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Abbott’s five emergency items

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Gov. Greg Abbott announced five priorities for the legislative session. They included expanding broadband internet access, police funding and ensuring “election integrity.” Legislators are allowed to pass such emergency items set by the governor much faster than they can pass other legislation. Credit: Bob Daemmrich/CapitolPressPhoto/Pool
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Texas Border Business

by the Tribune’s Patrick Svitek

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled a legislative agenda centered on the state’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and a series of more politically charged issues such as police funding and “election integrity.” Abbott designated five emergency items, or items that the Legislature can vote on within the first 60 day of the session, which began Jan. 12. 

  • Expanding broadband internet access: State lawmakers from both parties have previously asked the governor to develop a plan to expand broadband access in the state, which has become even more important during the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Punishing local governments that “defund the police”: He also said the state still “cannot ignore the need to improve policing” and called for better “tools and training” for cops. But he did not make reforming police behavior or accountability an emergency item like he did with police funding.
  • Changing the bail system: Abbott prescribed the Damon Allen Act when it came to changing bail practices. The proposal, which Abbott unsuccessfully pushed last session, is named after a slain state trooper. 
  • Ensuring what he called “election integrity”: He did not say what he was looking for beyond instilling “trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections.” Abbott’s prioritization of election security comes after top Texas Republicans played central roles in fueling former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. 
  • Civil liability protections for businesses during the pandemic: These are protections for individuals and companies that opened businesses during the pandemic against coronavirus-related lawsuits. He’s previously said he said his focus is on reducing lawsuits and creating more jobs. 

Abbott also asked lawmakers to pass laws that would strengthen civics education in Texas classrooms, further restrict abortion and make Texas a “Second Amendment sanctuary state.” Afterward, Democrats pushed back on Abbott’s speech by accusing him of giving an overly rosy view of the state’s coronavirus response. Read the full story by the Tribune’s Patrick Svitek. 

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