Power and influence on the same page at the Capitol


AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Tuesday to start the 86th legislative session.

In the next few months, they’ll make decisions that will influence the size of your tax bill, the funding for your child’s school and a lot of other issues. The decisions made in Austin tend to affect your life more than the votes made by leaders in Washington.

This session, lawmakers plan to focus on paying for schools and cutting property taxes. Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen all say they’re on the same page when it comes to those big issues.

“We are going to work together,” Governor Abbott said during a joint news conference with Patrick and Bonnen. “Work swiftly to make sure we do the business of the people of Texas and address these challenges.”

The show of unity is different from the last legislative session. Former House Speaker Joe Straus was the chief foil to Patrick. Their disagreements came to a head over Patrick’s demand for a new law to restrict which restrooms transgender Texans could use. 

“It’s absurd that bathroom bills have taken on greater urgency than fixing our school finance system,” Straus said during the 2017 session.

The impasse over the bill led Governor Abbott to call a special session. In the end, the bathroom bill did not pass.

This year, Texas House members voted unanimously to make Bonnen their Speaker. The Angleton Republican has spent nearly half of his life serving in the House. His first session was in 1997 when he was 24 years old.

He’s also known for being intense and combative.

“I think it’s accurate that I’m tough. I’m passionate,” Bonnen said. “I will speak strongly on behalf of the House.”

But he also says he’ll work closely with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor on the big issues of school finance and property tax reform.

“It is our job to make sure that we are leading together on those issues,” Bonnen told reporters. “When people communicate, you solve big problems.”

As the session begins, the top state leaders seem optimistic.

“I think we’re going to have the best session we’ve ever had in the history of the state of Texas,” Patrick said.

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