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Government/Politics

Abbott's State Of The State Priorities Range From Sanctuary Cities To Ethics Reform

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Ryan Poppe
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Gov. Greg Abbott has given Texas lawmakers some marching orders.  In his State of the State address Tuesday Abbott designated four issues as “emergency” items.  That enables lawmakers to vote on that legislation more quickly.

The Texas House of Representatives was packed with state lawmakers and dignitaries as Gov. Abbott identified his priorities.  Top of the list --  reforming Child Protective Services.  A federal judge has said the system is broken and unconstitutional.  She’s expected to enter an order requiring more caseworkers and additional, better monitored foster homes.

Abbott echoed the concerns, and urged action.

“We were right to inject funding during the interim, but we need to understand that additional funding alone is not a lasting solution.  We need more workers, better training, smarter strategies and real accountability in order to safe guard our children," Abbott said

Abbott also said dangerous criminals are coming across the border into Texas.  He said he supports a 'sanctuary city' ban.  Proposed sanctuary city legislation calls for denying state funding to local governments if they don’t work with federal immigration officials, and detain immigrants who may have committed crimes.

“Elected officials don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will obey, we must insist our laws be followed.  This is the session when we will ban sanctuary cities in Texas," Abbott said.

A sanctuary city bill filed last session did not pass the Senate or House.   Sen. Jose Menendez, from San Antonio is one of many Democrats who will work to defeat it again.  Menendez says sheriffs in many counties are already cooperating with federal immigration agents and some sanctuary city proposals would take away local law enforcement control.

“The Chief of Police and our Bexar County Sheriff or any sheriff for that matter needs to have the autonomy given to them by being dually elected to that office to run their office, to run their departments.  I think if the federal government were trying to micro-manage how we ran DPS, the governor would sue them," Menendez said.

Abbott also called for lawmakers to try again on another emergency item, ethics reform.  He gave a nod to legislation that would place requirements on state lawmakers to disclose gifts and perks that currently aren’t disclosed.  It would also require departing lawmakers to skip at least one legislative session before they lobbied state government officials.

Abbot’s fourth emergency item called for reform  at the national level.  He wants lawmakers to endorse a convention of states that would assemble and consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  It takes 34 state legislatures to agree before a convention can be called.

“We should demand that the federal government do two things, one is to fulfill important but limited responsibilities as specifically defined in the constitution.  And two, on everything else leave Texas alone and let Texan govern Texas," Abbott said.

State Rep. Lyle Larson, a San Antonio Republican was among those who cheered loudly for that.

“It will allow us to put some kind of discipline back into federal budgeting and deal with some of the overreaches we have down here with the EPA and Fish and Wildlife and other agencies down here and they’ve hobbled some of the developments we’ve got down here," Larson said.

Abbott’s identifying the issues as emergencies doesn’t guarantee they’ll pass, of course.  It does guarantee that lawmakers wanting to curry a little favor with the Governor will quickly work to get the issues in front of lawmakers for an up or down vote.