Opening Day-2009

Opening day for the Texas Legislature had the feel of the first day of school. The Capitol had suddenly come to life and everyone was scurrying around to find their place while greeting friends they haven’t seen in a long time. Freshmen were nervous, but their senior colleagues seemed excited as well.

Outside, tour buses full of excited citizens emptied onto the grounds. The cold weather kept most from posing in front of the monuments outside. However, I’m sure many noticed how beautiful the dome looked against the morning’s blue sky. Inside, tour guides struggled to be heard over the crowd as they described the history and meaning of the floors, ceilings, and art of the building. The line to get into the House gallery on the third floor worked its way down two sets of stairs and ended on the first floor. We may be a nation of cynics and residents of an anti-government state, but many Texans seemed to share a real sense of excitement about seeing representative democracy taking flight.

The day’s main event was the selection of a new speaker. Of course, the actual voting in the Speaker’s race today was a ceremony that revealed nothing of the real battle for power that had already been waged. The good news is that there seemed to be some real optimism that Joe Straus would create a more friendly and productive atmosphere in the House.

On the Senate side, conflict over the rules began when Republicans proposed a plan to waive the rule requiring two-thirds of senators to agree to bring up a bill. However, this would only apply to the voter ID bills and redistricting. Of course, Democrats plan on fighting this. The conflict seems especially unfortunate since people on the House side were trying to make a fresh start and rid the Legislature of the worst aspects of conflict.

This may be the first session where the old newspaper and television reporters give way to the bloggers. A couple of people blogged live from the gallery and there faces of the reporters looked much younger than past years. It will be interesting to see if the rapid blogging of the younger reporters gets a larger audience than the more detailed reporting of the older journalists. I’m somewhat worried that with fewer experienced eyes watching the Legislature some of the more subtle political tricks will go unnoticed.

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