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The Big 3 Revisited — Meet the New Guys

Just like that, Joe Straus is the experienced one at the top of the state leadership, but conservatives in the Senate feel empowered to set the power dynamic between the two chambers to their liking.

Joe Straus sworn-in as Texas Speaker of the House on January 13th, 2015

Along with the beginning of a new legislative session, one of the big takeaways of the week was Rick Perry and David Dewhurst taking the opportunity to formally say goodbye before leaving the stage.

Their departure leaves Joe Straus suddenly as the experienced guy among the Big Three.

That’s not to say that the new members of the Big Three — Gov.-elect Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick — are newbies. Abbott, after all, has been a statewide elected official for almost 20 consecutive years, first as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court and then as attorney general.

Straus, meanwhile, has been a legislator for almost one full term longer than Patrick.

But Straus on Tuesday was feeling confident enough after winning a fourth term in the speaker’s chair to make a joke to his newly elected colleagues about them sorting who would be buying breakfast for their traditional Wednesday breakfasts.

It’s hard to say, though, how this change in leadership impacts the power dynamic among the two chambers and the governor’s office.

To say that conservatives in the Senate feel empowered by the recent turnover in that chamber risks understatement.

Witness, for instance, this statement made by freshman state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, at a Monday rally for speaker challenger Scott Turner, as reported by the Houston Chronicle’s Patrick Svitek.

“We are on the road to be throwing conservative legislation over the transom to the House to the point they can’t kill (every bill).”

What is evidenced here is a mindset that the House remains an obstacle to a conservative agenda. And that problem could be resolved by swamping the chamber with legislation until it stands aside.

Hall was joined by a pair of freshman senators — Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, and Don Huffines, R-Dallas — at the rally for Turner. Their presence was enough to raise eyebrows since senators usually try to avoid being seen as meddling in the business of the other chamber.

In the end, though, the bigger determiner of the relationship between the two chambers over the course of a session is the relationship between the chamber’s leaders. On that score, it’s still wait-and-see.

For the new guys, maybe it’s a good time to splurge on some really good breakfast tacos.

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