Members of the Texas House of Representatives re-elected state Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, for a second term as speaker Jan. 10.

Phelan beat state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, to secure the chamber’s top leadership position. Phelan garnered 143 votes, while Tinderholt received three—one from himself, alongside Republican state Reps. Bryan Slaton of Royse City and Nate Schatzline of Tarrant County.

In a statement, Schatzline said he voted for Tinderholt to “stand against the practice of nominating Democrat chairs.” Members of the minority party are routinely appointed to lead some House committees, but a small group of Republican lawmakers—including Tinderholt, Slaton and Schatzline—want to end the practice.

Phelan appointed Democrats to lead 13 of the 34 House committees in 2021 and has vowed to do the same in 2023, according to The Texas Tribune.

Every House Democrat voted for Phelan.

As speaker, Phelan has the authority to assign House members to committees, appoint committee leaders and more. He also presides over the chamber throughout the session and is required to sign all passed legislation.

Speaking before his colleagues, Phelan outlined his priorities for the session. He called for a “family-focused House” that prioritizes what matters most to everyday Texans.

Phelan emphasized a need for lasting property tax relief, which Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders have highlighted as a top concern.

He also urged lawmakers to help more Texans gain access to quality and affordable health care. This includes ensuring new mothers have health coverage for 12 months after childbirth, Phelan said.

In 2021, the Texas House voted to extend Medicaid coverage for one year postpartum, but the Senate cut it to six months. The six-month plan was not approved by the federal government, so low-income Texans currently have access to two months of coverage after childbirth.

In December, a report from the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee highlighted grim statistics about Texas’ maternal death rates, including stark racial and ethnic disparities. The report will be available to lawmakers as they craft legislation during the legislative session.

“With a once-in-a-lifetime budget surplus, now is the time to put a down payment on the future of Texas,” Phelan said.

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced Jan. 9 that lawmakers will have an unprecedented $188.2 billion—which includes a $32.7 billion surplus—as they create the state’s budget for 2024-25. The high balance is largely due to high sales tax revenue, spikes in energy prices and consistent economic growth, Hegar said.

Last week, Phelan spoke with the families of those killed in a May shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

“We owe it to the memory of those children and teachers to make sensible, meaningful change,” Phelan told his colleagues as he called for improvements to school and child safety.

Phelan mentioned other goals for the session, including strengthening Texas’ criminal justice system, improving infrastructure, supporting Texas’ economy and workforce, and increasing security at the Texas-Mexico border.

Gov. Abbott also spoke before the Texas House. He began by congratulating the chamber’s new and returning members.

“I have never been more excited about the beginning of a session than I am this year,” Abbott said.

He cited Texas’ large surplus, the state’s recent growth and the “prolific issues” on the table during the 140-day session.

The Texas House will reconvene at 10 a.m. Jan. 11, while the Senate will meet at 11 a.m.