AUSTIN (KXAN) - State lawmakers headed back to the Texas Capitol Tuesday to begin tackling what could prove to be one of the toughest legislative sessions in memory.
The 82nd Legislature convened at noon on Tuesday, with a message from Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade that hinted at the political strife - from partisanship to budget cuts to redistricting - that lay ahead.
"As I reflect upon the tasks before you, I am reminded of an old maritime saying," she said. " 'Strong ships are safe in port. But that's not what they're built for.' ... You are the strong ships that will guide our great state toward its continued prosperity...There will be times when you are sailing with the wind and other times when you might feel as though you are working against it. But I submit to you that what matters most is the direction Texas is moving. And that direction must remain forward."
The swearing in of all 181 House members was scheduled among the first orders of business, and included the largest freshman classes on record. Then the politics begin.
After the swearing in, the first item of business is electing a Speaker of the House.
House Republicans met on Monday in a private caucus to sort out a challenge to current House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican. Straus was elected in 2009 by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans -- something that most conservative among the GOP members and grassroots found politically offensive.
Some had been calling for a more conservative leader after the GOP took a historic supermajority in the House in the November elections.
But on Monday, House Republicans took a nonbinding vote -- and 70 of the 101 Republican House members voted in favor of keeping Straus. He beat out conservatives Rep. Ken Paxton (R-McKinney) and Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa).
Gov. Rick Perry will address lawmakers Tuesday afternoon when he speaks in the Senate at 12:20 p.m. and the House at 2 p.m . By the time he arrives at the House, members could have voted for this session's speaker.
The full House will take a final vote shortly after swearing in, but Straus -- who is largely favored among Democrats -- is expected to take the seat.
Still, the big issue looming over this session will be the budget. According to Comptroller Susan Combs, the state needs $99 billion to maintain the services it currently has.
Combs said on Monday that the state should have about $72.2 billion available for spending, which leaves a projected $26.8 billion shortfall.
That number, however, is simply a projected amount. That means it could change based on what lawmakers do in the next few weeks to offset that number.
Also, there are $9 billion in the state's Rainy Day Fund, which could also be up for consideration to make up for the shortfall -- though GOP leaders in the past have been loathe to break into it for budget purposes. They've used it in the past to create business incentives.
Some Republicans argue that the budget shortfall isn't that bleak -- probably something around $15 billion when the current cuts and future cuts are factored in.
Willie Nelson's nine-hole golf course in Briarcliff is up for sale and the asking price is $3 million, according to a local real estate website.
Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pontiff who won hearts and headlines with his humility and common touch, was named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2013.
When Dawn Erin decided to seek health coverage for the first time in two decades, she was prepared for the red-tape run-around.
Most of the crowd that poured into Austin City Hall on Tuesday night was disappointed with the Parks and Recreation Department's decision to approve a smaller off leash area at Auditorium Shores.
The cold weather tends to bring a bump in cold and flu cases in Central Texas which has a lot of people reaching for over-the-counter drugs. Doctors say to use caution though when picking out those medicines.
Mack Brown's attorney and the university's new athletics director say the Texas coach has not resigned, denying a report that Brown was ready to step down after 16 seasons with the Longhorns.