he Texas of tomorrow is what Gov. Greg Abbott focused his attention on during his State of the State address given Feb. 16. Much like a State of the Union address given by The President of the United States, a State of the State address, also known as the Condition of the State Address, is an annual speech made by the current governor. This year, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke about issues such as the economy, education and crime. In case you missed it, here’s a summary of the State of the State address.
The Gov. opened by remarking on the location of his speech, a manufacturing floor for the company Noveon. Noveon is a company that works to create and improve magnets using rare Earth materials. Their technology is being used in products such as refrigerators or MRI machines.
“We exist to redefine and rebuild the rare Earth magnet industry to be one that doesn’t just power the needs of today but can last to power every need far beyond tomorrow,” according to Noveon.co.
The company, a Texas-based magnetics company, works with engineers to look for more sustainable motor and magnet options, with an end goal of reducing or eliminating mining the Earth for rare Earth minerals. Abbott pointed out that a majority of rare Earth materials are supplied to the U.S. by China, because according to nationaldefensemagazine.org, almost all rare Earth minerals are sent to Beijing for refinement, no matter where in the world it is mined.
“If that supply is ever disrupted, many of the things that we do every day would come to a halt,” Abbott said. “The future of Texas and the United States should not depend on China. We must embrace innovation like Noveon to make Texas more self-reliant to create our own products and to secure the future of tomorrow.”
Besides being more reliant on itself, Abbott believes that building a progressive Texas means creating jobs and sustaining the economy.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, from Nov. to Dec. of 2022 , Texas had over 116,000 job openings, almost double of the next highest state at the time. Since 2015, when Abbott took office, unemployment has steadily declined until 2020, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused massive layoffs and unemployment nation wide. In a two-month period, Texas unemployment rose from 3.5% to 12.6%. Now, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics has Texas down for an unemployment rate of 3.9%.
“Since I became governor, Texas has added more than 1.9 million new jobs,” Abbott said in his speech.
But it’s not just about growing jobs, according to Abbott.
“One thing that the Texas of tomorrow needs is a highly skilled workforce,” Abbott said.
Training a skilled workforce starts at the community college level, according to Abbott’s speech. He spoke on how job skill programs like the one at Odessa College, gives students hands-on experience in their career field of choice, and can also help students land a high-paying job straight out of college.
“Our goal is to ensure that every Texan is prepared to succeed in high-demand industries like, technology, health care and energy,” Abbott said. “That’s why this session we will reward community colleges that produce skilled, employable Texans.”
Abbott made clear that property taxes are high on his agenda for this session of Texas Congress.
“Working with Sen. Huffman and Rep. Bonnen, we have all proposed using $15 billion to cut property taxes. Now we must ensure that it provides lasting property tax relief. To get that done, cutting property taxes will be an emergency item this session,” Abbott said.
It’s no secret that Texas has one of the lowest scores for public transportation in the U.S. Some of this is due to population sparsity or road conditions when traveling. To Abbott, a growing and booming economy demands better infrastructure. During his speech, Abbott announced a plan to build better infrastructure across Texas is in the works and will be announced soon.
But infrastructure doesn’t always mean roads and transportation, it can also mean topics that have been on more than a few Texan’s minds these past few years such as the power grid. Since the winter storm two years ago, the power grid has been a well-discussed point in politics. In fact, Abbott’s running mate for the most recent governor’s election, Beto O’Rourke, built a portion of his platform on fixing the power grid in Texas.
Abbott promises that while the state grid has not failed in some time, that the growing demand on the grid calls for a new one to be built. One that will be “strong enough to power Texas for the next century,” Abbott said.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not officially said that the COVID-19 Pandemic is over yet, many lawmakers such as President Biden have called for a return to normal. Following this example, Abbott announced the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions be ended in Texas.
Going further, Abbott also asked that these restrictions never be put back into place.
“We must prohibit any government from imposing COVID mask mandates, COVID vaccine mandates, and from closing any business or school because of COVID,” Abbott said. “Also, we must change how government responds to future pandemics, including requiring the legislature to convene if another pandemic is ever declared.”
Both educational freedom and school safety where declared emergency items by Abbott during his speech. While Texas stands at the top for blue ribbon, or national excellence schools, Abbott still feels it’s time to reform the curriculum in public schools, citing the need to get rid of a “woke agenda” in schools today.
“We must reform curriculum, get kids back to the basics of learning, and we must empower parents. Parents deserve access to curriculum, school libraries, and what their children are taught,” Abbott said.
But it’s not just the curriculum Abbott is looking to change this session. Abbott also called for safety reform in schools.
“We must establish the safest standards, and then use the newly created Chief of School Safety to mandate compliance with those standards, and we must provide more mental health professionals in our schools,” Abbott said.
Citing a case where a police officer was killed by someone out on bail, Abbott pivoted to crime prevention, calling for the end to “revolving door bail practice” across Texas, though he specifically called out Harris County. A revolving door jail system or bail practice means that when someone gets locked up, they are back on the streets seemingly the next day.
“Harris County’s revolving door bail practice is literally killing people. In just two years, more than 100 people were murdered in Houston by criminals who were let out on multiple felony bonds,” Abbott said. “This session we must shut and lock that revolving door by passing laws that keep dangerous criminals behind bars and hold accountable the judges who let them out.”
Abbott also declared revolving door bail as an emergency item for this session of Congress. He has already passed legislature during his time as governor that changed bail practices, such including criminal history when setting the bail amount, but for this session Abbot wants to amend the Texas state constitution to allow judges to deny bail for the “most violent offenders,” according to a Abbott’s website, though the specifics for which types of crimes this would cover is still unclear.
Abbott called for harsher sentences for those who are caught illegally owning a firearm. With the Michigan State shooting two days before his speech, Abbott announced one of the biggest problems with gun violence is local officials not enforcing already existing laws. Thus, Abbott will not be announcing any new gun laws, but he does plan on enforcing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for illegally owning a gun.
“Most gun crimes are committed by criminals who possess guns illegally. We need to leave prosecutors and judges with no choice but to punish those criminals and remove them and their guns from our streets.,” Abbott said.
A group of researchers from Johns Hopkins found that 71.1% of inmates in the U.S. charged with crimes related to a firearm, obtained said weapon illegally. Their study was published in many journals such as BMJ Journals, and access to the full study can be found at bmj.com.
Abbott also used this time to speak on his plans to further close the border this year. With help from the National Guard in the past, he has turned away immigrants without proper documentation at the border. According to his website, Abbott is planning on continuing that partnership with the National Guard.
Abbott declared border security an emergency item in this session, announcing a $4.6 billion bill to be sent through Congress with the focus of securing the southern border.
Abbott discussed Mexican cartels, which he has designated as terrorist organizations, and the damage they could potentially do to American citizens by smuggling in drugs such as fentanyl across the border. While some fentanyl enters the U.S. through customs from China, most fentanyl comes through the southern border of the U.S., according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Fentanyl is a highly addicting opioid and the leading cause of death for Americans 18-45, according to the CDC. Since 2015, Texas has not had less than 2,000 deaths per month due to fentanyl according to data collected by the CDC. That number stayed close to 3,000 per month from 2015 to 2020 but rose rapidly in 2020. Now, the count is up to nearly 5,000 deaths per month in the state of Texas due to fentanyl alone.
Due in part to the rising number of deaths related to fentanyl, Abbott has declared border security an emergency issue as well for this session.