TEXAS — The 86th Texas Legislature is officially in session. Members of the Texas House of Representatives and Senate were sworn in shortly after noon Tuesday.
Representatives nominated and elected Republican Dennis Bonnen from Angleton to serve as Speaker. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers spoke in favor of his nomination, noting his leadership skills and ability to build a collaborative environment among the members.
Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio held the position of Speaker since 2009, but announced at the end of the 2017 Legislative Session that he was retiring.
Bonnen's election really comes as no surprise. He held a press conference in November announcing he secured more than enough votes to be elected Speaker of the House. And on the first day of the session, lawmakers unanimously elected him with a 147-0 vote.
Bonnen laid out his priorities for the session, saying fixing the state's broken school finance system is number one and he shared why he is so passionate about improving education for Texas children.
"My passion for education centers on the fact that I grew up a dyslexic kid in a small town at a time when there were almost no options available to students like me," Bonnen said. "My siblings excelled academically while I tried to understand how I fit in the Bonnen gene pool."
His other priorities include improving teacher retirement, improving CPS, fighting human trafficking, property tax reform and improving healthcare.
"Unlike Washington, Texas stands apart. We lead the nation by doing things our way. And we do it with strength, unity and resolve. We will once again rise to that occasion and serve as the nation’s model for effective governance," Bonnen added.
KVUE's Ashley Goudeau spoke with Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune recently. She asked him if he was surprised that Bonnen was named.
"Whenever (former Speaker of the House) Joe Straus was in his office working on something, Dennis Bonnen was in the chair. He's not an unfamiliar sight up on the dais swinging the gavel, talking to the parliamentarian," Ramsey said. "He knows how to run the House. He's pretty efficient at it. It's sort of the 'bada bing, bada boom' speaker when he's up there."
But Ramsey said the replacement will take some getting used to for members of the House and Senate and for state leaders.
"It's a reset in the relationships between the House and the Senate and the Senate and the House and the governor," Ramsey said. "So, you know, I think the first month of this is going to be sort of everybody sort of setting their relationships and we'll see how it goes from there."