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Early signs of legislative action

By Dr. Lynn Stucky - Texas State Representative

Earlier last week, members of the Texas Legislature, statewide officeholders, and Texans from around our great state gathered on the North Lawn of the Capitol to celebrate the inauguration of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Unlike the sessions following a presidential election, these inaugural years present a valuable sneak peek at what the legislative action will be in the coming months. Of course, the governor's State of the State address in the coming weeks will definitively give lawmakers marching orders, especially on emergency items. But we do know some of the big ticket items that the state's top 3 leaders are working toward by the end of the 140-day session.

For months, Gov. Abbott has talked about wanting to deliver as much as half of the budget surplus as property tax relief. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced on Tuesday that in addition to the $15 billion included in the budget that was released this week, there will be a measure to increase the homestead exemption again to $70,000. Voters recently approved increasing that amount to $40,000. The estimated cost for the increased exemption currently sits at $3 billion, according to the House and Senate versions of the budget.

Also included as budget priorities are another round of historic pay increases for teachers, and a cost-of-living-adjustment for retired teachers.

Both the Governor and Lt. Gov. touted their combined efforts to secure our southern border. The state has added more barriers, more fences, our own border wall, and more boots on the ground than the federal government has deployed in the past decade. This week, lawmakers announced that the starting proposal for border security will once again be increased to a record $4.6 billion. Those funds will continue to support our State and National Guard Troops, state troopers, and the combined criminal justice efforts by judges, prosecutors, and local sheriffs within the Operation Lone Star jurisdiction.

School safety was one of the big priorities during Gov. Abbott's inaugural speech. In addition to increasing funding for school safety, the state will be amplifying its funding efforts to support more mental health care services and facilities across the state. The current version of the budget puts $3 billion toward this effort and I strongly support this initiative.

Lastly, the legislation will be looking to strengthen the state electrical grid. Governor Abbott boldly exclaimed that we will "power Texas for the next 40 years." Lt. Gov. Patrick said that an important part of that solution will be bolstering our use of thermal energy, specifically oil and natural gas.

These are by no means the totality of the work we hope to accomplish in the legislature. There are many other priorities that individual members and coalitions of lawmakers hope to succeed in this session. These big-ticket items will be guaranteed to draw attention as they make their way through the legislative process.

For those who would like to discuss these issues more, please contact my Capitol Office (512-463-0582) to schedule a meeting in Austin or when I am back in the district. My staff will do their best to schedule a time when I am not on the House Floor, or work to meet you at home in Denton or Wise Counties. Please stay tuned for the opening of a satellite office in Decatur.


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