AUSTIN, TX — Governor Greg Abbott updated Texans on the current status and future of Texas in his State of the State address Monday.
"The state of our state is bringing with promise," the governor began his address.
Abbott began by discussing the state's economy. According to the governor, Texas has added new jobs for eight months in a row. In December, the state added 64,000 new jobs.
"Normalcy is returning to Texas, but it has not been easy," said Abbott.
Next the governor addressed education.
"This [legislative] session, we must continue to fund education as we promised," he said. "Also, if we expect the next generation of Texans to keep Texas the best state in the nation, we must teach them why we are so exceptional. We must educate them what it means to be an American and what it means to be a Texan."
Abbott said the state must "bolster civics education in our classrooms and ensure that every child learns the values of freedom, good governance, and patriotism."
Next, the governor discussed the coronavirus pandemic.
"The most pressing health priority is to help Texans recover from the pandemic," he said.
The state is accelerating the COVID-19 vaccine process.
"We will continue expanding vaccinations across Texas until every Texan who wants one will be able to get one," said Abbott.
Along with physical health, the governor addressed mental health.
At the start of the pandemic, state officials created a 24/7 mental health support line. Abbott said he will work with the Legislature this session to address mental health challenges.
Also due to the pandemic came the expansion of telemedicine. The governor said he wants to use this legislative session to permanently expand telemedicine.
An emergency item for Governor Abbott in this legislative session is the expansion of broadband access.
"From medicine to education to business, broadband access is not a luxury—it is an essential tool that must be available for all Texans," he said.
Next the governor addressed law enforcement in Texas.
"Texas has always been a law-and-order state. We’re going to stay that way," said Abbott. "We will support our law enforcement officers, not demonize and defund them."
The governor said he is making law enforcement a priority for this session. He said state officials must pass laws that prevent cities from defunding police departments.
Along with law enforcement, the governor also addressed the bail system.
Abbott announced he is making the Damon Allen Act an emergency item this session. Allen was a DPS Trooper who was killed during a traffic stop by a person who was out on bail.
"We also cannot ignore the need to improve policing," said Abbott. "This session, we must provide law enforcement with the tools and training they need to ensure the safety that their communities deserve."
The next topic discussed was freedom, beginning with religious freedom.
The governor said he wants a law that "prevents any government entity from shutting down religious activities in Texas."
Gov. Abbott then moved on to the 2nd Amendment.
"This session we need to erect a complete barrier against any government office anywhere from treading on gun rights in Texas," he said. "Texas must be a Second Amendment Sanctuary State."
The governor went on to address elections. He said election integrity will be made an emergency item this session.
Next, Abbott addressed abortion.
"This session, we need a law that ensures that the life of every child will be spared from the ravages of abortion," he said.
The governor ended his address by discussing businesses.
He said the state must work to balance the budget without raising taxes. He also said the Legislature must work to create a bill that will offer "civil liability protections for individuals, businesses, and healthcare providers that operated safely during the pandemic."
Following Abbott's address was the response by Texas Democrats.
“Let’s be clear, no matter what Governor Abbott says, we have suffered under his watch because of his actions," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa began the response.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro criticized the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have to hold our elected leaders accountable, we have to believe in science and listen to experts. If we get this right, we can build a stronger Texas that works for everyone," he said.
Texas Democrats then mentioned police brutality. Dr. Candice Matthews of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats specifically mentioned Patrick Warren, Sr., who was shot and killed by a Killeen PD officer during a mental health call.
"We are facing the constant threat of police brutality and grieving Patrick Warren, Brionna Taylor, George Floyd, and Javier Ambler and too many other Black Americans whose lives have been stolen," she said. "Our communities should not have to live with the trauma and fear and wonder if they, or their families, or their neighbors will be next to die from police brutality."
Democrats ended their response by stating health care will be a top priority.
"This legislative session, Texas House Democrats will fight to expand healthcare access for millions of uninsured Texans," said Castro.
You can watch the full State of the State Address as well as the Texas Democratic Party's response here.