State of the State Editorial

February 2023

We have wrapped up another busy week at your state capitol. Last week, I chaired our first committee hearing of the House Administration Committee for the 88th Legislative Session following the announcement of new committee appointments for this session by House Speaker Dade Phelan. I am looking forward to upcoming hearings in the State Affairs Committee and the Natural Resources Committee now that Governor Abbott has delivered his State of the State address. I will address that more in depth below.

First, I want to thank our Montgomery County Coalition of Chambers, their members, and other Montgomery County stakeholders for descending on our state capitol building for Montgomery County Day at the Capitol 2023. On Tuesday, February 14th , the Conroe/Lake Conroe Area Chamber of Commerce, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greater East Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber, the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Magnolia Parkway Chamber of Commerce all gathered at the capitol for a day of advocacy and camaraderie. Montgomery County takes great pride in our rich history and our unique contributions to the story of the Lone Star State. As we work to build an even brighter future for Texas, it is important that our county continues to have an outsized voice at the state capitol. Our delegation received recognitions on both the House and Senate floor, visited with elected officials, and heard updates from the Comptroller’s office and the General Land Office. I appreciate those who came by the office to say hello and enjoyed visiting with so many friendly, familiar faces. I look forward to seeing you all again regularly this summer when we’re back in the district.

It is tradition in our country that the executive branch of government periodically addresses and provides updates to the legislative branch. Here in Texas, we hold this custom every other year when the Governor speaks before members of the state House and Senate to provide a “special message,” as it is referred to in our state constitution and present his or her priorities for the current Legislative Session. This biennial speech is known as the State of the State address.

This year, Governor Abbott delivered his State of the State address on Thursday, February 16th. Governor Abbott presented his priorities for the 88th Legislative Session and identified his emergency items for the legislature to take up immediately. The Governor’s emergency items are unique because unlike other bills subject to the 60-day calendar rule in the Texas Constitution, bills pertaining to the subject matter of the Governor’s emergency items are the only pieces of legislation that can move and be voted on prior to the 60th day of the legislative session. Governor Abbott’s emergency items are: cutting property taxes, permanently ending COVID restrictions, promoting educational freedom, ensuring school safety, ending revolving door bail policies, continuing our efforts at the state level to protect the border, and fighting the fentanyl crisis.

Governor Abbott began his address by affirming that the state of our state has never been more exceptional. Despite a tumultuous few years in our nation and around the world, Texas has not only maintained our prosperous economy, but we have thrived. People are moving to our state in droves and faster than ever. Since Governor Abbott took office, Texas has added more than 1.9 million new jobs. Our $2 trillion economy makes Texas the ninth-largest economy in the world. We’re also number one for economic development, number one for exports, and number one for Fortune 500 headquarters. Just look at how many companies have relocated in the last few years. While we welcome the new citizens and jobs these companies bring with them, they’re not bringing roads and infrastructure, water, schools and teachers, or electric generation with them. Texas must continue to provide these critical services for all citizens, new and old, to keep up with the growth.

Governor Abbott named cutting property taxes an emergency item and has proposed using $15 billion of our budget surplus to buy down property taxes this year. I am supportive of this measure, but we must also look for ways to ensure that property tax relief is long-lasting rather than just a one time buy down. The Governor also announced ending COVID restrictions permanently as an emergency item to prohibit any government from imposing COVID mask mandates, vaccine mandates, business closures or school closures because of COVID. Additionally, Governor Abbott named education freedom an emergency item. He specifically highlighted his goals to reform curriculum, get kids back to the basics of learning, and empower parents with a Parental Bill of Rights. As the father of two children in our local public schools, I look forward to passing legislation this session that will give Texas children access to the best education possible. They are the leaders of tomorrow, and education is the foundation on which our future leaders are built.

Without safe schools, there would be no point in investing in these leaders of tomorrow. That is why Governor Abbott also declared ensuring school safety an emergency item. As many of you know, school safety has been a priority of mine since the Parkland and Santa Fe school shootings in 2018. In the 86th Session I passed a package of school safety legislation into law that we developed in conjunction with the Texas State School Safety Center and the Sam Houston State University School and University Safety Research Team along with many community stakeholders in area schools, law enforcement, students and parents. Following the tragic Uvalde school shooting almost one year ago, there have been renewed efforts to further compliance with many of the standards already in law as well as to provide more mental health resources for schools. I thank the Governor for making this important topic an emergency item this session. We must continue to look at the issues surrounding school shootings and be diligent in staying ahead of horrific events like those that took place in Uvalde.

Additionally, Governor Abbott is calling on the legislature to pass laws that keep dangerous criminals behind bars and hold accountable the judges who let them out by making ending revolving door bail an emergency item this session. I was also encouraged to see the Governor name the disaster at our southern border and the fentanyl crisis as emergency items. As you may recall, the first bill I filed this session, House Bill 513, seeks to address the fentanyl crisis by punishing those who manufacture and deliver this deadly substance. Texas is already doing more than any other state to protect our border from the lawlessness caused by the Biden administration’s open border policies. We have deployed the National Guard to turn back illegal immigrants, and DPS has arrested more than 24,000 criminals. Governor Abbott has designated Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations, and we have bussed migrants to sanctuary cities in other states. The legislature has appropriated over $4.6 billion in the current biennium for border security funding. We’re also continuing to build our own border wall, despite the federal government abandoning its duty to protect us from all the illegal activities that overwhelm our border. We will continue to build upon our efforts at the state level until the federal government steps up to the plate.

All Texans should be proud that our state is the top performer in our nation in many areas. The future is bright even amidst tough times, and Texas must remain as resilient as we always have. We must expand the policies that make this the best state in the country to start a business, raise a family in a safe community, and live healthy lives. I look forward to tackling the important issues that Governor Abbott has identified as emergency items and continuing to represent House District 16 conservative values in Austin.

May God bless you, your families, and the great State of Texas.