SENATE KICKS OFF 84TH SESSION
|Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst bade farewell to the Texas Senate, where he has presided for the past 12 years.|
(Austin) — The Senate of the state of Texas opened the 20 week session Tuesday, welcoming eight new members and saying farewell to a longtime leader. Eight newly-elected Senators took their oath of office from outgoing Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, serving his last opening day as the body's presiding officer. The Senate took time to honor the man who has led the body for the past 12 years, calling him an effective and fair leader who truly loved the state. "I think we've made Texas better," said Dewhurst about his 12 year tenure. "More people have jobs than ever in the history of the State of Texas, the crime rate is down and if you look at the statistics, our children are getting a better education."
Following the outcome of the runoff election in Senate District 26, a total of nine new members will join legislative veterans to meet a number of challenges laid out at a press conference last week by Lt. Governor-elect Dan Patrick, who will officially take office alongside Governor-elect Greg Abbott at next Tuesday's Inauguration. Patrick highlighted border security, education, and tax cuts as some of his top priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
State budget writers will have $113 billion to work with, according to the Comptroller's revenue estimate released on Monday, $12 billion more than the state had available in 2013. Comptroller Glenn Hegar said that strong state economic growth and higher than expected sales tax collections will put more money in state coffers for the 2016-2017 budget that lawmakers will craft this session. Hegar said his office projects that the state economy will continue modest growth for the next biennium. Falling oil prices, he said, have dampened the forecast for the next two years, but a more diverse state economy means that many sectors of the economy will benefit from lower prices and consumers paying less at the pump will have more money in their pockets. This along with the improving national economy, said Hegar, will help Texas weather the current slowdown in the state energy industry.
|McAllen Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa was sworn in as President Pro Tempore of the Senate for the 84th Legislative session, putting him third in line for the governorship.|
Also Tuesday the Senate elected Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa of McAllen as its new President Pro Tem. The President Pro Tem stands third in line for the governorship, and serves in that capacity whenever the Governor and Lt. Governor are out of the state. Traditionally, the President Pro Tem is feted as "Governor for a Day" later in the session, when the top two statewide officials leave the state on a Saturday to allow the Senate and state to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of the man or woman who holds that seat.
Hinojosa was praised by his colleagues for his integrity, bipartisanship and honesty. "Senator Hinojosa is a senator's Senator," said Senate Dean John Whitmire. "You are the one that the freshmen and others can look to as a model of what a senator is supposed to be about." Hinojosa was instrumental last session in the creation of a new medical school in South Texas and has served as Vice Chair of the Senate Finance committee for the past five sessions.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, January 15th at 1 p.m.