Texas Legislature brings new leadership, renewed debates

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Texas lawmakers returned to work Tuesday to commence the 84th legislative session and take their oaths of office. Amid the usual pomp and circumstance of opening day ceremonies, the House floor voted on the speakership for the first time since 1975.

Second-term Rep. Scott Turner (R-Frisco) challenged incumbent Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), who easily secured a fourth term with a 127-19 vote. In his acceptance speech, Straus reminded representatives of their responsibility to their constituents.

“What happens on this floor isn’t about any single member, myself included,” Straus said. “This house is about something that’s bigger than all of us. It’s about a fair process that points us to a common ground.”

Straus is one of the few lawmakers returning to a top Texas political post since the largest shake-up election in a generation last November. Energized by a slew of landslide wins, Republicans have vowed to address issues such as border security, gun rights and education during the 140-day session.

In his acceptance speech, Straus gave his vote of confidence to the new Republican leadership, Gov.-elect Greg Abbott and incoming Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick.

“They lead a new generation of statewide officials a group that is ready to move this state forward with energy and new ideas,” Straus said.

Abbott will be sworn in Jan. 20, along with Patrick, who defeated incumbent David Dewhurst in last year's Republican primary.

The House will reconvene Wednesday morning, and the Senate will join the House on Thursday for a joint session.