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Week in Review, January 12

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools. 

  • See which significant historic events rank high across generations. (Pew Research Center, December 15, 2016)
  • Explore connections between food security and housing. (U.S. Census Bureau, November 17, 2016)
  • Review a history of straight-ticket voting in Texas. (Austin Community College, Center for Public Policy and Political Studies, December 2016)
  • See how Texas stacks up against other states' rainy day funds. (Governing, January 11, 2017)

What to Expect When You're Expecting...Session!

The first day of the Regular Session is filled with activity and ceremony, and follows a schedule similar to first days past. The House and Senate journal entries for previous first days can be found on the library's website, and offer a glimpse into what to expect on January 10, 2017, when the 85th Texas Legislature convenes at noon.

Opening day of the 84th Legislative Session, January 13, 2015. Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman

In the Senate, the first day of session is called to order by the Lieutenant Governor, while in the House the Secretary of State acts as Master of Ceremonies until the Speaker is elected. In both chambers, a roll call of members is taken to establish a quorum, and an invocation is offered. Members-elect will also take the oath of office. For information about members of the Texas Legislature, please visit our Texas Legislators: Past & Present page. 

Senator Troy Fraser, right, with his granddaughter on the opening day of the 84th Regular Session in 2015. Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman

Representative Obie Jones with family during opening day of the 55th Legislature in 1957. Douglass, Neal. University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

In the House, an important piece of business on opening day is the election of the Speaker. Because the Speaker is elected before the permanent rules of the House are adopted for the current session, a motion is usually adopted to temporarily use the rules of procedure from the previous session. Current and historical rules of the House and the Senate can be found on the library's website. Procedures for nomination and election of the Speaker are passed via resolution. In many past sessions, nominating speeches were not to exceed 5 minutes and seconding speeches were not to exceed 4 minutes. The nominating and seconding speeches as well as the final vote tally are often recorded in the House Journal, and the library has compiled these documents on its website


Learn more about Speakers of the Texas House, 1846 - present.


In turn, the Senate elects the President Pro Tempore. Nominating and seconding speeches are also allowed for this election. Traditionally, the senator with the most seniority who hasn't previously served as President Pro Tempore would serve as the next President Pro Tempore. After the election, a committee is appointed to escort the President Pro Tempore-elect to the podium to take the oath of office and to address the Senate.


Learn more about Lt. Governors and Senate Presidents Pro Tempore, 1846 - present


At the beginning of session each chamber passes a resolution to spell out operational details. In the House, this is called the Housekeeping Resolution, and in the Senate, the Senate Caucus Report. Each chamber notifies the opposite chamber and the governor when their proceedings are concluded, organized, and ready to transact the business of Texas.


If you are unable to join us here in Austin, you can watch a live broadcast of the day's proceedings online at the House and Senate websites.

Thomas Reuben Bonner, Speaker of the Texas House during the 15th Legislature (1876).

Richard Bennett Hubbard Jr., Lt. Governor during the 15th Legislature (1876).




Week in Review, January 5

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools. 

  • Examine the ride-sharing industry and hurdles that ride-sharing companies face when expanding into major markets. (University of Miami Business Law Review, December 20, 2016)
  • Consider evidence-based strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016)
  • Read about a concussion tracking program in extracurricular athletics. (University Interscholastic League, December 12, 2016)
  • Explore views of parents and educators regarding special education services in Texas. (Texas American Federation of Teachers, December 16, 2016)


Sunset Commission Meeting, January 11

Sunset Commission Meeting, January 11  

January 11

Commission decisions:

Final vote on Commission recommendations to the 85th Legislature

Status report on implementation of 2015 Sunset recommendations

State Board of Dental Examiners (information on dental anesthesia) - Invited testimony only

Cover image by Pixabay user gsbarber.

The Texas Capitol Ornament Program



This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Texas Capitol ornament program. In 1996, Nelda Laney (pictured left), wife of then-House Speaker Pete Laney, began this program as a way to raise money for restoration projects and education programs at the Capitol. Nadine Craddick, wife of former Speaker Tom Craddick, and Julie Straus, wife of current Speaker Joe Straus, have carried on this tradition. So far, the money raised from ornament sales has helped pay for several projects, including the restoration of the historic paintings within the Capitol as well as installation of historically accurate floor coverings in the House and the Senate chambers.


Typically, the official ornament highlights an architectural detail of the Texas State Capitol building. For example, designs from previous years include the rotunda ceiling, the rotunda floor, the Capitol's front gate, and the Goddess of Liberty statue, to name a few. This year, however, the Official Capitol Ornament depicts a Christmas tree decorated with the official ornaments from previous years.


Official Capitol ornaments are available for purchase at the Capitol Gift Shop or the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum Gift Shop.



Fun Facts:

  • Nelda Laney was inspired to create this program after receiving a fundraising ornament sold by the White House historical society.
  • Since 1997, the Texas Bar Journal has featured the Official State Capitol Ornament on the cover of their December Issue.
  • Of the 20 ornament designs, 18 feature at least one star.
  • In 2014, a collector bought the one millionth ornament on eBay for $5,176.
  • The Capitol Visitors Center has two display cases that feature information regarding the design and assembly of the Official State Capitol Ornament.


 Below are photos of the Official Capitol Ornaments from 1996 - 2016.


An advertisement for the first Official
Capitol Ornament, featured in the October 1996 issue ofTexas Monthly.
The Official Capitol Ornaments from 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000.


The Official Capitol Ornaments from 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004.
The Official Capitol Ornaments from 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.


The Official Capitol Ornaments from 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
The Official Capitol Ornaments from 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.


Photos of the Official State Capitol Ornaments from 1998, 2001, and 2002 are from the covers of the Texas Bar Journal.


District Ornament Project at the Texas State Capitol

What makes your community special? Since 2009, Texas artists have captured the spirit of their House Districts on glass ornaments used to decorate the House Chamber's 25-foot Christmas tree. The District Ornament Project tradition started when Julie Straus, wife of Speaker Joe Straus, was contemplating how to decorate such a large tree. Fortunately, Texas is a large state, with 150 districts, and has plenty of talented artists to help out.

"We bought hundreds of these clear glass ornaments and invited members to identify something special about their district, something about the way their community celebrated Christmas, and illustrate that on one of these ornaments," Straus said. "What came back was just beyond anything we ever could have imagined."

Some districts' ornaments are painted by Representatives' family members, some by professional artists, some by school children. Ornaments may represent superlatives—such as a rose-themed ornament for District 6, in honor of Tyler's nickname "The Rose Capital of America." They may depict local heroes, such as the portrait of Waco-born WWII hero Doris Miller on the District 56 ornament for 2015. Many are just full of holiday cheer! The tree will be on display at the State Capitol through January 3, but to get a closer look at the ornaments, an album is compiled each year and posted online. You also can see some of this year's ornaments in this photo set from the San Antonio Express-News.

1) From birds to grapefruits and much more, the District Ornament Project showcases the diversity of Texas' natural and human resources.
2) The Senate Christmas tree is a new tradition and also features ornaments celebrating Texas and its citizens.
3) In recent years, the Senate's holiday tradition was to decorate with poinsettias on the desks. In 2015, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick decided to add a tree "to make the Christmas spirit in the Capitol even bigger."


Week in Review, December 15

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools. 

  • Examine whether early-childhood education improves outcomes for children of low-income families. (Early Years blog, Education Week, December 12, 2016)
  • Consider school choice from an economic perspective. (The Perryman Group, November 28, 2016)
  • Review state laws related to presidential electors. (National Association of Secretaries of State, November 2016)
  • Keep your pets safe this season. (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, December 17, 2015, reposted December 12, 2016)
Season’s greetings to our readers! Week in Review will return on January 5.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum

The arrival of the Capitol Christmas trees is a tradition cherished by many. Three 7-foot Virginia Pines arrived by horse-drawn carriage at the Capitol on Tuesday, November 29th. The trees are from the Spring Creek Growers, a family-owned farm located in Montgomery County, and were delivered by Carla Jones, owner of Spring Creek Growers and President of the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association. Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Secretary of the Senate Patsy Spaw, and Patricia Shipton of the Speaker's Office were on hand to greet Mrs. Jones. The trees are placed in various locations within the Capitol. 


Spring Creek Growers deliver Christmas
cheer to the Capitol.
Welcoming Carla Jones and family.

Accompanying the smaller trees were the 25-foot Christmas trees for the House and Senate chambers. These iconic trees are each about 10 years old and 12 feet in diameter, and come from the Elves Christmas Tree Farm. This is the sixth consecutive year that the farm has supplied Christmas trees for the Capitol.


Marshall Cathey of Elves Christmas Tree Farm loads the
25-foot tree onto a trailer. Lynnette George/Herald Democrat.


Senate Christmas Tree
House Christmas Tree


Week in Review, December 8

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools.

  • Review presentation materials related to the Alamo Master Plan. (Reimagine the Alamo, November 30, 2016)
  • Evaluate the surprise bills patients receive for out-of-network costs within in-network facilities. (Yale News, November 16, 2016)
  • Explore statistics related to U.S. businesses. (U.S. Census Bureau, December 2016)
  • Examine public opinion related to President-elect Trump's policy proposals. (Gallup, December 1, 2016)


Week in Review, December 1

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools. 

  • Review mental health services in Texas jails. (Texas Law, University of Texas at Austin, November 15, 2016)
  • Explore the privatization of American airports. (Cato Institute, November 21, 2016)
  • Consider how court fines affect people on low incomes. (American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, November 2016)
  • Examine the services economy. (Gigaom, November 29, 2016)
  • Read about women's earnings in 2015. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2016)

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