Governor Greg Abbott offered his vision for Texas earlier today in his state of the state speech to a joint session of the Legislature. Often what a governor says in these speeches is less important than what’s left unmentioned, and Abbott today left some notable issues unaddressed.
He did not discuss either Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s push for legislation limiting transgender access to bathrooms, nor did he mention President Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the border with Mexico and finance it with a 20 percent tax on imports—a proposal that could dramatically impact Texas companies.
Perhaps these issues are just too hot to handle, and Abbott and his staff figured the best position would be no position at all, except for the hope and prayer that they go away before he has to deal with them.
That doesn’t mean Abbott avoided all the hot-button issues that are important to Republican primary voters. He talked about shrinking the business franchise tax “until it fits in a coffin,” while at the same time asking for additional funding for child protective services and defending his own business Enterprise Fund. Abbott didn’t name Planned Parenthood directly, but he demanded an end to the “butchery of unborn babies for trade.” And while Abbott may not have addressed Patrick’s bathroom bill, he joined the lieutenant governor in calling for a parental school choice program, commonly called private school vouchers.
What follows is an annotation of portions of his speech, The full speech is available here.
Immigration and Border Security
While the governor was silent Trump’s border security and trade proposals, he did say he would meet with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Wednesday.
Abbott used his speech to promote the end of what he calls “sanctuary cities” in Texas and, though he did not name her, he took a swipe at Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez for her refusal to honor all Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to detain undocumented immigrants held in her jail. Hernandez wants a court order unless the individual has been charged with murder, capital murder, aggravated assault or the smuggling of persons.
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. That is unacceptable.
The Associated Press reported that Rios had been deported in 1996, 2009 and 2014. He was deported the first time after a conviction for felony assault and hindering a prosecution. He re-entered in 2009 in Hidalgo and was immediately arrested and deported. Then he returned again and was convicted of vehicle burglary and was deported He also was deported in 2014 after serving eight months on an unlawful re-entry charge. He often used an alias.
Protecting children and tough talk on abortion
On the emotional issue of child protective services, Abbott urged the House and Senate to appropriate the money to fix the system for the long haul by hiring “more workers with better training, smarter strategies and real accountability to safeguard our children.” The governor also made a nod to one of his constituency groups – the Texas Home School Association.
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.
The Home School group has been at odds with CPS for several years over parental rights to discipline and home school their children. Tim Lambert, head of the association and a former Republican national committeeman from Texas, told Breitbart last summer:
“Parents have a fundamental constitutional right to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children, and this very much comes into consideration when parents are under CPS investigation.” He explained, “CPS caseworkers and employees seem to think that parents have no rights. A parent or parents being investigated for abuse or neglect are frequently treated as if they have less due process rights than a criminal in the court system.”
Abbott declared funding of CPS an emergency item so lawmakers can take up immediate legislation on the issue. He noted that more than 100 children died last year while in the child protective system.
Though Abbott did not name Planned Parenthood or directly reference the discredited report that claimed the group was selling fetal tissue from abortions, Abbott demanded that the state prohibit the practice of selling fetal tissue.
Every child—born and unborn—deserves dignity. The butchering of unborn babies for trade in the open market is barbaric.
Sen. (Charles) Schwertner and Rep. (Cindy) Burkett, I want legislation on my desk that criminalizes the sale or donation of baby body parts.
The federal government has had a law since 1993 banning the sale of fetal tissue for research; however, some Republicans complain that abortion providers sometimes charge excessive fees to tissue procurement companies to cover the cost of donated fetus material.
Abbott touted the growth of the Texas economy despite last year’s downturn in oil and gas production. He said the state’s economy is diversifying.
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.”
And get this: Midland beats the San Francisco area in the percentage of jobs created by startups.
The statement is drawn from a study of Census data by Howmuch.net. Alas, those statistics are from a study of economic activity in 2014, before the bottom fell out. The Midland Reporter-Telegram reported that by December 2015 the city had faced nine straight months of economic decline. “We know that until the oil and gas economy turns around and begins to grow again, the overall economy won’t grow either,” a local economist told the newspaper. The Midland Development Corporation last month reported that the city had its first improvement in its index of economic activity in twenty-two months.
In trying to promote the business-closing Enterprise Fund, Abbott offered up one example that was something of a misfire.
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.
The problem with Abbott’s example is that SIG Sauer moved a 1,400-employee ammunition plant from New Hampshire to Arkansas because of something Texas could not offer: low commercial electric rates. According to electricitylocal.com, the average commercial electric rate in Texas is 8.16 cents per kilowatt hour, while in Arkansas it is 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour.
State House and Senate Democrats held a news conference in response to Abbott’s State of the State. You can watch it here.