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1.8.19 – Texas Tribune – BY CASSANDRA POLLOCK

The Texas Legislature will gavel in Tuesday for its 86th regular session, kicking off 140 days of legislative sausage-making in a state that’s home to roughly 28 million people. There will be highs. And there will be lows. But, on the bright side, we have everything you need to know:

The first official act of this year’s #txlege happened yesterday. Comptroller Glenn Hegar has delivered the biennial revenue estimate, telling state lawmakers they will have roughly $120 billion to use in crafting the state’s 2020-21 budget. Hegar’s outlook, as The Texas Tribune’s Edgar Walters reported, was cautiously optimistic — though it did include a few words of caution, thanks to falling oil prices and heightened uncertainty in the U.S. economy.

Today, expect mainly formalities. Both the House and the Senate are set to convene at noon. Members will be sworn into office. In the House, lawmakers will likely elect state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, as the successor to retiring House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

Keep in mind: This upcoming session feels a bit different than when the Legislature last convened two years ago. Instead of talk centering on hot-button social issues such as the “bathroom bill,” lawmakers are focusing on bread-and-butter measures like school finance and property tax reform. And instead of tensions already surfacing between the House and Senate, lawmakers across the ideological spectrum are saying they’re optimistic about the next 140 days.

A few questions on our mind as we head into session:

  • How will the House act under new leadership? With Straus, there was tension between Republicans aligned with the more moderate wing of the party and hardline conservatives.
  • How will Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick run the Senate, given that Democrats have grown their numbers, and Republicans will need to vote as a unanimous bloc to bring the most conservative legislation to the floor?
  • How soon will the speaker and the lieutenant governor decide which members will be on which committees — the beginning of when lawmakers can start taking up legislation, and the first sign of who’s in and who’s out with each legislative leader? For reference, Straus in 2017 appointed committees by early February; Patrick did so by mid-January.

How to keep up with what’s happening over the next 140 days:

  • Follow our reporters and editors. A public Twitter list can be found here.
  • Follow lawmakers. We also have a public Twitter list of legislators here.
  • Follow us on Facebook. The Tribune’s Bobby Blanchard will host livestreams there ahead of chamber debates on high-profile legislation and other noteworthy happenings around the Capitol. Those livestreams will also be available via Twitter and YouTube.
  • Bookmark our site. Aside from the latest news and analysis, we’ll also have a landing page that houses livestreams of both chambers.
  • Questions? We’re here. Ask Texplainer.