On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott gave his biennial State of the State Address, but this time, things were different. Instead of speaking during the day to a crowd of legislators at the Texas Capitol, Gov. Abbott spoke virtually from an office in Lockhart, Texas during primetime.
Part of the change this year is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health guidance to socially distance, however the timing of the address adds to the speculation that Abbott has been slowly but surely preparing for a presidential run in 2024.
The State of the State Address lays out Gov. Abbott’s agenda for the session and a list of emergency items he plans to tackle throughout the year.
Abbott listed five 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.
- Expanding broadband internet access
- Prevent cities from defunding the police
- Bail reform (Damon Allen Act)
- Election integrity
- Civil liability protections for businesses and healthcare providers from COVID-19 lawsuits
In addition to listing out his priorities, Abbott laid out his position on these other issues facing the Legislature this session.
Abbott’s other priorities included continuing the boost in education funding from HB 3 from last session, as well as strengthening civics education in Texas schools.
Just as addressing mental health challenges of schoolchildren as it relates to school safety was a priority last session, Abbott made it a priority this session to address the rise in mental health problems during the pandemic. As schools and businesses switched to virtual instruction and meetings, so did many Texans’ visits to the doctor. While the Governor waived some regulations which had made telemedicine less accessible early in the pandemic, he believes those regulations should be done away with to permanently expand telemedicine.
Abbott said that he wants legislators to find a way for Texans with pre-existing conditions to be protected, without “being forced into the ACA.” It is unclear what he has in mind because his political ads in 2020 claimed the GOP already passed such a law in 2019.
Abbott also mentioned preventing the government from “shutting down religious activity,” and making Texas a “second amendment sanctuary state.”