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January 9, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Texas Senate Convenes
for 77th Legislative Session

AUSTIN - The Texas Senate convened Tuesday, January 9, the start of the 140-day 77th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. The first Session of the 21st century began with the traditional ceremonies in a chamber packed with the Senators' family and friends beneath a crowded public gallery.

The session began with the invocation, followed by the roll call and swearing in of the Senators re elected last November and the chamber's only freshman, Sen. Todd Staples of Palestine.

The Dean of the Texas Senate, Sen. Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi, offered Senate Resolution (SR) 1, the first resolution of the 77th Session, in tribute to Gov. Rick Perry. Perry, accompanied by his wife, Anita, addressed the full Senate in session for the first time since he resigned as Lt. Governor to succeed President-elect George W. Bush.

"The good news is we have 140 days to make a difference in Texans' lives," Perry told the members of the chamber over which he used to preside.

Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff, selected by the Senate on December 28 to serve out Perry's term as presiding officer of the Senate, showed a humorous side to the proceedings in the traditional recognition of the Doctor of the Day, introduced by Sen. Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio: "Thank you for being here, doctor," Ratliff said. "We sincerely hope you're not needed."

Sen. Truan then offered SR 2, the adoption of the Senate Caucus Report naming senate officials elected by the members. This session's Caucus Report adds an unprecedented new official, Secretary of the Senate Designee Patsy Spaw. The Secretary of the Senate is elected by the Senate as its chief executive administrator.

Spaw will replace Betty King, who will retire following this session after 24 years as Secretary of the Senate and more than 52 years of service to the Texas Senate.

"We consider Betty King the Mother Superior of the Senate," Lt. Governor Ratliff said, "and she always be, I think."

Next came the nomination and election of the President Pro Tem of the Senate, Sen. Chris Harris of Arlington. Following unanimous election by his peers, Harris invoked the name of a giant figure in Texas politics, the late former Lt. Governor Bob Bullock.

"I think if he were here today, he'd try to say something nice, give me a slap on the back, and then he'd tell me to get back to work," Sen. Harris said.

The Senate gets back to work on Wednesday, when it reconvenes at 11 a.m.

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