State Rep. Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) will likely be in front of the Texas House on Tuesday, having secured the votes to become the next Speaker. But the former staffer for both a state senator and representative said the role of Speaker is a job he really didn't seek.
“Over the summer, during the shutdown, during the pandemic, I started getting phone calls from colleagues of mine who kind of talked me into it," Phelan said. "They came from all walks of life. They came from all over the state."
But now, the presumptive Speaker takes the helm at a time that's different than any in Texas history.
“This is going to be one for the books," Phelan said. "It is our first time in 102 years that we are going to convene during a pandemic."
Lawmakers face a budget deficit, and the house will also redraw voting maps based on census numbers. Phelan said the agenda will be the members' agenda
But COVID-19 creates obstacles to meeting in person; members and guests will be asked to wear masks.
People who enter the Capitol Tuesday will be required to test negative for COVID-19 upon arrival, the Texas Department of Public Safety said Monday.
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The tests will be administered at the building's north entrance by the Texas Division of Emergency Management with results expected within 15 minutes, DPS said.
Members will vote on state House rules this week.
"We are going to try to function as normal as possible, try to bring as many members of the public in to get testimony and weigh in, but at the same time, obviously, keep public health as a priority,” Phelan said.
Legislators will be in the state Capitol less than a week after a breach in Washington when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
“(The Texas Department of Public Safety) has done an excellent job of making certain we have enough officers here to protect the Capitol and protect the citizens working in this Capitol, and visiting this Capitol, and of course the National Guard is here as well just to make certain that we don't have any issues like what occurred in Washington, D.C. We will not be caught off guard,” he said.
Now it’s time, to get down to business, in circumstances like none other.
“I have deep respect for the people's House. I think the Texas House of Representatives is as close to the people as you get," Phelan said. "And as long as you allow members to vote their district and bring their priorities forward then we are going to have a great session."
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