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Texas lawmakers end legislative session with bang of a gavel

Posted Monday, May. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Handshakes, hugs and smiles were easier at the Texas Capitol on Monday than they have been in months.

As they wrapped up the 83rd regular legislative session Monday, they posed for pictures, autographed photos and legislative paperwork, approved technical corrections and attended picnics and luncheons.

They spoke of how this was a kinder, gentler session, one where lawmakers for the most part found a way to work together for 140 days to develop legislation to help guide the state and all who live here.

“Every legislator came to session with the best interests of all Texans in mind,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound. “While we are diverse, we found common ground to solve problems and I believe it was very healthy for Texans to see their elected officials work together — without abandoning their core principles.”

As gavels banged in both the House and Senate, lawmakers Monday evening finally put to rest the 83rd regular Legislative Session.

But first they wrapped up ceremonial business — passing final resolutions, choosing Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, as president pro tempore in the Senate and more.

Estes, whose multi-county district bumps up to the Metroplex and includes Parker and Wise counties and part of Denton County, said that when he first began serving, he didn’t know what a president pro tem was.

Members spent much of the last day of session — which is known as Sine Die, the Latin term for final adjournment — touting their key accomplishments.

Among them: balanced budget that funneled billions of dollars stripped from Texas schools two years ago back into education, a measure to help ensure the state’s water supply continues and the biggest education reforms in years geared to give Texas high school students more graduation options, reduce the number of tests they must pass to graduate and boost the number of charter schools.

“An increasing number of lawmakers in both parties demonstrated that they are losing patience with those who want to turn legislating into tests of ideological purity rather than solve real problems,” said Kathy Miller, president of Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group. “The real concerns of the vast majority of Texans are good schools and a strong economy. Promoting the culture wars provides no solutions to those concerns.”

But some were disappointed in what didn’t happen during the session — such as tougher abortion restrictions and looser gun laws.

“I think the theme was, ‘go along to get along,’” said Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, who added that conservative members weren’t given seats on key committees. “Too many of my colleagues chose to avoid conflict and capitulate on core issues and the results of the session show it. Collectively, we didn’t accomplish what we were sent to achieve.”

Pastors in both chambers Monday offered up prayers for the lawmakers who have spent the past 140 days working on new legislation to help guide the state and all who live here.

“We pray they may be guided by your providence ... and that they may have an extra dose of energy today after a late night (Sunday),” Trey Little, senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, prayed in the House.

Bipartisanship

State legislators certainly didn’t agree on everything throughout the session, but many say this session carried more of a bipartisan tone than many sessions in recent years.

“This session included less of the partisan agenda and harmful ideological approach that characterized the 2011 session,” said Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. “Without pressure from the leadership to push divisive bills that would deny some citizens their voting rights or block access to health care for women, the Legislature was free to do its job and find common ground to represent the interests of the people of Texas.”

Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, agreed but said it’s now time to look ahead — and not behind.

“For me, the end of the legislative session is not about regrets,” he said. “It is about looking at the lessons learned and finding ways to address our needs during the next legislative session and beyond.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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