The 87th Texas Legislature convened at noon January 12, 2021, with Department of Public Safety troopers in heavy attendance and full gear outside and throughout the Capitol and rapid COVID-19 testing tents set up at the north (the only public) entrance.
After working this week, both the Texas House and Senate intend to recess until January 26 due to an FBI warning that armed protests are anticipated at all 50 state capitols next week.
In the House
Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, was elected House Speaker by a near unanimous vote. Reps. Will Metcalf, Nicole Collier, and Rep. Joe Moody made nominating and seconding speeches for Phelan. Collier called him a “leader with integrity” and said she was impressed years ago when Phelan asked to sign on to a bill of hers, saying his wife said it was a good idea. (Phelan’s wife, whom he praised during today’s remarks, is a lawyer and president of the nonprofit Mental Health America of Southeast Texas.)
During his address, Speaker Phelan talked about challenges the Legislature faces, including COVID-19. “Texas children must be at the forefront,” he said. “We cannot fail them when they need us most.”
The speaker said that housekeeping and rules resolutions will be filed later today, with the housekeeping resolution to be voted on tomorrow and the rules resolution to be voted on Thursday. After the rules are adopted, he said that he intends for the House to adjourn until January 26. He added that member committee preferences are due to him next week.
In the Senate
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the Senate was concerned about health and safety for everyone, and “We are going to be open to the best of our ability.”
Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, will be elected Senate President Pro Tem, putting him third in the line of succession to the governorship.
The Senate voted to return tomorrow and then intends to adjourn until January 26. This afternoon there will be a caucus.
Gov. Greg Abbott spoke to the Senate and the House. He said he was looking forward to innovative solutions to address new challenges. “Last session was a tremendous success. … We passed sweeping reforms to our school finance system, and we made major investments in our students and in our teachers,” he said.
“Working together exactly the same way as last session,” he said, legislators should tackle the challenges posed by COVID-19 and do more to address the healthcare needs of our state. Other priorities were protecting officers and getting Texans back to work. “Now more than ever, America needs Texas to lead the way,” he told the Senate, and “America needs Texas to succeed” he told the House.