Unlike the House, the Texas Senate is saving the drama for another day.
While the House chamber was abuzz with Speaker race chatter, it was a rather anticlimactic first day in the Senate, aside from lots of ceremonious handshaking and even more Kodak moments. The Senate’s first big order of business—debating whether to alter the two-thirds rule—should come later this week.
Gov. Rick Perry delivered a short speech to senators today, calling this session “historic” and emphasizing two emergency issues that should be taken up immediately—private property rights and “abolishing sanctuary cities,” the latter of which received scant applause. “Both of these relate to the safety and security of citizens,” he said. “And most of all, we relate them to our liberty.”
Perry left for the House after several minutes of working the room, and Senate members started on their Steve Ogden love-fest, nominating and then unanimously voting the Bryan Republican and Finance Committee chair to the president pro tempore position.
Ogden then delivered a rather policy-heavy acceptance speech. The first day of the session is usually all pomp and ceremony, but here was Ogden talking about Medicaid reimbursement and school finance. It was so policy-heavy that some eyes started to glaze over.
Ogden called for reform of Medicaid—“Our first job is to figure out how to save Medicaid”—the school finance system and the business tax. He said the business (or margins) tax that lawmakers passed in 2006 was “underperforming” by more than $2 billion a year. “None of us were elected to raise taxes on anybody, but the margins tax is different,” he said. The business tax has to bring in more money or property taxes will go up, Ogden said. It was refreshing to hear a high-ranking Republican acknowledge the need for more revenue. The Senate adjourned till 11 a.m. tomorrow, when the real work begins.