AUSTIN — Eight members of the Texas Legislature filed papers with the Texas Ethics Commission to declare themselves candidates for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, and as of last week, only one remained.

The candidacy of state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, gained momentum in October, and Bonnen on Nov. 13 announced he had the support of 109 members of the 150-member House. At minimum, it takes 76 votes to elect a speaker, which is 50 percent, plus one, of the 150 members of the House.

The other candidates for the speakership who withdrew from the race include: Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, vice chairman of the House Committee on Local and Consent Calendars; Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, chairman of the House Energy Resources Committee; Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, vice chair of the House Redistricting Committee; Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee; Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, chairman of the House Investments and Financial Services Committee; Rep. Walter “Four” Price, R-Amarillo, chairman of the House Public Health Committee; and Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Bonnen, 46, first was elected to represent House District 25 in 1997. The district includes Matagorda County and part of Brazoria County. Bonnen currently is chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee and serves as speaker pro tempore of the House.

The first order of business for the House when the 86th Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 8 is the election of the speaker, who will succeed Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Straus chose not to seek re-election and is finishing a record fifth consecutive term as speaker.

McCall to lead transition

Bonnen on Nov. 13 announced that he had named former longtime Texas House member Brian McCall, who has been chancellor of the Texas State University System since 2010, to serve as chairman of his transition team. Bonnen said McCall would assist him in recruiting senior staff, planning the swearing-in ceremony and working with outgoing Speaker Straus and his staff to facilitate a smooth transition. 

“I’ve known Rep. Bonnen since his first day as a House member and quickly recognized his leadership ability,” McCall said. “He possesses all of the qualities to be a successful speaker; he is a straight shooter, compassionate, principled and determined to unify the House and work constructively with the Senate and governor.”

“Chancellor McCall knows the Capitol and the people who make it work. More importantly, he has a reputation as both a legislator and a higher education leader for his fairness, decency and ability to bring people together,” Bonnen said. 

Bonnen gets thumbs up

Gov. Greg Abbott on Nov. 12 congratulated Bonnen, saying, “no one works harder or more passionately for Texas” than Bonnen. “There are a number of important and pressing issues facing Texas as we head into this next legislative session, including reforming school finance and elevating our education system and I look forward to working with the new speaker and the entire House of Representatives to address these topics and much more,” Abbott added.

Also, in a joint statement released Nov. 14, Bonnen and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the state Senate, said they had a phone conversation in which they agreed to work together “to move Texas forward” in the upcoming legislative session. “The lieutenant governor and I share a strong commitment to do the people’s business,” Bonnen said.

DPS expands social media

The Texas Department of Public Safety on Nov. 12 announced the launch of seven regional social media accounts, covering every corner of the state and all seven DPS regions, including North Texas, Southeast Texas, South Texas, West Texas, Northwest Texas, Central Texas and the Capitol Region. 

“Each DPS region is unique, and we look forward to using these regional social media accounts to highlight the work of the department in those areas and bolster our ties with communities throughout Texas,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said.

TEA releases district ratings

The Texas Education Agency on Nov. 15 released final financial accountability ratings for the 1,200 school districts and charters across the state.

Each school district or open-enrollment charter received one of four possible letter grades — A, B, C or F — and a financial management rating of Superior, Above Standard Achievement, Meets Standard or Substandard Achievement. 

Ninety-nine percent of the districts and charters earned a successful final rating, as measured by the School Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas, a system designed to encourage public schools to better manage financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes, the TEA said.