Opening Day At The Lege

The Texas House elected Dede Phelan as its new speaker, amid tight security and COVID-19 precautions at the Capitol.

By Jill Ament & Shelly BrisbinJanuary 13, 2021 11:00 am, , ,

The Texas Legislature opened the 2021 session on Tuesday, electing Beaumont Republican Dede Phelan as the new speaker of the House. Much else is new this session, with enhanced security in the aftermath of last week’s U.S. Capitol riot, and precautions intended to keep those inside the state Capitol safe from COVID-19.

KUT-Austin Managing Editor Ben Philpott told Texas Standard that those entering the Capitol were required to be tested for COVID-19 

Some lawmakers did not attend the opening session of the House, where members are sworn in on opening day, Philpott says.

“We’ve had a couple swear each other in remotely,” he said.

Some lawmakers wore masks; others did not. 

“It may be an evolving thing through the session – how concerned, how cautions over COVID-19 kind of make their way through this session,” Philpott said. 

Phelan won election by a vote of 143-2, with four members not voting. The “No” votes came from two Republican freshmen.

Philpott says Phelan, like his predecessor, Dennis Bonnen, is “among the more centrist” Republicans in the chamber, and that isn’t what some conservative members want.

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