The 86th Legislature has officially convened. As expected, the members of the Texas House elected Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) as their leader, with a unanimous 147-0 vote. (Three House seats are empty due to recent resignations.) In his acceptance speech, Speaker Bonnen stressed that education — and in particular school finance — would be the top priority for the House this session. He notified members that he had purchased new cups for the House members’ lounge that were imprinted with “School finance reform, the time is now.” Given the relatively rosy budgetary outlook for the session, we may be in a position to see significant funding increases for public education.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was in Washington, D.C., today at a meeting on border security, so Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) presided over the opening session of the Senate. Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) was elected to the largely ceremonial position of president pro tempore.

After the adoption of House and Senate rules in the coming days, most action will be behind the scenes. Movement on bills cannot begin in earnest until committee appointments are made by Patrick and Bonnen. Until then, lawmakers will continue to file legislation to round out their legislative agendas. The deadline for bill filing is in early March.