Posted: Jan 8, 2013 3:32 PM
Updated: Jan 8, 2013 3:32 PM
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Gov. Rick Perry began resurrecting his national political image Tuesday, promising as the Texas legislative session opened to keep embracing tea party values, beat back government spending and fiercely oppose abortion while also keeping an eye on rising in-state political stars like George P. Bush.
America's longest-serving governor and the longest-serving governor in his state's history, Perry offered a frank assessment of his gaffe-filled, failed run for the White House. "I laid out my ideas and they weren't acceptable," he told The Associated Press. But Perry also said he expects to maintain a keen interest in national politics and ensure Texas stays a beacon of conservative ideals.
"The conversation in boardrooms and around breakfast tables already is 'Texas is a special place, economically it's a special place,'" the governor said during an interview at his office in the State Capitol.
Perry also provided a gift to a special guest at the Capitol: former fellow Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Perry gave his one-time political foe a Texas A&M sweater vest a fashion favorite of the former Pennsylvania senator.
STRAUS LISTS PUBLIC SCHOOLS, WATER PRIORITIES AFTER WINNING THIRD TERM AS HOUSE SPEAKER
House Speaker Joe Straus is starting his third term in the powerful post by calling public education the priority of the new Texas Legislature.
Straus also said Tuesday that lawmakers must take "bold, substantial action" in the next 140 days to address a mounting water crisis in the face of a rapidly growing population.
Straus won re-election unopposed Tuesday after tea party favorite David Simpson withdrew his speaker candidacy during a defiant 10-minute speech to a packed House floor before bowing out. Simpson told lawmakers the House should operate without a "fear of retribution" from leaders in the chamber.
"We must take a stand. That is our duty to our constituents," Simpson said. "I sincerely believe that our constituents are best served when I fight for their interest, rather than go-along, get-along."
SCHOOL LAND BOARD RELEASES $300 MILLION FOR TEXAS SCHOOLS
The Texas School Land Board has voted 2-1 to release $300 million from the Available School Fund to the state's public schools.
Texas voters had previously approved the Land Board's authority to transfer the money as part of 2011 Constitutional Amendment elections.
State Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is chairman of the School Land Board, which oversees the Texas Available School Fund. The progressive advocacy group Progress Texas said that Patterson had led fellow board members in previously blocking the $300 million.
But during a meeting Tuesday, the board voted to release the funds in two installments, $150 million on Feb. 1 and the rest on June 3.
FULL HOUSE ON FIRST DAY
A hectic first day made for standing-room-only throughout most of the Capitol. Bad weather didn't help: rains moved an interfaith service that had been scheduled on the outside steps to a fourth-floor chapel, where about 50 people gathered to hear prayers from different faiths in English and Spanish.
"In this 83rd Legislative session, may the halls of this house of justice resound with programs that help the widow and the orphan, that help everyone find their footing and maintain themselves as each of us strive to lift up every voice," said Neil Blumofe, a senior Rabbi at Agudas Achim in Austin.
Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, told those assembled that what lawmakers "do reflects our values, who we are."
"Whether we say God or Yahweh or Allah or whatever name we use to describe that higher power that which is beyond ourselves, we invite that in and ask that to help us do the best that we can," Howard said. "To give us the guidance, the support, the knowledge to sometimes step out of the way in terms of our ego and do what is best for the citizens of our state."
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I have not had that kind of impact on anyone in a long time." Gov. Rick Perry after Senate staffer fainted during his speech to Senate.