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The Brief: Jan. 13, 2015

A historic vote for House speaker could happen on a day long on ceremony otherwise.

House Speaker Joe Straus gavels out the ceremonial first session of the Texas House 83rd Session on January 8, 2013

The Big Conversation

The Legislature starts its 140-day regular session at noon today. Speeches of the "hail fellow well met" variety are the order of the day, although conservative foes of Joe Straus vow to push ahead on a record vote for speaker for the first time in 40 years. That could happen despite Straus having gathered enough pledges beforehand to have his re-election practically guaranteed.

The Tribune's Ross Ramsey has the full rundown on the day's activities:

Straus appears to have more than enough votes to win another term. But it won’t come quietly ... Lawmakers are not planning a roll call vote, but a vote on the lighted board in the House, with (Scott) Turner’s votes in green and Straus’ in red.

The Senate has one more piece of business, electing a president pro tempore ... Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is this year’s designate, and after a series of very flattering speeches, the Senate will vote. That should be the end of their business for the day.

Lawmakers will convene in Austin knowing that they will have $113 billion in revenue from which to craft their biennial budget, the only piece of legislation required of them. Comptroller Glenn Hegar struck a "cautiously optimistic" note on the state of the Texas economy while presenting his revenue estimate on Monday, reported the Tribune's Aman Batheja.

“Our projections are based on expectations of a moderate expansion in the Texas economy and reflect uncertainties in oil prices and the possibilities of a slowing global economy,” Hegar said.

The Day Ahead

•    The 84th Legislature begins with both chambers convening at noon. We will livestream the proceedings.

•    The special election to fill the vacant House District 13 takes place. Four candidates — three of them Republican — are vying to succeed state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

Trib Must-Reads

84th Lege: The Ethics Explorer, by Texas Tribune Staff

Comptroller Seldom Right on Oil Price Prediction, by Aman Batheja and Jim Malewitz

Day Before Key Vote, Turner Supporters Rally, by Aman Batheja

Former Abbott Deputy Named Insurance Commissioner, by Neena Satija

Agriculture Commissioner Grants Amnesty to Cupcakes, by Eva Hershaw

President Obama Honors San Antonio Spurs, by Abby Livingston

Education Chairman Calls for School Finance Discussion, by Morgan Smith

Student Group Gives Texas a B+ on Higher Ed, by Ryan McCrimmon


Senate to Debate Keystone XL, Setting Stage for More Energy Battles, The New York Times

Cruz critics wary of his gavel on NASA and climate change panel, Houston Chronicle

Texas has $18 billion in new money to spend, but some is probably off-limits, The Dallas Morning News

Anti-abortion groups target Planned Parenthood’s role in cancer screening program, The Dallas Morning News

State senators turn up heat on House at Turner rally, Houston Chronicle

GOP hopes it’s cracked the abortion code, Politico

Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka, hailed as best, scourge of ‘worst,’ retiring, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

“Even Adolph [sic] Hitler thought it more important than Obama to get to Paris. (For all the wrong reasons.) Obama couldn’t do it for right reasons.”

— U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, in a Tweet posted Monday night

Today in TribTalk

Keep calm over Irving earthquakes, by Beth Van Duyne

News From Home

Today isn't just day one of the 84th legislative session — it's also the kickoff of our new afternoon email report, one we’ll be offering as a new benefit for subscribers to our premium newsletter for political insiders. And here’s a quick reminder of another incredible new perk for subscribers of Texas Weekly: a yearlong digital subscription to The Washington PostSubscribe now to receive your first Blast the same day. Don't miss a single edition!

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Meet the New Guys in the House: Reps. Celia Israel, Linda Koop and Matt Rinaldi on Jan. 14 at The Austin Club

•    Future Forum: The Future of Texas on Jan. 21 at the LBJ Library in Austin

•    A Conversation With House Public Education Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock on Jan. 22 at The Austin Club

•    Higher Ed: The Next Five Years on Jan. 26 at the Texas Tech University Alumni Center in Lubbock

•    A Conversation With Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick on Jan. 27 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Adm. William McRaven, UT System Chancellor on Feb. 5 at The Austin Club

•    Houston & the Legislature: Previewing the 84th Session on Feb. 12 at the Wortham Center in Houston

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro on Feb. 19 at The Austin Club

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Energy Environment Health care Politics Glenn Hegar Greg Abbott Joe Straus Randy Weber Ted Cruz