The threat of armed protests at the State Capitol led the Texas Department of Public Safety to heighten security, and the pandemic forced COVID testing and masks for all who entered. Amid the distractions, the 87th session of the Texas State Legislature officially gaveled in on Tuesday afternoon.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick opened the State Senate proceedings talking about the importance of ensuring that COVID restrictions don’t impede the legislative process. “Do we care about you?” questioned Patrick. “We want our Capitol open this session. Unlike many States, we want the public to be here; to be able to testify and have your voice heard in committees to visit your representatives. It's clearly not a session maybe for tours of the Capitol and check out the paintings. We want to be sure that everyone is here is to do the people's business as we are, but we're going to be open to the best of our ability throughout the session. And we do care about your safety and your health.”
The Legislature is expected to take up the official COVID restrictions to govern the session over the next couple days.
Governor Greg Abbott visited the Texas House and Senate Chambers to deliver opening day remarks for the start of the Legislature. The Governor urged the members of the House and Senate to work together over the next 140 days to tackle the issues that matter most to Texans across the state.
"Over the next 140 days, we have the opportunity to not only respond to the challenges we face, but we also have an opportunity to put Texas on a trajectory to a future of even greater hope and opportunity," said Governor Abbott. "Now more than ever, Texans need the Legislature to succeed this session. But equally important, America needs Texas to lead the way. If we do this, then we will chart a course towards a healthier, safer, freer, and more prosperous future for every Texan."
The Texas House elected State Representative Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) 143-2 with 4 absent to be the 76th Speaker. In his acceptance speech Phelan said in order to unleash the state’s full potential and emerge from this challenge (pandemic) Texas children and educators must continue to be at the top of their legislative agenda. He also spoke of the need to continue to grow the economy saying, “To get Texans back to work, we must protect our citizen’s health and safety. We must revitalize our economy. We must reduce burdens and regulation that impedes our business climate. We can do all this while balancing the budget without shifting the financial burden or of recovery to our hardworking families.”
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick released the following statement regarding Phelan’s election:
"I want to congratulate Speaker Dade Phelan on his election as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. Dade is an accomplished leader who will be ready on day one to take on the tough challenges we are facing this legislative session. I know our collaboration will lead to bold, positive public policy for the people of Texas and the future of our state. I look forward to working with him."