State of the State: Governor Abbott Outlines Agenda

Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday laid out a largely expected agenda for the 85th legislative session while declaring four issues as emergencies for lawmakers to take up immediately: banning so-called “sanctuary cities,” overhauling the state’s broken child welfare system, implementing ethics reform and approving a resolution to support a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution.

In his State of the State address, Abbott said Texas remained “exceptional” and expressed optimism that the state’s economy would bounce back from an oil downturn. At the top of his priority list for lawmakers was the child welfare system, which a federal judge declared broken in 2015 and lawmakers have since been scrambling to overhaul.

“Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you,” Abbott told lawmakers in a joint session of the Texas House and Senate. “If you do nothing else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child.”

Beyond emergency items, Abbott announced Tuesday he was directing state agencies to impose a hiring freeze as a way of dealing with the state’s tight budget. He said the move would free up about $200 million in the current budget.

Abbott had sharp words for lawmakers on the pre-K program that he championed last session. He said he was “absolutely perplexed” by the insufficient attention given to it by the budget proposals both chambers unveiled earlier this month.

“They nod in the direction of pre-K, but they turn a blind eye to the goal of achieving high-quality pre-K,” Abbott told lawmakers. “If you’re going to do this, do it right or don’t do it at all.”

Abbott’s proposed budget, released after his speech, puts $118 million a year toward the pre-K program. That’s double the $59 million per year lawmakers put toward the project in the current budget and far more than either chamber has offered so far for the next budget. The proposed House budget maintains the current funding while the Senate’s proposed budget increases it to $75 million.

Abbott did not mention what could end up being the most controversial legislation of the session: the “bathroom bill” being pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Senate Bill 6 would restrict people to use public bathrooms that correspond with their “biological sex,” and Abbott has taken a largely neutral stance on it so far.

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Protests Over White House Muslim Travel Ban Hit Houston

Protests at major US airports that welcome international passengers, also hit Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) this weekend. On the heels of Friday’s executive order from the White House against citizens from seven primarily Muslim nations, protesters gathered to show their support. And volunteer attorneys came forward to assist travelers, many of whom are permanent residents of the US (with green cards) who were being denied release from Customs and Border Protection officers. Additional protests took place downtown near sites preparing for Super Bowl festivities this week.
(Video: KTRK 13 News)


Protests against Muslim ban ripple across Houston, packing IAH terminal to capacity (Houston Chronicle)




Houstonian’s Join The Women’s March:

22,000 March with Millions Around the US & World

With hundreds of locations around the globe joining The Women’s March, Houston was no different. Organized in response to a new President who has said disparaging things about women, over 22,000 were estimated to have attended the Houston march and speaker events held at City Hall.
(Video: KPRC 2 News)


Houston Women’s March