Gov. Greg Abbott delivered his biennial State of the State address Tuesday morning before members of the Texas House and Senate, outlining the political issues he wants the Legislature to immediately consider.
The first 60 days of the Texas legislative session are officially reserved for the consideration of bills, and voting on bills only takes place at the conclusion of this 60-day period. However, Gov. Abbott has the ability to declare certain things “emergency items,” which means they can be voted on before the first 60 days are over. Emergency items are traditionally named during the State of the State address.
Abbott declared five emergency items, two of which were increasing funding for public education and raising teacher pay.
“We must provide incentives to put effective teachers into the schools and classrooms where they are needed the most,” Abbott said. “And we must create a pathway for the best teachers to earn a six-figure salary.”
Abbott’s third emergency item was school safety. He described it as being equal in importance to increased education funding — particularly in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School that left eight students and two teachers dead last May.
“It is simply not enough just to give our students a better education,” Abbott said. “We must also create a learning environment that is safe. No student should be afraid to go to school. No parent should be fearful when dropping their child off at school. Texas must act now to make our schools safer.”
In order to decrease the likelihood of future mass shootings in public schools, Abbott has voiced support for increased security on campuses and more funding for mental health programs. As part of his emergency item for school funding, he declared a mental health initiative by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that would seek to address mental health issues statewide.
“Mental health issues are not just confined to our schools,” Abbott said. “They touch our entire society. To better address these issues, Sen. Nelson also provides a broad-based plan, a plan that creates a mental health care consortium to collaborate on statewide mental health needs.”
Abbott’s fourth and fifth emergency items were property tax reform and disaster relief.
Both the House and the Senate have proposed identical bills to lower property taxes, which Abbott praised. Abbott also endorsed a set of bills by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, that would create Texas’s first statewide flood plan in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
In addition to declaring his emergency items, Abbott emphasized other issues he considered time-sensitive. One of these was the state’s backlog of untested rape kits, which he decried and called for a solution by the end of the legislative session.
“One of the most important tools we have is forensic testing of rape kits,” Abbott said. “Yet thousands of these kits have languished untested for years … We must provide more funding to eliminate the backlog and to deliver justice that has been denied for far too long.”
Finally, Abbott expressed his support for a bill by Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, to reinstate the rivalry football game between UT and Texas A&M.
“I’m willing to step up and put aside past differences and work with Lyle Larson to reinstate the rivalry game between the Aggies and the Longhorns,” Abbott said.