Dennis Bonnen, a Republican representing an area just south of Houston, was unanimously elected to serve as Texas House Speaker.
Members of the House voted unanimously in support of Bonnen to oversee the House’s legislative business.
“There being a 147 ayes, 0 nayes and pursuant to the constitution and laws of the State of Texas I declare the honorable Dennis Bonnen of Brazoria County to be the duly-elected Speaker of the House for the 86th Legislature of the State of Texas,” a House clerk announced.
Bonnen succeeds Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican.
After being sworn in, Bonnen’s speech to his fellow state representatives emphasized consensus and collaboration on a number of issues, including reforming the state’s school finance system.
“These are complicated issues that can no longer wait. You might even call them intimidating but we can advance on them together if we change our perspective and our language,” Bonnen said.
Bonnen, pushing the issue of school finance, went as far as to stock the House members’ lounge with coffee cups reading, “School Finance Reform, The Time Is Now.”
That was also a legislative priority echoed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who spoke to both chambers on the first day of the session, providing them a preview of his State of the State address scheduled for Feb. 5.
“We are going to reform school finance in the state of Texas this session and we are going to reform property taxes in the state of Texas this session,” Abbot said.
Abbott also said reforming the state’s mental health system and ensuring that schools are safe were also two of his top priorities this session.
The only person not on hand to kick off the session was Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate.
Traditionally the lieutenant governor calls the Senate to order on the first day of the session but this year that duty was passed down to State Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican.
“(Patrick) was called by the White House for an important meeting in Washington to discuss some issues that are critical to Texas. The lieutenant governor’s schedule is not the White House schedule so when you get the call to go to Washington, you go to Washington,” Nelson said.
Patrick’s office said in an email thatPatrick was called by the Trump administration for an important meeting on border security issues, ahead of the President Trump’s speech Tuesday and planned a visit to the Texas border on Thursday.