AUSTIN,Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - The message from Governor Greg Abbott to state lawmakers Tuesday focused on one word- opportunity.
"We have an opportunity to turn bold ideas into reality. We have the opportunity to grasp the brass ring that belongs to Texas,” said Governor Abbott ( R ) Texas.
The Governor identified the “rings” he wants lawmakers to reach for, by identifying five legislative Emergency Items. They include;
Coming up with a new education funding model which has more money for teacher pay.
Improve school safety.
Create a statewide school mental health program to identify ways to prevent violent outbursts.
Reform the property tax system; allowing voters to approve tax hikes and to vote out tax appraisers.
Speed up the way the state responds to disasters.
Gov. Abbott admits the job will not be easy. He's optimistic because state revenue is up and there is a rare sense of unity under the dome.
"I believe you were made for this moment. We were made for this moment. We serve at a unique time in Texas history, a time when we are going to be able to seize an opportunity to cement a legacy for Texas,” said Governor Abbott.
In response, House and Senate Democrats noted the speech was much different in tone than two years ago when the Governor pushed several controversial and partisan issues. They generally agree, in concept, with much of what the Governor called for, but Democrats like State Senator Royce West ( D ) Dallas pointed out their approach will most likely be much different from the Republicans.
"When we begin to draft the Bills, we need to be at the table. Conceptually we do agree we want to see reform in terms of the way we fund our public school system, but more importantly we want to make certain we don’t commit the same mistakes that we committed in the past,” said Senator West.
The Democrats were also disappointed the Governor's call did not include reforming election law. Representative Celia Israel said on line voter registration is needed as well as funding to help counties buy new voting equipment.
"These are critical and emergency issues, we should make election day a state holiday, we should expand early voting days and hours, we should want and provide opportunities to make every Texan eligible to vote,” said the Austin Democrat.
The Governor didn’t talk about a controversial list released last month by the Secretary of State David Whitley. It indicated that almost 100,000 non-citizens had registered to vote.
Of that number about 60,000 non-citizens allegedly did vote. Turns out the list was flawed and the Democrats Tuesday stopped just short of calling for the secretary of state to resign.
The Governor also did not endorse the Democrats call to expand Medicaid, but he does want to improve health care programs for veterans.
More money for rape kits testing and continuing the border security surge are part of the governor’s legislative agenda. One of the loudest ovations came when he talked about Longhorn and Aggie football.
Gov. Abbott said he is endorsing efforts to renew the gridiron match up.