AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott laid out his legislative agenda for the 2021 session focusing on the coronavirus pandemic, while also prioritizing more divisive issues like police funding and election integrity.
In his 30-minute speech at a Central Texas business, the governor said Texas is brimming with promise despite trying times. He also acknowledged the cost of the pandemic and offered prayers for those who lost their lives to COVID-19.
"Our hearts are with those who suffered from COVID, and we mourn for every single Texan who lost their lives to this virus, he said.
But Abbott went on to say, "our comeback is already materializing." He said the state has added new jobs for eight months in a row and promised any Texan who wants a coronavirus vaccine that they'll soon be able to get one.
"With each passing day of more vaccinations and increased immunity, normalcy is returning to Texas," he said.
The governor's speech is typically given before both chambers of the legislature. But due to the pandemic, he opted for a primetime televised address at a local business.
Abbott laid out five emergency items he wants lawmakers to tackle quickly this session:
- Expanding broadband internet access across the state.
- Limiting the ability of cities to cut police force budgets.
- Enacting laws that offer protection from lawsuits for businesses and individuals who "operated safely during the pandemic."
- Limiting bail for those accused or previously convicted of violent crimes.
- Election integrity.
His speech also charted a conservative course for lawmakers this session. Abbott listed a number of actions he wants lawmakers to take regarding gun rights, religious freedom and anti-abortion measures.
"This session, we need a law that ensures that the life of every child will be spared from the ravages of abortion," he said.
Both chambers remain in Republican control following a November election where Democrats dreams of flipping the House were shattered.
Democrats were quick to criticize the governor's speech. The chairman of the House Democratic Caucus said the speech was notable for what the governor did not say.
"No mention of increasing health care access to millions of uninsured Texans, no mention of policing and criminal justice reform, no mention of gun violence in the wake of El Paso and Odessa and no relief from the STAAR test," said Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. .