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Dean tapped on first day of Texas legislature

By Glenn Evans
Jan. 10, 2017 at 11:18 p.m.

Texas Rep. Jay Dean, center, of Longview is sworn in Tuesday during the opening of the 85th Texas Legislative Session at the Texas Capitol in Austin. (Chuck Vincent/special to the News-Journal)

The 85th Legislative Session began on a promising note for Northeast Texas with freshman lawmaker Jay Dean of Longview selected for the ceremonial committee that escorted the unanimously elected House Speaker to his swearing-in.

Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, will guide the 150-member Texas House of Representatives through its work for the 140-day session.

Dean and fellow East Texas Republican Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall both stood out as the House seated Straus for a record-tying fifth term.

"His nomination (as speaker) was made by our Chris Paddie," Dean said Tuesday by phone after the House adjourned. "So two members of the East Texas delegation were invited to be part of that ceremony."

Dean said he had not expected to be included in the committee of six or seven House members who escorted Straus to the dais for his oath.

"I thought that was a good sign," he said. "I was the only freshman, incoming new member, to be put on that team. We sat up on the dais to hear his remarks, also to hear the governor's remarks."

Straus' return as leader of the House was one topic in Dean's successful campaign against fellow Republican David Watts, who like many tea party members strongly opposed Straus as being too moderate.

Dean had said, in a January 2016 debate with Watts, that he would take his cue from District 7 residents when the time came and called it "bad business" to decide his speaker vote when he did not know who would be running.

He said Tuesday that he found it interesting no House members ran against or voted against Straus.

"They sure all voted in support of the speaker," Dean said. "The speaker was nominated and elected unanimously. I don't know if that's ever happened before. What that showed was the membership is not always going to agree on everything but is going to work together and work toward doing the right thing for Texas."

Freshman honors aside, Dean said he knows he is a first-time legislator among veterans and will serve on whatever committees the speaker assigns him.

"My first preference would be Appropriations," he said, referring to the budget-writing panel in the House. "I enjoyed, for 10 years as mayor, working our budget annually."

He said he'd also welcome a seat on the Ways and Means Committee or Transportation.

"I'm excited about my chance at being selected for one of those committees," he said, and reflected on the "awe and intrigue" surrounding his first day as a Texas legislator. "But also the responsibility I have to the 175,000 people in my district and how we get things done for our district. ... When you walk through those doors to take your seat for the first time, it's inspiring. You sit down, and you think about all the great members that have served in the past."

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