“The state of our state is brimming with promise.”
With this statement, Gov. Greg Abbott opened his biennial State of the State address on Monday evening.
Normally delivered in the Texas Capitol to a joint session of the House and Senate, this year’s address was much different. Instead, Abbott gave his address on primetime, syndicated through the state, from Visionary Fiber Technologies in Lockhart.
During the speech, Abbott issued five emergency items for the state Legislature to address:
- Expanding rural broadband access
- Prevent local defunding of police
- Bail reform
- Election integrity
- Liability protection from COVID-related lawsuits
Expanding broadband access, Abbott said before announcing his first emergency item, is “not a luxury. It is an essential tool that must be available for all Texas.”
Abbott also placed a focus on public safety, following up on repeated calls he has made in recent months for legislation to prevent cities from cutting police funding. Additionally, he said public safety was at risk “because of a broken bail system that recklessly allows dangerous criminals back onto the streets.”
“One thing all of us should agree on whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, is that we must have trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections,” said Abbott. “That is why election integrity will be an emergency item this session.”
Lastly, Abbott called for civil liability protections for individuals, businesses, and healthcare providers from COVID-related lawsuits, saying, “Texas businesses that have operated in good faith shouldn’t have their livelihoods destroyed by frivolous lawsuits.”
The Legislature is prohibited from passing legislation during the first 60 days of the session. An exception is made, however, for the governor’s emergency items.
Also discussed by Abbott, but notably not given emergency status, was legislation to prohibit abortions based on race, sex, or disability, making Texas a “Second Amendment sanctuary,” as well as legislation to prohibit local governments from closing churches.
Abbott also briefly addressed the coronavirus-related shutdowns that shaded the past year, saying, “We must also ensure that in the event another pandemic ever strikes again, families and businesses will never again face the financial consequences they experienced in 2020.”
“I will continue working with the Legislature to find ways to navigate a pandemic while also allowing businesses to remain open,” he added.
The Texas House and Senate are both currently adjourned until February 9.