day for the 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature. The 140-day session will conclude on May 29.

After taking the oath of office and being sworn in, the Texas House of Representatives, on a vote of 150-0, unanimously re-elected Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, to a fifth term as speaker of the House, tying a record for the most terms as speaker. Meanwhile, after being sworn in, the Texas Senate voted unanimously in favor of Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, as speaker pro tempore.

Seliger will wield the Senate gavel in the absence or temporary disability of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the 31-member body. Should the governor and lieutenant governor be temporarily unavailable, he will serve as governor in their absence.

Newly appointed Secretary of State Rolando Pablos conducted roll calls in the assembled House and the assembled Senate, and Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht administered the oath of office to each body.

In the coming days, while Speaker Straus and Lt. Gov. Patrick go about naming committees and assigning chairs and members to them, lawmakers will continue filing legislation. As of Jan. 10, House and Senate members had filed about 1,300 bills since Nov. 14, the first day “pre-filing” of legislation was allowed. Each bill proposes to create, amend, or repeal a state law. The total number of bills, not including resolutions, filed in an average session may grow to more than 6,000.

After Straus was re-elected as speaker, he delivered a 1,500-word speech. During his remarks, he said: “If you walk into a factory or a restaurant or a hospital, you will find citizens of different races, religions, and political beliefs working together every day. And that’s what Texans should expect of us. So let’s follow their example. Let’s govern with the same sense of goodness, the same humanity and decency that we so clearly recognize in the people we represent.”

Seliger, in wrapping up his comments after being elected Senate speaker pro tempore, called for the 85th Texas Legislature to be “the standard of deliberation, cooperation and leadership that should define service.”

Gov. Greg Abbott, in separate speeches to the House and to the Senate, told legislators: “We may bring different political perspectives, but we unite under one Capitol dome and a cause that’s bigger than any one person or any political party. It’s the cause that makes Texas far more than just a state. It’s the cause that makes Texas a passion. I pray that God blesses you and guides you during the next 140 days and that God forever blesses the great State of Texas.”

Monthly revenue distributed

Comptroller Hegar on Jan. 11 announced his office would send cities, counties, transit systems, and special purpose taxing districts $647.4 million in local sales-tax allocations for January.

The amount is 4.9 percent more than in January 2016. These allocations are based on sales made in November by businesses that report tax monthly.

“The cities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio continue to see significant increases in sales tax allocations,” Hegar said. “The cities of Houston and Sugar Land saw noticeable decreases in sales-tax allocations.”

Ed Sterling is the director of member services for the Texas Press Association in Austin.... Contact him at 512-477-6755 or

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