As lawmakers head to the Texas Capitol on Tuesday for the 84th legislative session, here are five things to watch in the next 140 days.
The new governor
Republican Greg Abbott will be sworn in as the 48th governor Jan. 20. He will be the first new leader in more than 14 years, since Rick Perry assumed office in late 2000 after Gov. George W. Bush won the presidency. Abbott, who has indicated that he will be different from Perry, drew attention recently when he called for doing away with a “patchwork quilt” of local bans on everything from hydraulic fracturing to plastic bags.
The Patrick factor
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Republican Dan Patrick will be sworn in as the 42nd lieutenant governor Jan. 20 as well. He will be the first new lieutenant governor since David Dewhurst claimed the post in 2003. A Tea Party favorite who has occasionally generated controversy for his ultraconservative positions, Patrick will guide which issues the upper chamber addresses this year.
Balancing the budget
Lawmakers will have to balance growing demands in Texas — from education to transportation — with a potential drop in revenue. Many question how the drop in crude prices will affect the revenue stream in this oil-rich state. Comptroller Glenn Hegar is scheduled to report Monday on how much money lawmakers will have for the 2016-17 budget.
With each session come new lawmakers. Of the dozens of freshmen who will be sworn in Tuesday, three will be from Tarrant County: Sen.-elect Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, and Reps.-elect Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth, and Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington. And one familiar face won’t be there: Wendy Davis, the former state senator from Fort Worth who lost to Abbott in the governor’s race.
Lawmakers have already filed bills to address issues ranging from reviewing red-light cameras to preventing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. But gun legislation has drawn great attention, particularly since Abbott said he would sign into law a measure allowing handguns to be openly carried in Texas.
Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610