On February 17, Governor Greg Abbott gave his first State of the State address. The State of the State was first given by Governor J. Pickney Henderson in 1845, after Texas joined the Union. The State of the State is required by the Texas Constitution and is given at the beginning of each regular legislative session.
The State of the State is used by the Governor to lay out a vision for the state over the next two years and designate emergency items. Usually lawmakers cannot pass bills in the first 60 days unless it is an emergency appropriation or on the Governor's list of emergency items. The designation of something as an emergency item denotes both its importance to the Governor and consideration by the Legislature within the first 60 days of the session. In his first State of the State, Gov. Abbott declared five emergency items.
- The first emergency item was early education. Early education is critical to ensuring children's long-term academic success and expanding access to early education is a priority for the CLC this session. In the State of the State, Gov. Abbott stated, "To improve our schools we must begin by building a strong foundation at the very beginning."
- Gov. Abbott stated his second emergency item was higher education research because of the vital role higher education plays in transforming our state. Indeed, ensuring Texas remains an economic leader in our nation will require the best educated workforce, which is one of the reasons the CLC and many in the business community support in state tuition for all qualifying Texas high school graduates.
- Gov. Abbott's third emergency item was transportation. As many of the new CLC Austin staffers are learning, sitting in traffic is as much a part of Austin culture as weirdness, barbeque and the Texas Longhorns. Gov. Abbott proposed an additional $4 billion dollars to build more roads in Texas and ease road congestion.
- Gov. Abbott's fourth emergency item was border security funding because of the continuing threat posed by drug cartels, transnational gangs, human smuggling and trafficking operations. The CLC certainly agrees on the need to crack down on human traffickers and smugglers. Twenty percent of U.S. trafficking victims are trafficked along the I-10 corridor in Texas and people who prey on the vulnerable should be punished.
- The final emergency item identified was ethics reform. Gov. Abbott requested that the Legislature work to strengthen the faith and trust Texans have in their government. He has proposed several ethics reforms like requiring elected officials to disclose contracts they have with public entities, and prohibiting lawmakers from voting on legislation from which they could profit. Transparency from our government officials strengthens the confidence we as citizens have in our government to act in our best interests.
Governor Abbott's inaugural State of the State address provides a blueprint of his priorities and plans for the future of Texas for the next two years. The CLC continues to focus on the need to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. We should support our elected officials by praying from them and our state. My prayer is that Texas would be a place where justice and kindness abide.