Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017

Thank you to the House and Senate, the judiciary, statewide officials, fellow Texans.

I’m honored to join you today as we build an even broader path to prosperity for all Texans.    

I’m especially proud to have by my side the fabulous First Lady of Texas, Cecilia Abbott.

From her deep faith and steady grace I’ve drawn strength during our 35 years of marriage.

Also by my side are two strong leaders working for the future of Texas: Lt. Gov. Patrick and Speaker Straus.

- - - - -

Today, I’m proud to report the State of Texas is exceptional.

Since my first State of the State two years ago, more kids are graduating from high school, we doubled the number of Tier One universities and more Texans have jobs today than ever before.

Sure, we had a downturn in the oil patch like we have almost every decade.

Texas has lost more than 100,000 jobs since the the oil and gas bust began in mid-2014. But the most recent numbers have made some hopeful. In November and December, energy companies in Texas added an estimated 3,000 new oil and gas jobs.
Rachel Osier Lindley
Statewide Coordinating Editor, Texas Station Collaborative

And like every other time, Texas has come roaring back.

Last year when oil hit bottom, Texas still added more than 200,000 new jobs.

Our national and international rankings continue to rise. We are now second in the number of Fortune 500 companies. And with your help, we'll soon be No. 1.

And as Comptroller Hegar noted, if Texas were its own country we would now be the 10th largest economy in the world. Our economy is larger than Australia, Canada and even Russia.

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar estimates the Texas economy grew just 0.2 percent in fiscal year 2016, down from 5.9 percent a year earlier. Weakness in oil and natural gas caused oil and gas taxes to plummet by more than 50 percent in 2016, leading to the drop in revenues. Hegar estimates this Legislature will have fewer dollars to spend during the next two years -- 2.7 percent less -- than what he projected at the start of the 2015 session.
Jose Luis Jimenez
Managing News Editor, Houston Public Media

- - - - -

But Texas is about more than just numbers.

We are about our people. People like Tiffany Tremont.    

Tiffany served our country in the U.S. Air Force.

She is now president and CEO of Silo-tech Group, a San Antonio company that provides advanced cyber security and IT solutions.

Tiffany, thank you for your service.

Thank you also for being among the growing number of women-owned businesses in Texas.

Texas is No. 2 in the nation for women-owned businesses.

According to a report commissioned by American Express on the state of women-owned business in 2016, Texas ranks second for greatest number of firms, following California. Over the past decade, the number of women-owned businesses has increased by 63 percent in the state. In addition, Dallas and Houston were among the top metropolitan areas for women-owned firms.
Stephanie Kuo
Administrative Producer, KERA

Our goal is to make Texas No. 1.

- - - - -

We all know that Texas leads the nation in areas like oil and gas.

Importantly though, Texas is in the middle of an innovation renaissance that weans our economy off of energy.

Biotech. Defense tech. Wearable tech. Clean tech. Technologies developed in Texas are changing the world in which we live.

The Dallas, Houston and Austin areas are now known as three of the world’s premiere “knowledge capitals.”

Dallas, Houston and Austin earned nods as international "knowledge capitals" in a Brookings Institute report. The report rated cities based on "economic characteristics, industrial structure, and key competitiveness factors." Dallas ranked among 19 cities around the world designated as knowledge capitals largely to due its contributions as a regional financial hub. A total of 123 metropolitan areas were surveyed.
Stephanie Kuo
Administrative Producer, KERA

And get this: Midland beats the San Francisco area in the percentage of jobs created by startups.

And, we continue to cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.

For example, Texas now has more public high schools ranked in the top 100 than any other state. We have the fourth highest high school graduation rate in America.

Texas lags behind other states in quality public schools. That title goes to Massachusetts, according to the annual ranking from Education Week’s Research Center. In the report card, Texas got a C- overall and finished No. 41 among all the states and the District of Columbia.

Nationwide, graduation rates have been climbing in recent years. But critics have long questioned how Texas calculates its graduation rates, allowing districts to mask true graduation rates. According to federal data, Texas is behind four other states with higher grad rates: Iowa at 91 percent, Nebraska at 90 percent and New Jersey and Wisconsin both at 89 percent. Texas tied with four other states for the No. 4 ranking. Abbott’s claim for second highest rate for Hispanic students is true. The other claims for black students and low-income kids are technically true, though Texas tied with other states.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

We are second among Hispanic and African-American students, and first among economically disadvantaged students. And the No. 1 public high school in America is in the Dallas Independent School District.

In U.S. News & World Reports’ annual rankings, the No. 1 high school was Dallas’ School for the Talented and Gifted. The Dallas district’s School of Science and Engineering was at No. 4. Houston’s Carnegie Vanguard High School finished 10th. Summit International Preparatory, an Uplift charter school in Arlington came in at No. 22. There were 19 Texas schools in the top 100; New York had 14, Florida 12, California 10.
Rick Holter

- - - - -

Some of these successes build on the work we did last session.

By every measure, last session was a tremendous success.

In addition to improving early education and higher education, we provided a record amount of badly needed funding to unclog our congested roads. We delivered the most robust border security effort of any state ever. We did all of that and more—in 140 days—all without breaking the budget.

In 2015, Abbott made early education one of his five emergency items and signed a law, House Bill 4, that gave districts over $100 million in grants for high quality pre-K programs. Critics saw it an expansion of state-funded pre-K. But advocates for early education saw it as a good step forward to raise the quality. For example, participating districts have to meet certain standards on curriculum and class sizes.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

In fact, we very wisely ended the session with the largest savings account of any state in America.

In short, we made Texas freer, stronger, safer and smarter.

This session, we have new challenges to solve and old challenges that need new solutions.

- - - - -

The primary goal of government is to keep its citizens safe and secure.

That goal is even more important when it comes to our children.

You will cast thousands of votes this session. Few will involve life or death decisions. Your vote on CPS is one of them.

In Gov. Abbott's prepared remarks for the 2015 State of the State Address, he made no mention of an issue that looms large over the 85th Legislature: child welfare services. Yet, early in his tenure as governor, Abbott said he was committed to overhauling the state’s struggling Department of Family and Protective Services. He was particularly focused on reducing child deaths as a result of abuse and neglect. From 2010 to 2014, 144 children died even though at one point CPS had been investigating claims of abuse. Abbott’s office committed an extra $40 million for child welfare services.
Becky Fogel
Newscast Host/Producer, Texas Standard

Last year, more than 100 children died in our Child Protective System.

You can vote to end that.

We can reform the system so that no more children die in it.

We were right to inject emergency funding. But that’s not a lasting solution.

In the lead-up to the 85th legislative session, Abbott and members of the Texas House and Senate took steps to improve the situation at the state’s child welfare agency. They approved over $140 million in emergency funding to help Child and Protective Services hire more than 800 new staff members and give front-line workers a raise.
Becky Fogel
Newscast Host/Producer, Texas Standard

We need more workers, with better training, smarter strategies and real accountability to safeguard our children.

While improving child safety in CPS, we must also remain vigilant in protecting parental rights. We must remember that the best place for a child, if at all possible, is with their parents.

We also need to develop a Network of Nurture.

The First Lady and others have reached out to faith leaders across Texas to encourage their members to become foster and adoptive parents.

We need a legion of families in every county who can open their homes and open their hearts to fostering our vulnerable children.

When done right, foster care yields tremendous results.

For example, despite growing up in state protective care, Ke’Nesha and A’Lisa Buckner never let their struggles hinder them. Instead, the sisters thrived, overcoming many obstacles and becoming successful adults dedicated to raising awareness for children in the foster care system.

Last year, a federal judge declared the Texas foster care system broken. That’s no small-scale problem. There are more than 30,000 children in Texas foster care each year, and national studies indicate up to 80 percent of them have at least one chronic medical condition
Lauren Silverman
Health/Science/Tech Reporter, KERA

They are with us today, and I'm proud to say they are both college graduates.

Ke’Nesha and A’Lisa, thank you for the example you have set.

Also with us today are Kris and Eric Calder.

They have fostered several children and adopted two.

Kris says, “This isn’t a sit back and let other people do the work. We all have to be accountable here.”

Kris and Eric, Texas is better because of parents like you.

All of the kids in the foster care system have experienced some kind of abuse and neglect. Child Protective Services says high-needs kids can be hard to place in foster homes – let alone, permanent, adoptive homes. They require specialized treatment and resources; CPS is asking the 85th Legislature to fund that.
Becky Fogel
Newscast Host/Producer, Texas Standard

Now, it’s time for us to do our part.

To do this right, I’ve budgeted more than the House or Senate.

Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you.

Do it right.

If ever we’ve had an emergency item, this is it.

And I’m declaring CPS reform my first emergency item.

If you do nothing else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child.

- - - - -

Our schools are places for children to learn, explore and advance.

Texas schools are filled with some of the best teachers in America who are called to their profession.

Unfortunately, a small number of teachers have given Texas an unwanted ranking.

Texas reportedly leads the nation in teacher-student sexual assaults. Some of those

teachers are not prosecuted. And worse, some are shuffled off to other schools.

We are the ones with the duty to do something about it.

Teachers who assault students should lose their license and go to jail.

I want legislation that imposes real consequences for those teachers.

We must also penalize administrators who turn a blind eye to such abuse.

- - - - -

As elected officials, it's our responsibility to protect all Texans.

It is our burden to deal with the consequences of the federal government not securing the border.

Let’s be clear: We all support legal immigration; it’s what built America.

What must be stopped is illegal immigration—and worse, the criminals who conspire with cartels to enter the U.S. illegally.

Texas can’t change federal immigration laws.

What Texas can do is to enforce existing law.

There are consequences—deadly consequences—to not enforcing the law.

Juan Rios is a criminal alien who had been arrested in Texas multiple times and deported three times. Last September, he went on a crime spree across Texas, killing two people and kidnapping another.

One of his innocent victims was Welton Betts. Welton loved God, his family and the Dallas Cowboys. After leaving a Cowboys game last year, he stopped at a Texaco station in Cedar Hill where he was gunned down by Juan Rios.

Mr. Betts' death is a tragedy.

It’s a tragedy repeated too often in Texas.

It is time for Texas to take a stand.

Some law enforcement officials in Texas are openly refusing to enforce existing law.

Gov. Abbott has said he is prepared to cut government funding to sanctuary cities and the state’s college campuses if they refuse to work with federal immigration officials.

Yes. I'm going to sign a law that bans sanctuary cities. Also I've already issued an order cutting funding to sanctuary cities. #txlege https://t.co/uYXa2QFrvE

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 28, 2016
The challenge for local governments and lawmakers is that the definition of “sanctuary city” has been vague. In communities like San Antonio law enforcement have a policy of not asking about a person’s immigration status, but San Antonio says that does not make it a “sanctuary city.”
Shelley Kofler
News Director, Texas Public Radio

That is unacceptable.

Elected officials don't get to pick and choose which laws they obey.

To protect Texans from deadly danger, we must insist that laws be followed.

Sen. Perry, this is the session we will ban sanctuary cities.

I’m declaring this an emergency item.

The view that undocumented immigrants pose a threat to public safety has been circulated for years and was propelled into greater visibility throughout President Donald Trump's campaign. But several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. Experts also say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.
Stephanie Kuo
Administrative Producer, KERA

- - - - -

At the same time, we must continue our efforts to help secure the border.

Sen. Charles Perry has filed a sanctuary-city bill this session after a similar bill failed to make it out of the Senate two yars ago. Perry’s 2017 legislation begins by outlining what a local law enforcement officer can’t do in enforcing federal immigration policy. Perry’s bill also states that local law officials have a duty to notify federal immigration agents if a person being booked in the jail cannot provide an ID card or proof of citizenship. Though he does note an officer would strictly be forbidden to stop someone or search a business or residence simply on the suspicion a person may be in the country illegally. Additionally, Perry’s bill would require local judges to record a person's immigration status in court records if known. And it would deny that person access to bail bonds if they are in the country illegally and are facing serious criminal charges. Cities and counties caught violating the law would be subject to financial penalties and potential lawsuits filed by the state’s attorney general.
Ryan Poppe
News Reporter - Capitol, Texas Public Radio

Chairman Bonnen, the new administration in Washington has shown the potential to finally secure the border.

But as Darrell Royal said: “Potential just means you ain't done it yet.”

Tomorrow, I will meet with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to discuss the federal government’s efforts to strengthen border security.

Chairman Hunter, while the federal government is ramping up, Texas will not retreat.

My budget continues the investment made last session, including funding for DPS troopers and the National Guard.

Texas will not flinch in our resolve to keep Texans safe.

- - - - -

Protecting Texans is more than securing the border.

I want to thank our law enforcement officers across the state who are on the front lines of keeping our communities safe.

Unbelievably, last year ambush-style killings of police increased more than 150 percent.

Where Gov. Abbott got that number is unclear. The National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund reported that ambush attacks on police officers in the U.S. increased by more than 300 percent over the past year. Those numbers are still relatively low: from three killings in 2015 to 14 in 2016. According to the FBI, overall, killings of police officers are down. In 2011, for instance, 72 officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty. By 2015, that number had fallen to 41. The leading cause of death for police officers is still traffic-related, with 53 fatalities in 2016.
Stephanie Kuo
Administrative Producer, KERA

We will never forget the sniper attack on Dallas law enforcement last July.

Or Harris County Sheriff Deputy Goforth killed in cold blood at a gas station.

Or San Antonio Detective Marconi murdered late last year.

On July 7, at the end of a peaceful rally in Dallas, a gunman opened fire, killing five police officers in downtown Dallas and injured nine others, plus two civilians. Two of the injured officers, Gretchen Rocha of the Dallas Police Department and Lee Cannon of the transit police, attended the governor’s speech, along with three other Dallas officers injured in the line of duty. Abbott also referred to the killings of Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth and San Antonio Police Detective Benjamin Marconi.
Rick Holter

These murders had one thing in common: The victims were killed because of the uniform they wear.

We have with us today some Texas heroes.

Officer Gretchen Rocha of the Dallas Police Department and Officer Lee Cannon of the DART Police Department, both of whom were shot in the Dallas attack last July.

They are joined by three Dallas police officers who’ve been injured in the line of duty:

Senior Corporal Jeremy Borchardt, Senior Corporal Richard Whitt and Senior Corporal Eddie Coffey.

Texas will not tolerate attacks on law enforcement officers.

We will rise up as a state in support our law enforcement.

I want legislation that increases penalties and makes it a hate crime for criminals who target peace officers simply because of their uniform.

Dallas Republican State Rep. Jason Villalba filed legislation ahead of the session that, if passed, would create a new class of hate crimes when police officers and first responders are the intended target.
Tricia Schwennesen
Web Producer/News Editor, Texas Public Radio

- - - - -

Protecting Texans also means protecting the most vulnerable—the unborn.

I welcome any legislation that protects unborn children and promotes a culture of life in Texas.

We are joined today by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

He is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Your Eminence, I commend your commitment to protecting the unborn. Thanks to you and the bishops of Texas for showing respect for the unborn by offering to bury fetal remains at no cost.

Human fetal tissue currently falls under the same disposal regulations as other human tissue. Last July, Abbott proposed a rule change to ban disposal of fetal tissue remains in landfills and only allow for cremation or burial. In August, the Texas Medical Association and the Texas Hospital Association raised questions about costs and responsibility. Trisha Trigilio, attorney for the ACLU of Texas says that three-quarters of women seeking abortion care live near or below the federal poverty line and that the requirement would single out abortion clinics for disposal that wouldn’t apply to any other medical procedures. This month, a federal judge blocked the fetal tissue burial rule. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote the rule serves no medical purpose but imposed an undue burden on a woman’s right to seek an abortion.
Lauren Silverman
Health/Science/Tech Reporter, KERA

It demonstrates the dignity and reverence that every child’s life deserves.

Chairman Cook, that is why I support legislation to codify this dignity for every child in the future.

Every child—born and unborn—deserves dignity. The butchering of unborn babies for trade in the open market is barbaric.

It is already illegal to sell fetal tissue, but donation -- with consent -- is legal. Reimbursement for donation, however, is allowed. Human fetal tissue is used in scientific research, mostly for HIV/AIDS work, eye disease and development and other infectious diseases.
Lauren Silverman
Health/Science/Tech Reporter, KERA

Sen. Schwertner and Rep. Burkett, I want legislation on my desk that criminalizes the sale or donation of baby body parts.

We must also do more to help the children that mothers bring into this world.

That’s why I’m committed to advancing adoption services and developing programs to support mothers who embrace the blessing of a child's life.

- - - - -

We must provide our children with the tools they need to succeed.

We do that through education.

James Madison emphasized the importance of education to our liberty. He said “a well-instructed people...can be a permanently free people.”

That’s precisely our goal in educating our children: Ensuring their perpetual freedom.

That education begins with early education including high-quality Pre-K.

Texas currently meets only two out of 10 benchmarks for quality pre-K, according to a 2015 report from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. There are no limits on class-size and teachers don’t have to have a college degree.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

Don't take my word for the importance of this.

Eighty percent of all voters agree: Texas should fund optional high-quality Pre-K education.

They want our children on the path to reading and doing math at grade level by the time they finish third grade.

Rep. Huberty and Sen. Campbell, you were right to champion that proposal last session.

You brought high quality standards to a Pre-K system that desperately needed meaningful improvement.

So, I’m perplexed by the budgets submitted by the House and Senate. They nod in the direction of Pre-K, but they turn a blind eye to the goal of achieving high-quality Pre-K.

Advocates are concerned that lawmakers will trim funding for high-quality pre-K significantly. (It’s on top of the state money for half-day pre-K for all districts.) So far, the Senate’s budget proposes $150 million - or $75 million per year. That marks a 36 percent drop in funding from the current funding of $118 million per year. The House budget maintains the current funding for one year, but would zero it out completely in 2019. Even with the current funding, some districts opted not to participate in the high quality pre-K grants at all because they felt it wasn’t enough to cover the higher standards.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

Do your constituents know that each session you vote to spend about $1.5 billion on unaccountable Pre-K?

The purpose of high-quality Pre-K is to set high standards, evaluate them and eliminate what doesn’t work.

It’s to ensure that Pre-K works rather than wastes taxpayer money.

Let’s do this right. Or don’t do it at all.

- - - - -

You were also right last session to advance Texas universities to be among the best in America.

While so many colleges are competing for 5-Star recruits to athletic programs, Texas is leading the way to attract 5-Star recruits to our academic programs.

Sen. Nelson, the Governor’s University Research Initiative you funded last session brought internationally renowned researchers to Texas.

As one example, Dr. Richard Miles—a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering—is leaving Princeton to join the Aerospace Engineering Department at Texas A&M.

His work places Texas A&M and the State of Texas at the forefront of laser and optical technology that can enhance national security.

Research like this spurs economic development and helps create jobs.

We must continue our mission to do more than just prepare Texas for the next two years.

We also need to put our state on the path for national and international prominence for the next 20 years.

GURI does just that. And must be fully funded again.

- - - - -

We must do more to help our public schools educate our children.

I support our Education Commissioner—Mike Morath—and all he is doing to improve our schools.

Thank you, Commissioner.

He’s making our schools more connected than ever to the internet. He’s developing math innovation zones to improve student performance. He’s deploying reading and math academies that make our teachers even better.

We are also working to address the growing demand on our charter schools. They do a great job and deserve more funding.

The Texas Charter Schools Association has been lobbying for several years for more public funding. They argue they get $1,000 less per student than traditional public school because they don't get money for school buildings and other facilities. Charter schools filed their own claim in the recent massive school finance case, but lost out.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

Our goal is to give teachers the tools and resources they need to help our students succeed.

But we have to realize we’re living in the 21st Century while insisting on an education architecture built for the 1800s.

Both the House and the Senate are right to tackle the vexing challenge of school finance now rather than putting it off.

I agree. It is time to construct an entirely new system.

With a sense of urgency, we must create better ways to fund education.

What happens - if anything - with school finance is a big question mark this year. It's the first session since the Texas Supreme Court said the system was "Byzantine" and "imperfect" but left it up to lawmakers to fix. Some school districts, like Houston ISD, desperately want lawmakers to reform the system, including the so-called “Robin Hood” system that requires property-wealthy districts to share local tax dollars with property-poor ones. If there's no change, HISD could lose $18 billion in commercial property from its tax rolls.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

But school finance is not about financing our schools. Nor is it about lining the pockets of the lawyers and lobbyists who capitalize off the backs of our students.

It’s about providing our kids with the best education possible.

We can try to flood money to every school in an attempt to meet the needs of every student.

Or we could more efficiently empower parents to choose the school that best fits their child’s needs.

When it comes to education, we need to remember that one size doesn’t fit all.

Abbott seems to endorse the approach in the Senate, where the chairwoman of the powerful finance committee, Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has created a new working group to try to overhaul the system. The leader of that, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, also is carrying the school voucher bill. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has also identified school finance as a top priority this session, including ending the Robin Hood system. Abbott’s remarks indicate he wants to twin school finance reform with more school choice - as opposed to raising funding levels for all schools, which many advocates and schools would like.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

What fits Dan, may not fit Joe.

Parents, not government, are best positioned to make decisions about their child’s education. Parents should be empowered to choose the school that’s best for their child.

What does Abbott mean by school choice? He's referring to vouchers, which fall under the "school choice" umbrella. A Senate bill creates two avenues for this: educational savings accounts and tax credit scholarships. They would allow tax dollars to help parents pay for private or religious schools. Vouchers are different from other forms of school choice, such as charter schools -- which are publicly funded and have to meet state accountability standards but are managed by independent groups and have more flexibility -- or magnet schools. They are often specialized programs in traditional school districts.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

Sen. Taylor, I agree: No child should be in the wrong school because of their zip code.

Every child should have a chance to succeed in life.

And, yes, Rep. Simmons. Every child should have the ability to attend the school that’s best for them.

Thirty states have school choice. Let's make Texas the 31st.

According to EdChoice, which tracks this, the number is slightly lower. It currently counts 27 states, plus Washington, D.C., for a total of 28 that have traditional school vouchers, tax credit scholarships and/or education savings accounts. All these vehicles allow public dollars to go to private schools. The National Conference of State Legislatures has the same count.
Laura Isensee
Education Reporter, Houston Public Media

- - - - -

Every man and every woman in this state should have greater opportunity for economic advancement.

To promote that goal, we need to further diversify our economy by attracting jobs to Texas from outside the energy sector.

The Enterprise Fund has been doing just that.

In the past two years, the Fund has attracted more than a half a billion dollars in capital investment and added thousands of new jobs.

For example, a corporate expansion of pharmaceutical giant McKesson, the fifth largest Fortune 500 company, will add almost 1,000 jobs. Another 1,000 jobs will come from the massive campus built by Charles Schwab.

The Enterprise Fund has added jobs from Amarillo to the Rio Grande Valley.

If you don't think a deal closing fund is important, consider this: Last year, a company that’s a natural fit for Texas was lured away by Arkansas. SIG Sauer is one of the most renowned firearms manufacturers in the world. Let this sink in: Texas was out-gunned for this project by Arkansas.

This isn't the only defeat Texas suffered to Arkansas in 2016. Last November, a Wall Street Journal article profiled a Little Rock, Ark. restaurateur who claimed that his state -- and not Texas -- had the nation's best cheese dip. Or, as we call it in Texas, queso. Texans, of course, did not take kindly to this, and the conflict went all the way to Washington. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman of Arkansas held a blind "Texas queso vs Arkansas cheese dip" taste test. Inexplicably, Arkansas was deemed the winner.
Rachel Osier Lindley
Statewide Coordinating Editor, Texas Station Collaborative

Texans deserve those jobs.

We need a deal closing fund that has the ability to fight for them.

If you are truly committed to adding jobs and growing our economy, you need to fully fund the Enterprise Fund.

- - - - -

One reason Texas attracts so many jobs is because of the strides we’ve made on tort reform. But our work is not done.

Hail-storm litigation is the newest form of lawsuit abuse.

Texas is prone to catastrophic weather-related events and natural disasters like hailstorms. A report published in 2014 by Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse found that 5,740 lawsuits were filed in Hidalgo County following a pair of major hailstorms in 2012. As of April 2015, that number edged closer to 11,000 in the Valley alone. These types of lawsuits span the entire state. In the 84th Texas Legislature, Republican Sen. Larry Taylor and Sen. John Smithee filed legislation to limit abusive hail-storm litigation, but it did not make it past the House. Proponents of this kind of tort reform have said hailstorm litigation funnels money out of the system that is needed to pay real claims to homeowners beats down local independent claims adjusters with harassment lawsuits.
Stephanie Kuo
Administrative Producer, KERA

To reduce the economic havoc, I want legislation on my desk that limits abusive hail-storm litigation.

- - - - -

Another way for Texas to grow jobs is by cutting taxes and regulations on business.

Ben Franklin said the only two certainties in life are death and taxes.

As far as I’m concerned, the only good tax is a dead tax.

We must continue to cut the business franchise tax until it fits in a coffin.

Speaking of taxes, Texans are being crushed by property taxes.

In addition to Abbott's call in this address, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has also made property tax reform a top priority. Houston Public Media's Andrew Schneider reports that "Texas now has the fifth-highest median property tax rate in the nation."
Rachel Osier Lindley
Statewide Coordinating Editor, Texas Station Collaborative

Their property tax bills often increase far faster than household income.

No government should be able to tax people out of their homes. No government should be able to disregard the private property rights of its citizens.

Texas should not stand for it.

We must remember: Property owners are not renting their land from the city.

That is why we need property tax reform that prevents cities from raising property taxes without voter approval.

We need serious property tax reform with a real revenue cap.

Sen. Bettencourt, thank you for your leadership on this issue.

Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), has filed a bill (SB 2) that would limit how much local governments could increase property taxes to 4 percent per year. The current cap is 8 percent. Lawmakers have tried, and failed, to address property tax reform in the last several legislative sessions.
Rachel Osier Lindley
Statewide Coordinating Editor, Texas Station Collaborative

- - - - -

As it concerns our budget, Texans know how to live within their means. No less should be expected from their government.

Just as families have to balance needs versus wants, so must we.

That process doesn’t start with the next budget.

It starts now.

We must cut spending in our current biennium to ensure we live within our budget. To accomplish that, I am today directing state agencies to impose an immediate hiring freeze through the end of August.

This should free up about $200 million in our current budget.

And in the next biennium, I’m confident we can balance the budget without looting the Rainy Day Fund.

- - - - -

Central to keeping Texas the bastion of liberty in America, we need to shore up cracks in our democratic process.

The faith that people have in their democracy is linked to the trust they have in their elected officials.

That trust is eroded if they perceive that elected officials are acting in anything other than the people’s best interests.

It’s time to let Texans know if elected officials have government contracts paid for by taxpayers.

Voters deserve to know if officials are working for themselves or the people who elected them.

I want to thank Rep. Geren and Sen. Van Taylor for approaching this effort in ways to avoid the pitfalls that led to the demise of ethics reform last session.

I am once again declaring ethics reform an emergency item.

- - - - -

While we are cleaning up government, we should end the practice of government deducting union dues from the paychecks of employees.

Taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to support the collection of union dues.

Sen. Huffman and Rep. Sarah Davis have a good bill that addresses this problem.

Let’s get it to my desk.

- - - - -

For decades, the federal government has grown out of control.

It has increasingly abandoned the Constitution, stiff-armed the states and ignored its citizens.

This isn’t a problem caused by one president. And it won’t be solved by one president. It must be fixed by the people themselves.

That’s why we need a Convention of States—authorized by the Constitution—to propose amendments.

When two-thirds of the states call for a Convention of States, they can convene and propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Governor Abbott has a nine-point plan for constitutional reform and he’s been vocal about the issue over the past two years. Many Texas Republicans support the idea.
Rachel Osier Lindley
Statewide Coordinating Editor, Texas Station Collaborative

Rep. Miller, you know my support for this. I wrote a book on it.

More importantly, there are hundreds of thousands of Texans who are motivated by this.

The proposed amendments would include things like term limits, restoring the 10th Amendment, an amendment that reins in federal regulation and, yes, Rep. Workman, a balanced budget amendment.

We should demand that the federal government do two things. One: Fulfill important—but limited—responsibilities as written in the Constitution. And two: On everything else, leave us alone, and let Texans govern Texas.  

Sen. Birdwell and Rep. King, the future of America can't wait for tomorrow, so I'm making this an emergency item today.

- - - - -

Texas is the Lone Star State for a reason: We stand apart as a model for the rest of the nation.

It’s of no small significance that we unite today under the San Jacinto Battle flag.

One of the most decisive battles of the world, it changed the course of history and brought liberty to Texas.

It’s our privilege, our duty to preserve that cause of liberty.

Courageous heroes died so Texas could be free.

Let’s use this session to build a Texas worthy of their sacrifice.

Let’s keep Texas the most exceptional state in America.

May God bless us in our efforts, and may God forever bless the great state of Texas.