News from around the state of Texas

State Lawmakers Begin Legislative Session

By Omar Villafranca
|  Wednesday, Jan 9, 2013  |  Updated 12:20 AM CDT
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Lawmakers are back at work in Austin. On the session's first day, they gave a better idea of what the Legislature's top priorities will be.

Omar Villafranca, NBC 5 News

Lawmakers are back at work in Austin. On the session's first day, they gave a better idea of what the Legislature's top priorities will be.

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Texas lawmakers went back to work in Austin on Tuesday to start the 83rd legislative session.

The weather outside was cold and rainy, but newly elected House and Senate members were in a sunny mood inside the Capitol.

Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, was re-elected speaker of the House.

His only challenger, Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, withdrew from the race.

In his speech to the House, Straus asked lawmakers to work for the "farmer praying for rain" and the "parents saving for college" -- basically stating that education and water issues would be top priorities.

Democrats were quick to chime in that they support restoring education funding lost in the last session.

"Well, the speaker mentioned it in a very broad and general way," said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. "He didn't say he was committed to restoring the cut funding from last time, so until we start talking seriously about restoring funding, I think the rest of it is just for show.


Burnam said he supports using some of the estimated $11 billion in the Rainy Day Fund to pay for education funding.

But Republicans, including Gov. Rick Perry, don't want to raid the fund.

"We need to make sure we're looking at our spending and we don't go crazy in the way we spend this session," said Rep. Kenneth Sheet, R-Dallas. "Frankly, we don't have -- we still don't have -- a lot of money in the state, so we need to be careful on how we're allocating our dollars."

Lawmakers will reconvene Wednesday at 10 a.m.

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