2011 Legislature Opening Day Liveblog

And they're back! Texas lawmakers returned to Austin on Tuesday to launch the 82nd Texas Legislature. In the House, they re-elected Republican HouseSpeaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, without the drama that has saddled them for months. In the staid Senate, they named Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, president pro tempore. Both chambers heard from Gov. Rick Perry, who announced his emergency legislative items: putting tougher limits on eminent domain and ending "sanctuary" cities in Texas. Our reporters were there and produced this live play-by-play. Also, because of a generous grant from the Open Society Institute, and thanks to the hard work of our friends at the court reporting firm Stratos Legal, we'll be providing daily transcripts of what transpires on the floor of both the House and Senate. We'll be posting the transcripts a few hours behind the real-time video; check here and here for opening day transcripts. 

 

Liveblog

by Elise Hu
I'm on the House side, where we're hearing the bells go off around here signaling that lawmakers are getting in their seats. Lots of folks on the floor for opening day, as all lawmakers are allowed to bring their family members onto the floor with them. Looks a lot like the first day of school.
by Elise Hu
A look at the near fire hazard situation on the House floor. (It's only this crowded on opening day.)
by Elise Hu
Secretary of State Hope Andrade has gaveled in the 2011 Texas House of Representatives to order.
by Elise Hu
This afternoon's invocation includes reference to the Arizona shooting last weekend. Rep. Vicki Truitt is singing the national anthem.
by Elise Hu
(Reporting from Chris Smith) Before the gavel dropped to start the session, the action had already begun outside the building. The traditional Islamic call to prayer rang out from the south steps at about 10:30 this morning over a line of people waiting to get into the Capitol.

Nearly 30 people gathered in the 30-degree weather to listen to and pray with members of Texas Impact, a statewide interfaith advocacy group.

Imam Islam Mossad of the North Austin Muslim Community Center recited the Islamic call to prayer to start the group's interfaith worship service. Mossad asked legislators to act as responsible shepherds of the people of Texas.

“We want to let our legislators know that the faith communities of Texas are supporting them and the very difficult decisions they are going to have to be making,” said Reverend T. Randall Smith of the United Methodist Church and member of the Executive Committee of Texas Impact.
by Emily Ramshaw

Sen. Dan Patrick gets in a chat Comptroller Susan Combs before the session officially opens.

Dan Patrick talks with comp Susan combs in senate chambers.

by Brandi Grissom
Says Andrade, referencing the Arizona shooting: "Over the weekend, the confidence of public servants was shaken... Our commitment to serving our fellow Texans must not be diminished."
by Morgan Smith
There's never this much press as there is on the first day, too. Sergeants spent a lot of time this morning trying to get us to fit into a certain space.
by Emily Ramshaw
All the Texas Senators have been sworn in. That includes the newest members: Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Grandbury, and Sen. Jose Rodrîguez, D-El Paso.
by Elise Hu

Three Joe Straus opponents take a rest in a hallway at the Capitol.

by Reeve Hamilton
(Reporting from Aziza Musa) Some lobbyists began waiting for seats in the Texas House and Senate at 7:30 a.m. today, said lobbyist Mark Smith. The lines of people waiting to get in started snaking outside, and eventually Department of Public Safety officers began sending onlookers to overflow rooms in the Capitol extension, where televisions would broadcast the action on the House and Senate floors.
Some fortunate watchers, like Smith, were invited to watch in the comfort of legislators' offices. "I'm about ready for a Diet Coke and a chair," Smith said as he headed off to watch the events unfolding in the House.
by Morgan Smith
Some statewide officeholders on hand to watch today's proceedings in the senate: Comptroller Susan Combs, Ag Commissioner Todd Staples, Railroad Commissioner David Porter and Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.
by Brandi Grissom
Roll call time in the House. House members are being called for roll in order of their districts. Lots of East Texas lawmakers are getting called first...
by Morgan Smith

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst opens the session for the Senate

Sen. Dan Patrick gets in a chat with Comptroller Susan Combs before the session officially opens.

Photo: Morgan Smith
by Elise Hu
In a statement read on the Senate floor, Gov. Perry calls for emergency legislation to deal with eminent domain and to abolish sanctuary cities.
by Morgan Smith

(Reporting from Morgan Smith) The senators stand to take their oath of office from Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson.

by Reeve Hamilton
Spotted on House Speaker Joe Straus' desk thus morning: George Washington's "Rules of Civility."
by Morgan Smith
Lawmakers are rising to take their oath of office.
by Ross Ramsey
Gov. Rick Perry is in the Senate addressing the chamber. He says incidents like the recent shooting in Arizona provide a "stark reminder of the fragility of life, the importance of making one's positive mark on those around us."
by Emily Ramshaw
In light of Gov. Perry declaring sanctuary city legislation as an emergency item, let's look back at Evan Smith questioning the governor on the state DPS's "sanctuary state" policy of not asking about the immigration status of folks they pull over: http://www.justin.tv/texastribune/b/271926071
by Reeve Hamilton
Perry speaking to the Senate on the subject of the House: "I expect to see a lot of new faces over there. They had quite a turnover. It's a nice balance, if you will, coming over here and seeing a seasoned group."
by Elise Hu
My favorite part of Day 1 of the Lege: Screaming babies, for sure.
by Reeve Hamilton
“We are not going away.” That was the message delivered to Texas lawmakers this morning by supporters of the DREAM Act, the legislation that would have granted undocumented immigrant children brought to the country by their parents a path to legal residency status.

The legislation was federal and died in the U.S. Senate, but that didn’t stop a handful of Texas students from gathering at the Capitol’s west steps to denounce proposed legislation filed by several Republicans, including HB 22. The legislation was one of several immigration bills filed in November by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, and would require public school districts to report the residency status of their students.

“We will remember who supports us and who is against us,” said Adrian Reyna, a “dreamer” and sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin brought to the U.S. in 2003 when he was 11 years old. “We have set ourselves on the task to inform the public of what these laws mean.”
by Emily Ramshaw
Paxton announces he won't be a candidate for speaker today.
by Julián Aguilar
Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, has asked to address the Lege. "We had a caucus yesterday in the Republican party and I lost." He said he's pulling out of the Speaker's Race.
by Ross Ramsey
As of last night, he had been planning to run for election today, even though the Republican Caucus voted overwhelmingly for incumbent Speaker Joe Straus.
by Emily Ramshaw

(Reporting from Morgan Smith) The lieutenant governor greets Gov. Rick Perry as he takes the podium in the Senate. He's stopping by here before he heads over to the House.

by Ross Ramsey
Paxton: "I was amazed at the outpouring of encouragement and the support and friendship, and I'm humbled by that experience. I also want to say, even though we lost this race, I'm encouraged to say that we have not lost the fight, and our conservative message is important."
by Jacob Villanueva
Paxton: "We have lost this race, but I am encouraged to say, we have not lost this fight."
by Emily Ramshaw
Paxton: "We're going to move forward with a conservative agenda... Make sure we're accomplishing your agenda."
by Ross Ramsey
In his remarks to the Senate, Perry elaborated on the newly declared emergency items. While the Budget is the most important matter this session, he says there are other pressing issues.

First, he wants tougher domain laws. He's been working with Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-River Oaks, on that issue.

Second, he says, "We must abolish sanctuary cities in Texas." This line that gets him some applause and even a holler from the crowd.

Perry says: "These are just a few of the issues we'll address in the next 140 days, but they merit our closest attention as they relate to the safety and security of our citizens. But, most of all, they relate to our liberty."
by Emily Ramshaw
Protesters rallied this morning to call attention to a proposed bill by Rep. Tryon Lewis, R-Odessa, which would eliminate an optional state holiday in honor of César Chávez, the California-born advocate of migrant farm workers.

“In the 21st Century we are met with these racist laws,” said Jaime Martinez, the founder and chairman of César Chávez Legacy and Education Foundation in San Antonio. Martinez said he testified in support of the legislation that honored Chavez in 1999. “We are not going to go back to the 1960s.”
by Reeve Hamilton
House members were all sworn in before Andrade took speaker nominations. Sorry for the fuzzy iPhone photo, we're going as fast as we can here...

by Julián Aguilar
Rep. Rob Eissler has nominated Joe Straus for speaker.
by Elise Hu
Fun Fact: Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, has seven of her nine grandchildren with her today.

She announced this upon request from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who needed to kill time after Gov. Rick Perry indicated his intention to stay in the chamber for a while shaking hands.
by Emily Ramshaw
After doing some handshaking on the Senate floor, the governor is now leaving to chamber to deliver his address in the House.
by Reeve Hamilton
Eissler, aka the House comedian, is up to give Straus' nomination speech. Insert jokes here.
by Morgan Smith
Eissler: "Joe Straus leads with respect. He respects the members, he respects the process, and he respects the House as an institution."
by Emily Ramshaw
Eissler: "To paraphrase one of our generation's great philosophers, Mick Jagger... we can't always get what we want. But working together under the leadership of Joe Straus, we'll always get what we need."
by Emily Ramshaw
(Reporting from Andrew Weber) The ramped-up DPS security measures caused a bit of a log jam at entrances, with visitors stretching out the door, waiting to get through.
"It hasn't been this busy in a while," said a trooper manning the X-ray machine. "Today is the day."
The Capitol rotunda was abuzz with friends, family and politicos who came to see legislators
get sworn in and to watch the much-anticipated House Speaker vote.
"We're watching who's voting," said one visitor wearing an "Oust Strauss" T-shirt. "Their number is up."
by Emily Ramshaw
The senators have begun their speeches — their extremely lengthy speeches — nominating Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, to be President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Ogden has a big session ahead.
by Reeve Hamilton
Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, will give a seconding speech.
by Brandi Grissom
Praising Steve Ogden during his nominating speech, Dewhurst calls him a "good West Texas guy."
by Emily Ramshaw
Thompson: "Our speaker is not a dictator. He does not rule from on high. The speaker's role is to put all members in position and allow the House to maximize its potential for making Texas an even better place to live."
by Morgan Smith
A look through our camera viewfinder at state Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, giving his nominating speech for Speaker Joe Straus.

by Emily Ramshaw
Rep. Drew Darby on Straus: "No one should question his commitment to family values, to his party... or to this great state."
by Elise Hu
The youngsters lining the Senate floor to watch their family members get sworn in have largely exited the chamber — though a few senators, including Sen. Florence Shapiro, still have kiddos on their laps.
by Emily Ramshaw
This stream of seconding speeches in favor of Straus is wearing on the babies and toddlers in here. I see a few of them using their parents or grandparents as jungle gyms.
by Morgan Smith
Democratic Rep. Pete Gallego: "Joe Straus is the conductor. But he allows us as the members to choose our own music."
by Elise Hu
Straus is sitting largely expressionless as he listens to all these laudatory speeches from behind the desk of clerks and pages.
by Emily Ramshaw
Our photog Marjorie Kamys Cotera has now filed some of the noticeably NON-iPhone photos we're capturing. Here's the Senate swearing-in

by Elise Hu
Things I learned about Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, during the speeches nominating him to be President Pro Tempore:
- Born in September in 1950.
- Raised in Abilene.
- Married to Beverly for almost 38 years.
- He "towers over everybody." He is very tall.
- Served in the U.S. Navy.
- He is a nuclear propulsion engineer — so, more or less, a rocket scientist.
- When now-Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, was a House member, Ogden was his go-to guy in the Senate.
- Mostly, he works on the budget, which Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville says is "essentially a moral document."
- Lucio promised Ogden's wife that he would see to it that Ogden eats plenty of Mexican food during session and is able to speak Spanish by its end.
- Ogden requested that the number of speeches seconding his nomination — which usually runs quite high — be limited. There were only three.
by Elise Hu
The last seconding speech will be given by one of the original ABC's (Anybody But Craddick's), state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. Woolley, who preceded Cook, was significant as she was a big Craddick lieutenant back in 2007. She noted in her speech that she respected Craddick's values; and she believes in Straus' values, too. Her December backing of Straus largely ended Paxton or Chisum's chances of getting any major establishment conservative wave to go their way.
by Reeve Hamilton
The last seconding speech will be given by one of the original ABC's (Anybody But Craddick's), state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. Woolley, who preceded Cook, was significant as she was a big Craddick lieutenant back in 2007. She noted in her speech that she respected Craddick's values; and she believes in Straus' values, too. Her December backing of Straus largely ended Paxton or Chisum's chances of getting any major establishment conservative wave to go their way.
by Elise Hu
Republican Rep. Byron Cook: "We do not want to poison Texas with Washington-style politics."
by Elise Hu
Tea Party folks, complete with their “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, are gathering on the south steps of the Capitol. Some are still donning their “Paxton for Speaker” shirts. A quick prayer was said asking for “change in a peaceable way” following Saturday’s events in Arizona.
by Emily Ramshaw
On the podium, Ogden just described his youthful self as a "pencil necked, awkward geeky jock type." Now, he's thanking his wife: "the wind beneath my wings."
by Julián Aguilar
Straus wins, 132-15. Two present not voting.
by Morgan Smith

(Reporting from Ross Ramsey) Members of the House take the oath of office at the beginning of the legislative session.

by Julián Aguilar
Fewer than half of the conservative Texans gathered on the south steps knew the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas Flag. Or, if they did, they didn’t recite it. Just in case, here it is: “Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible.”
by Emily Ramshaw
Votes against Straus include: Van Taylor, Bill Zedler, Leo Berman, Ken Paxton...
by Emily Ramshaw
Notably, Craddick voted for Straus. Hughes and Isaac were present but not voting. David Simpson voted against Straus.
by Reeve Hamilton
Ogden, discussing the budget, says we have to address Medicaid. "How we deal with Medicaid will determine how the rest of the money goes," he says.
by Jacob Villanueva

(Photo from Marjorie Cotera) Gov. Rick Perry

by Reeve Hamilton
It is impossible to balance this budget without making cuts in Article 2 and Article 3 of the budget, Ogden says. Article 2 is Health and Human Services. Article 3 is Education.
by Emily Ramshaw
Speaker Straus and his family are approaching the dais.
by Julián Aguilar
Statement by Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, on Straus: “"Today, Democratic unity defeated the Tea Party and their extremist agenda. Had any House Democrats peeled away from Straus, he might have lost. But by sticking together, Democrats kept the House together.

The Tea Party demanded a Washington-style, behind the scenes vote by the House Republican Caucus. When that failed, and their anointed candidate could not peel away any House Democrats, they relented. We look forward to working with Speaker Straus on a session highlighted by honesty and accountability."
by Emily Ramshaw
Wallace Jefferson, chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, is administering the oath for Straus. Camera shutters going wild.
by Julián Aguilar
From the Tea Party rally outside: "We don’t want government taxing our property and punishing us anytime we slightly improve our little piece of Texas. We don’t want government forcing us to buy only the health insurance they think is right for us.”
by Morgan Smith
As he addresses the deficit, Ogden calls for reform of public school finance. He says there's $5 to 5.5 billion to be found in the foundation school program and the Senate must work on fixing target revenue and the margins tax so that property tax rates won't go up.
by Reeve Hamilton
Ogden says we have to petition federal government for help on dealing with violence along the border, which he says is a national security issue. He says we need more stations doing security checks as vehicles travel south into Mexico.
by Jacob Villanueva

(Photo from Ross Ramsey) The vote board in the Texas House showing who supported Speaker Joe Straus R-San Antonio. Green lights indicate votes for Straus. Voting against were Van Taylor, Phil King, Dan Flynn, Jim Landtroop, Jodie Laubenberg, David Simpson, Tan Parker, Ken Paxton, James White, Bill Zedler, Charles Perry, Leo Berman, Cindy Burkett, Wayne Christian and Erwin Cain.

by Emily Ramshaw
Straus takes the dais for his remarks.
by Reeve Hamilton
Ogden concludes his remarks by asking his fellow senators to check their political considerations and political ambitions at the door.
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry will arrive in the House shortly after.
by Emily Ramshaw
Straus: "I am truly humbled by your overwhelming support. ... I promise I will once again exercise the responsibilities of this office fairly, judiciously and with respect."
by Emily Ramshaw
Straus says his wife Julie is "the powerful chairman of all of our committees" in their family.
by Emily Ramshaw
Straus gives a tribute to the late Rep. Ed Kuempel: "One of our greatest role models is no longer with us." Kuempel's son now holds his seat.
by Emily Ramshaw
Straus: "Threats of retribution, attacks on people's religious beliefs, distortion of people's records have no place in this House." He receives a standing ovation, overwhelming applause.
by Morgan Smith
And now, the Senate has adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow.
by Jacob Villanueva

(Reporting from Julian Aguilar) Eric Anderson wants to draw attention to tort reform, and it looks like he's doing it in his own way.

by Julián Aguilar
Michael Quinn Sullivan, president and chief executive officer of Empower Texans, to the Tea Party folks: “If We want our nation to be on the right track you and I have a 139 days to help our legislators put Texas and keep Texas strong.”
by Emily Ramshaw
Republican Rep. Lois Kolkhorst is introducing Gov. Rick Perry .
by Jacob Villanueva

Senator Ogden sworn in as Senate President.

Senator Ogden sworn in as Senate President. Photo by: Marjorie Kamys Cotera.
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry's in the House, will give his own remarks.
by Jacob Villanueva

(Photo from Bob Daemmrich) Panoramic view of the House floor.

by Emily Ramshaw
Perry starts off with a plug for TCU's Horned Frogs: "Another good reason they need to get rid of the BCS. ... That ought to make some news."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry references Arizona shooting: "It's instances and incidents like that that really provide a stark reminder of the fragility of life, of the importance of making ones positive mark on life every day."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry to new lawmakers: "Take a deep breath. Relax. It's all going to be all right."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry: "Texans sent us a real loud and a real clear message. ... They expect us to balance the budget without taking more money from employers and working families. ... 2003 we heard those same doom and gloom stories and pronouncements about the budget. ... 2003 wasn't a cake walk, but we balanced the budget."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry: "While the budget is our top priority, there are some other pressing issues that have waited too long." He's declaring emergency items, for starters, tougher eminent domain laws.
by Emily Ramshaw
Next, Perry says "we must abolish sanctuary city rules in this state." "Free up our police officers to do their job, keeping our families and our neighborhoods safe."
by Emily Ramshaw
Perry wraps up: "Will there be disagreements within this building ... that's probably the best bet in this Capitol today. At the end of the day though, I'm certain you'll work together in the best interest of our state."
by Julián Aguilar
From the Tea Party rally: “It’s been said we have two sports in Texas: football and spring football. I want to change that to three sports, football, spring football and chasing liberals.”
by Jacob Villanueva

(Reporting from Julian Aguilar) They didn't show up by the thousands but the Tea Party folks are capable of making some noise, especially after someone mentions God or denounces liberals.

by Jacob Villanueva

(Photo from Bob Daemmrich) Justices of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

by Jacob Villanueva

Dan Patrick talks with comp Susan combs in senate chambers.

Wallace Jefferson swearing in Joe Straus.
by Jacob Villanueva

(Photo from Bob Daemmrich) Joe Straus R-San Antonio checks out the vote board in the Texas House.

by Elise Hu
A propeller plane is flying overhead, drowning out a lot of the speech. It's carrying a banner that says, "Spark Energy//God Bless Texas" I feel like there's a joke in this somewhere but I'm not quick enough to think of it.

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