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Around the Texas Capitol:
Bill filing begins, new House speaker identified, election wrap-up

By Shayne Woodard and J Pete Laney, TAD Governmental Affairs

With the elections over, it’s a race to the start of the legislative session, with bill filing beginning and a Texas House Speaker’s race apparently settled.

Early bill filing begins; raw milk on the agenda

Legislators on Nov. 12 began filing bills for the upcoming 86th Legislature that begins Jan. 8 and ends May 27. As of press time, over 500 bills have been filed, including Senate Bill 80 by Sen. Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), relating to the regulation of raw (unpasteurized) milk and raw milk products. This marks the fifth legislative session that the bill has been filed. We also expect it to be filed in the Texas House.

The Texas Association of Dairymen will continue to oppose this bill, which would allow expansion of the sale of raw milk and raw milk products beyond the farm. TAD agrees with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that consuming raw milk is a serious health risk, and that pasteurization is key to consumer safety. Learn more about TAD’s position on pasteurization and raw milk, and please let Sen. Hall know that you oppose this legislation. Click here to review SB 80 or to see other filed legislation.

Rep. Dennis Bonnen announces votes to be House Speaker

Flanked by Democrats and Republicans, State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) on Nov. 12 announced he had 109 commitments from his 149 fellow members of the Texas House of Representatives to be elected Speaker. The official vote for House Speaker will not be until the first day of the legislative session on Jan. 8.

Bonnen already has begun working on his transition to the office, a process headed by former State Rep. and now Texas State University System Chancellor Brian McCall. Bonnen also has started to announce key staff appointments, including his longtime chief of staff Shera Eichler to serve as office director, lobbyist and Capitol veteran Gavin Massingill as his chief of staff, and Gardner Pate as director of policy and general counsel.

Why is the Speaker of the House so important? What is the Speaker’s role? Recall that we discussed the position of Speaker in our September newsletter (ignore the candidates listed in that article, who have since withdrawn).

General election recap

Although he lost his race, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, funded by millions of dollars, shined light on the ability to attract new voters and do down-ballot damage to Republican incumbent candidates.

That damage was primarily inflicted in the top five urban areas of Texas and resulted in the defeat of two Republican congressmen, two Republican state senators, 12 Republican state representatives, and numerous judicial candidates and local county officials. All Republican statewide officials won their races, but by a margin significantly smaller than normal over Democratopponents who had very little or no money backing them.

The 86th Legislature is expected to be made up of 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives while the Texas Senate is expected to contain 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

Texas voter turnout was nearly 53 percent (8.3 million voters in the U.S. Senate race) up from four years ago when the turnout was about 35 percent (4.6 million voters in the U.S. Senate race).

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