AUSTIN, Texas — The ceremony often dominates opening day at the state legislature, but some official business regularly gets accomplished in the initial hours.

In the Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday, members overwhelmingly re-elected Dade Phelan as Speaker.

The Republican from Beaumont then announced a number of legislative priorities in his three-page opening remarks. Among them was how lawmakers should address the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last May.

Loading ...

“We owe it to the memory of those children and teachers to make sensible, meaningful change,” Phelan said. “This is going to be an especially tough conversation, but this body has proven capable of handling tough conversations in the past. I am confident we will do so again.”

With that, Phelan challenged fellow Republicans.

After the 2018 school shooting in Santa Fe, state lawmakers voted to further harden school campus. It is unclear what kinds of legislation that conservatives would support now after Uvalde.

Texas Democrats want to raise the legal age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. The school shooter in Uvalde just turned 18 and legally purchased firearms.

“I think we need to really evaluate who should have guns in our state of Texas. And I’m not advocating we take folks guns so if you hear just a part of my statement that is not my statement. My statement is gun control needs to be dealt with responsibly,” said state Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Duncanville.

But Texas conservatives also said they want to pursue doctors who perform sex changes on people under 18, rein in district attorneys who do not prosecute violent criminals, and Phelan said he also wants to protect minors from social media apps.

But what might that legislation look like? Will lawmakers ban children from using social media apps, like state Rep. Jared Patterson proposed to WFAA in July.

State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, and the new chairman of Texas House Republican Caucus said he supports that idea on the surface.

Loading ...

“We’ll see what it says. We’re at the beginning of the session and so many bills have already been filed and people are like ‘oh my gosh, look at this bill [or] ‘I can’t believe it’ or ‘go, go, go’ whereas you don’t know if it’s even going to get a hearing,” Goldman explained.

But lawmakers will also debate how to spend a $32 billion dollar surplus.

Republicans want to use a large portion of it to reduce the state’s constantly rising property taxes.

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, and the new chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said he would like to divvy up surplus cash and let Texans decide whether to spend it on property taxes or anything else.

“We have one thing to do in this building as mandated by the constitution. That’s to adopt a budget. This budget is going to have extra money in it, so we have the extra added bonus of actually doing something to help people. When we’re done with that, if Republicans want to have a culture war and we want to play dog whistle politics, well let’s lock the door and go all night if we have to. Let’s go all weekend if we need to but let’s take care of the people’s business first,” Martinez Fischer explained.

It takes the legislature a few weeks to spin up into action.

On Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., members of the House will engage in what’s likely to be a lively debate about the rules that chamber will use over the next five months.

Committee leaders will be named in a couple of weeks and then the work of crafting new Texas laws actually begins.