Gov. Greg Abbott offered his State of the State address yesterday – his second since taking office. Unless you had the patience to sit through the whole hour, you may have missed something. So Texas Standard brings you the highlights of his speech.
“Well today I am proud to report the state of Texas is exceptional,” Abbott said.
Abbott started off with a positive outlook on how Texas is faring, even as he readily acknowledged a downturn in the oil and gas industry and the diminishing revenues that have followed. Having less money has been a challenge for this legislative session, but not reason enough to stop Abbott from taking action on four – in the governor’s words – matters of emergency.
Item number one: Child Protective services and the foster care system. A federal judge has ordered the state to reform. And the agency that runs Child Protective Services has been offering solutions.
“Now, it is time for us to do our part,” Abbott said. “To do this right, the budget I’ve issued today budgets more than the House or Senate. Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you in the years to come. When you tackle the CPS and foster care this session – do it right.”
Normal rules for lawmakers don’t let them vote on any new laws for the first 60 days of the session. That emergency designation gives them the green light.
Emergency item number two: sanctuary cities.
“Elected officials don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will obey,” Abbott said. “To protect Texans from deadly danger, we must insist our laws be followed. … Sen. [Charles] Perry, this is the session when we will ban sanctuary cities in Texas.”
Perry (R-Lubbock) has filed a bill to require all Texas jails to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Abbott’s command came on the eve of a new Travis County policy saying that county officials will not cooperate with ICE detainer requests, except in the case of immigrants who may be in the country illegally who are suspected of murder, aggravated sexual assault or human smuggling.
Item three: ethics reform, which would raise requirements for lawmakers to disclose gifts and perks.
Emergency item four: getting lawmakers to sign off on a constitution of states to consider amendments to the U.S. constitution.
Not included on the governor’s emergency list: education. Abbott nonetheless did seem to endorse a controversial plan for what supporters call “school choice”. It’s a plan that would divert taxpayer dollars for public schools to individual savings accounts which could then be used for private schooling. Critics call it a school voucher plan in disguise.
“We can try to flood money to every school in the state in an attempt to meet the needs of every single student,” Abbott said, “or we could more efficiently empower parents to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs.”
Abbott also announced: “Today I am directing state agencies to impose an immediate hiring freeze through the end of August.”
If you’ve lived through past budget downturns it was déja vu.
The order from Washington, D.C. for a border wall did not mean a call for less state money going to border security. Abbott said he wants to keep spending $800 million every two years on border enforcement.
Abbott did not mention the “bathroom bill” that’s been making headlines. The bill would mandate people use public restrooms based on their gender assigned at birth instead of their gender identity.