88th Legislative Session Begins

The 88th Session of the Texas Legislature has begun. Lawmakers returned to Austin for their bi-yearly gathering to pass new laws and resolve how to spend the state’s money for the next two years.

On Tuesday, January 10th, 181 members of the legislature were sworn into office in separate ceremonies in the House and Senate chambers.

House members elected Republican Rep. Dade Phelan for a second term as speaker.  Phelan, 47, a five-term House member from Beaumont, defeated Arlington GOP Rep. Tony Tinderholt, 145-3.

The Senate elected Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) as its President Pro Tempore.

Senators Draw for Two and Four Year Terms

After each decennial redistricting, the Texas Constitution requires state senators to draw lots to find out which half of the chamber will serve four-year terms and which will serve two-year terms.
Two-Year Terms: Alvarado, Bettencourt, Blanco, Campbell, Eckhardt, Hinojosa, Huffman, Johnson, King, LaMantia, Parker, Paxton, Springer, West, Whitmire.
Four-Year Terms: Birdwell, Creighton, Flores, Gutierrez, Hall, Hancock, Hughes, Kolkhorst, Menendez, Middleton, Miles, Nichols, Perry, Schwertner, Sparks, Zaffirini.

House Rule Adopted

The Texas House adopted their procedural rules for the 88th legislative session by a vote of 123-19. Notable changes to the rules include a daily $500 fine and other punishments for members who participate in a quorum break, a reprisal to House Democrats who fled to Washington last session.

An attempt was made by some members of the House to restrict the speaker from appointing members of the minority party as committee chairs, but these efforts were rebuffed by the speaker upholding “points of order” that allowed House members not to have to take record votes.

Why haven’t the House and Senate spent much time meeting so far this session? As Alex Samuels of The Texas Tribune explains, “lawmakers can’t pass any bills during the first 60 calendar days — unless the governor declares it an emergency item.” Also, House and Senate committee assignments have yet to be announced, which means there’s no way to formally take action on legislation.

Revenue Estimate Revised Again

Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar released his biennial revenue estimate, which projects the amount of funds lawmakers will have available to appropriate for the next budget cycle. His estimate added nearly $6 billion to the state’s projected budget surplus, taking it to $32.7 billion.

Hegar estimates the state to have $188.2 billion available for general-purpose spending during the 2024-2025 biennium.  

How will the state spend the state’s $32.7 billion budget surplus? The surplus, or one-time money that was left over from the previous budget cycle, is historic in its size. Some of the money is already committed for highway funds, and some of it will go into the state’s rainy-day fund.  There is also a constitutional spending cap that the Legislature can vote to override.

Phelan said he hoped legislators can use a $32 billion revenue surplus to cut property taxes, and to improve Texas children’s lives. “The threats to their safety are all too real,” he said, naming child traffickers, school violence and “social media companies that prey on the insecurities of children.”

Inauguration of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor

Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick were sworn into office on Tuesday, January 17, beginning the third term for each. 

The Lt. Governor focused his remarks primarily on legislative objectives for the coming session. On education issues he said, “The Governor and I are all in on school choice. We are going to pass school choice.”

The governor spent much of his speech reflecting on the exceptional things about the state of Texas. He mentioned that Texas is “number one for national blue-ribbon schools.”  On education, he said, “Parents deserve the freedom to choose the education that is best for their child.” He also said the state must prioritize safety, and provide mental health assistance when it is needed.

Who will be on committees?

The Senate traditionally appoints committees sooner than the House.  The Lt. Governor will most likely announce committees by the third week of January. Texas House committee request cards have been given to members to fill out and return to the speaker’s office by January 26th.  The Speaker will choose committees and typically he announces the makeup in early February.

Bills Filed

Members of the 88th Legislature began filing bills on November 4, 2022. Over 2,000 bills and resolutions have been filed to date. The Texas PTA Priorities Bill Tracker is now available.

Texas PTA Legislative Priorities

Texas PTA published expanded resources on our lead priorities: Public School Funding System, Vouchers, Teacher and Staff Shartage and Retention, Student Mental Health, and A-F Accountability System. Visit txpta.org/legislative-priorities for more.
Be watching for announcements on the Student and Adult Caucus locations, speakers, and more.

Texas PTA Invites Legislative Staff to Briefing

Texas PTA delivered invitations to a briefing to be held at the Texas Capitol on January 25, 2023, for legislative and committee staff of the Texas Legislature. Texas PTA President Suzi Kennon and President-Elect Jennifer Easley will share Texas PTA’s priorities for the 88th session.
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