AUSTIN, Texas - Governor Greg Abbott appeared before a small business group Tuesday, and promised to support new tax cuts.
In his pledge to break down more regulatory barriers, he noted the record number of people being hired.
"Texas also ranks number one of the United States for the most jobs created by Black business owners, by Hispanic women. Business owners, by veteran women business owners. The economy in Texas truly works for everybody in this state," said Gov. Abbott.
As Abbott was cheered for his pro-business stance, another group, led by Texas Legislative Black Caucus chairman Ron Reynolds, jeered him.
"And I know today is Valentine’s Day and I want to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day, except to Governor Abbott," said the Democrat from Missouri City.
Reynolds, and those at the Tuesday news conference, demanded for the governor to rescind a controversial memo. It was a warning from his chief of staff to state agencies and universities that diversity, equity and inclusion policies cannot be used for hiring.
It was an action Reynolds indicated was nothing more than a racist, political stunt.
"We will not remain silent, we will not be complicit in his attempt to use minorities, that make up half of this state as pawns for his political gain," said Reynolds.
It’s believed that the DEI memo from the Governor’s office was in response to criticism from a conservative group about a policy at Texas Tech. Since the memo went out, Tech reportedly launched a review of the university's hiring practices.
Governor Abbott’s spokesperson Renae Eze sent FOX 7 the following statement:
"The letter from the Governor’s chief of staff is a reminder that state agencies and public universities must follow federal and state law in their hiring practices, including the Civil Rights Act which protects diversity and inclusion. Both federal and state law make equity quotas illegal. The issue is not diversity—the issue is that equity is not equality, and DEI hiring practices conflate the two. In Texas, we give people a chance to advance based on talent and merit. Aspiring to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, we should not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character."
If there is not a back-track by the Governor’s office, the group wants boycotts of major sporting events. Gary Bledsoe, with the Texas NAACP, wants the boycott to be accepted by the NBA, NFL, MLB, NCAA and business groups.
"Also we call on companies to speak the truth about DEI policies and their impact on the public, so the public gets the facts and not inaccurate information," said Bledsoe.
At the Tuesday business gathering, Governor Abbott did not talk about the proposed boycott, but conservatives like Jonathan Saenz dismiss it.
"These are empty threats. They don't amount to anything," said Saenz.
Saenz heads up Texas Values and pointed out Civil Rights laws have not changed because of the memo. He believes the memo is Abbott’s attempt to hold agencies accountable and agrees with the statement issued from the Governor’s office.
"Equity is not the same as equality. A lot of times these new type of policies are part of a political movement by some people, primarily on the left, that are trying to allow people to get an advantage. And those advantages are not based on experience. They're not based on merit or qualification. And that's just not how we do things in America. That doesn't really benefit anybody at the end of the day, and it will harm some people," said Saenz.
A battle under the capitol dome is all but assured. On Monday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick made eliminating DEI policies in higher education as one of his top priorities for the session.