Texas Governor Greg Abbott moved forward with his priority legislation items by declaring five issues to be “emergency items.” The emergency designation allows the Texas Legislature to act on the items within the first sixty days of the session which began last month.
The Governor issued five proclamations (attached below) on Friday morning declaring early education, higher education, border security, transportation and ethics to be legislative emergency items. These were the primary issues the Governor discussed in his State of the State Address earlier this week. Article III, Section 5, of the Texas Constitution gives the Governor the authority to declare issues as emergency items and thereby allow the legislature to give immediate consideration for bills related to those specific items.
Abbott asked the legislature to double the state’s budget for border security during his address. Pursuant to that, issued his proclamation stating, “The federal government’s failure to secure the border has provided opportunities for violent criminals, drug cartels, and persons from countries with ties to terrorism to enter Texas. I support fully funding ongoing border security efforts and enhancing current border surge operations by sustaining Texas Military forces and providing additional Department of Public Safety troopers, improving equipment for law enforcement operations, enhancing communication tools, and amplifying border prosecutions.” The proclamation asks the legislature to consider bills related to border security, including funding for operation as an emergency issue.
During his address, Abbott stated early education as being his first emergency action item. Is support of that, he issued a proclamation stating, “The cornerstone of Texas’ future is education. The literacy and mathematics skills children learn in prekindergarten (pre-k) through third grade form the foundation for their futures, both in school and in life. Our primary goal should be to ensure all Texas students perform at grade level by the third grade in reading and math.” The proclamation urges the legislature to consider bills related to early childhood education as an emergency issue.
Following on early education, the Governor next declared higher education to be an emergency item. Citing the need for more research institutions in the Lone Star State, Abbott’s proclamation states, “Top research universities not only drive innovation, but also foster economic development, thereby creating job opportunities for hardworking Texans. I support legislation to provide funding for Texas’ higher education institutions for the strategic purpose of enhancing research programs and attracting nationally recognized researchers and Nobel Laureates to Texas universities.” The proclamation allows the legislature to consider bills for funding higher education as an emergency item.
Traffic is a major problem facing nearly all Texans. The voters approved funding to expand transportation infrastructure. Abbott asked the legislature to begin work on this issue immediately. His proclamation states, “A robust and reliable road system is vital to the success of the Texas economy and is demanded by Texas families. Currently, there are insufficient funds exclusively dedicated to funding our state’s transportation needs, and the state has been unable to adequately develop a long-term transportation plan.”
“I support constitutionally dedicating existing motor vehicle sales tax on new and used vehicles to transportation infrastructure funding and ending the practice of diverting significant state highway funds away from building and maintaining roads, without raising taxes, fees, tolls, or debt,” Abbott wrote. The proclamation gives broad authority to the legislature to consider transportation bills as an emergency issue.
As his final emergency issue, Abbott issued a proclamation relating to ethics in state government. The proclamation reads, “The faith and trust that Texas citizens place in their elected officials requires each of us to conduct the business of the state in the most transparent and honest manner possible. Strengthening our ethics laws relating to disclosure of state contracts with elected officials, prohibiting lawmakers from voting on legislation from which they could profit and increasing disclosure of campaign finance information will ensure a more responsible government for Texas.” The Governor asked the legislature to consider bills related to ethics as his final emergency item.
Article III, Section 5, of the Texas Constitution restricts the actions of the legislature during the first sixty days of the session. Only bills that have been designated by the Governor as emergency items may be brought to the floor for a vote during the first sixty days. The first thirty days is otherwise reserved for organization of the two legislative bodies and the introduction of bills. During the second thirty days, duly appointed committees may begin hearings on non-emergency bills. Following the first sixty days, the legislature may then bring bills approved by committee to the floor for debate and voting. Any bills, other than local bills or emergency items from the governor, that are introduced after the first sixty days requires consent from four-fifths of the members who are present and voting in the House or Senate.
Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.