Abbott lists priorities for legislative session during address

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, left, listens as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, gives his State of the State Address in the House Chamber, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

McALLEN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday outlined school funding, teacher pay, school safety, mental health, property tax reform and disaster response as his top priorities for the 86th Texas Legislative Session in the biennial State of the State Address.

Speaking at the Capitol in Austin inside the Texas House of Representatives chambers, which has a new leader for the first time in a decade, Abbott’s priorities seemed to fall in line with those of new House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, especially regarding school finance, which is also a priority for the Rio Grande Valley delegation.

In addition to Abbott’s top priorities — so-called emergency items, which are not necessarily emergencies, but a powerful tool for the governor to prioritize what he wants legislators to accomplish this session — he also wanted lawmakers to focus on border security, gangs, human trafficking, veterans and rape-kit backlogs. Perhaps most notably, Abbott did not mention voter fraud, an issue taken up by the Texas Secretary of State and Attorney General’s offices.

Throughout the address, Abbott said he was confident about the prospects of this session, which officially began last month, but it will pick up momentum now as lawmakers can immediately begin work on Abbott’s six top priorities, though that is not a mandate so much as a recommendation by the governor.

“This session is going to etch landmark achievements into this already historic chamber,” Abbott said at the beginning of his address. He added: “The state of Texas has never been better.”

But, Abbott has issues he wanted to address, chief of which has seemed to have support from both the Senate and the House: school funding, teacher pay and property tax reform.

“This session, we must pay our teachers more,” Abbott said during his address on Tuesday.

South Texas lawmakers have said school funding issues are a big priority for the region. Gilberto Hinojosa of Brownsville, chairman of the Texas Democrats, was not thrilled following Abbott’s speech.

“Republican Governor Greg Abbott has been utterly tone deaf during his time in office,” Hinojosa said in a prepared statement after the address. “Let’s face it; he is a weak governor who cowers to his Republican base and our rising Democratic majority. Abbott will need to do more than shuffle our tax dollars and line the pockets of the powerful.”