Earlier this morning, Governor Greg Abbott gave his biennial State of the State Address from the Texas Capitol. The State of the State Address lays out Governor Abbott’s agenda for the session and a list of emergency items he plans to tackle throughout the year.
Governor Abbott began his Address by calling on the 86th session to be a “session that will etch landmark achievements across the state.” Abbott also highlighted the State’s achievements in the past year by recognizing how Texas now leads the nation in new job creation, and is the fastest growing economy in America. Abbott claimed, because of the continued economic growth in Texas, “Texas has become the governmental holy grail.”
However, Governor Abbott stated that in order to fulfill the promise of Texas, more must be done within this next session; including fulfilling his six emergency items. By placing an issue as an emergency item, the Governor lifts a constitutional restriction on legislators that ordinarily prevents them from passing a bill during the first two months of session. In doing so, legislators can immediately begin hearings on bills on those emergency items.
- 1st: School finance reform
- 2nd: Increasing teacher pay
- 3rd: School safety
- 4th: Mental health care
- 5th: Property tax reform
- 6th: Disaster response
Governor Abbott’s first emergency item spawns from the needs of Texas students. Gov Abbott acknowledged the current lack of career or higher education preparation for high school students as they graduate. With only 40% of 3rd graders reading at a 3rd grade level by the time they graduate, Abbott advocates that the Legislature must target education funding to help students achieve in school, and that begins with teachers in the classrooms. When stating his second emergency item as increasing teacher pay, Abbott claimed “this session we must create a pathway for the best teachers to earn a six figure salary.”
In response to the Santa Fe shooting that occurred less than year ago, Abbott also addressed the dire need for Texas to provide more measures for school safety in school districts across the state and to tackle the mental health care issue. Abbott recognized that school safety and addressing mental health needs for students in Texas are two of the most widely agreed upon issues across the isle in the Texas Legislature, making it his third and fourth emergency items for the session. Abbott expressed support for a bill filed by Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) to create a Mental Health Care Consortium.
Governor Abbott also discussed the states’ property tax issues, claiming that this session the Legislature will be making investments in reducing the burden of the Robin Hood system. For his fifth emergency item, Governor Abbott calls for a reform in the state’s property tax system in order to benefit homeowners and businesses across the board.
For his final emergency item, Governor Abbott touched on the impact of Hurricane Harvey, and Texans’ response in the face of the worst natural disaster the state has ever seen. As his sixth and final emergency item for the 86th Legislative session, Abbott called on more funding and resources for the state’s disaster responses so that Texas can continue to rebuild stronger and faster.
In concluding the State of the State Address, Governor Abbott also mentioned issues he believes need to be prioritized by the House and Senate throughout the 86th session. Abbott addressed the state’s need for increased border security, cracking down on human trafficking, ending sexual assault and violence, and supporting Texas Veterans by fully funding veteran programs across the state.
Absent from the State of the State Address was the issue of healthcare. The cost of healthcare continues to rise across the state, which leads in the number of uninsured children and adults. The latest Census data shows that the issue is only getting worse.
Governor Abbott stuck to the bread and butter issues in his emergency items and priorities for the 86th legislative session from education to property taxes. As Reform Austin has previously reported, there is broad support among Texans on issues like teacher pay. There is also bipartisan support among Texas legislators for raising teacher pay and for adequately responding to the effects of Hurricane Harvey and preparing for future disasters. Reform Austin will continue to report on these emergency items and priorities by the Governor throughout the regular session.