AUSTIN — Public officials and private citizens gathered at the south steps of the state Capitol on Jan. 15 to for a day’s worth of inaugural events, most notably the administering of oaths of office to Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who were reelected to four-year terms in November.
In his inaugural address, Gov. Abbott predicted the 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature, which convened on Jan. 8, would be “transformative.” He said that with the help of Lt. Gov. Patrick and newly elected House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, leadership would “usher in a new era for children, teachers and taxpayers.”
“We must finally rein in skyrocketing property taxes in Texas,” Abbott said. “To fix this, Texas must limit the ability of taxing authorities to raise your property taxes. At the same time, Texas must end unfunded mandates on cities and counties. And taxpayers should be given the power to fire their property tax appraiser.”
Abbott touched on a list of other topics, such as job growth, the state’s low unemployment rate, the importance of public education and public education reform, the need for teacher pay raises and better teacher retirement, enhanced school safety and progress in natural disaster recovery efforts.
Lt. Gov. delivers remarks
Patrick echoed Abbott’s call to operate as a unit with Speaker Bonnen.
“The people of Texas didn’t elect us to be silent on things that matter,” Patrick said. “They elected us to work together and do what is right for the people of Texas. We have a moment in time, right now, to set the stage for an even greater Texas for future generations. It is within our grasp. The elections are over for now — we will have them again in two years to air out our differences — but for right now, it’s time for us to work together for all of the people of Texas. I intend to do my part.”
Patrick announced that Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has filed Senate Bill 3, which he called “the first across-the-board pay increase for Texas teachers in nearly 20 years.” SB 3, he said, would give every one of Texas’ 350,000 teachers a $5,000 raise beginning in the next school year, and that would be the first step in increasing the base pay of teachers by $10,000. Patrick added that Nelson also had filed Senate Bill 1, the state budget, legislation that includes $3.7 billion to fund the teacher pay raise.
Panel chairs are named
Patrick, who presides over the state Senate, on Jan. 18 made public his selection of 16 committee chairs and members of each panel.
The appointments, he said, “reflect the proven leadership, commitment, solid work ethic and wide range of expertise of the 31 senators who have been elected by the people of Texas to represent them.” Complete lists of panel members may be found at www.senate.texas.gov. These are chairs and vice chairs for each panel:
• Agriculture: Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso;
• Administration: Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, and Pat Fallon, R-Prosper;
• Business & Commerce: Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, and Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville;
• Criminal Justice: John Whitmire, D-Houston, and Joan Huffman, R-Houston;
• Education: Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville;
• Finance: Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen;
• Health & Human Services: Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and Charles Perry, R-Lubbock;
• Higher Education: Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, and Royce West, D-Dallas;
• Intergovernmental Relations: Eddie Lucio Jr., and Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown;
• Natural Resources & Economic Development: Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo;
• Nominations: Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, and Kirk Watson, D-Austin;
• Property Tax: Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, and freshman Angela Paxton, R-McKinney;
• State Affairs: Joan Huffman, and Bryan Hughes;
• Transportation: Robert Nichols and Kelly Hancock;
• Veterans Affairs & Border Security: Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and Bob Hall, R-Edgewood; and
• Water & Rural Affairs: Charles Perry, and Brandon Creighton.
Jobless rate stays low
December was the 104th consecutive month of positive employment growth, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Jan. 18.
Texas gained some 38,000 seasonally adjusted non-farm positions during the month, pegging the unemployment rate at 3.7 percent and maintaining the same historic 43-year low the state has enjoyed since October 2018.
The Midland Metropolitan Statistical Area recorded December’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 2.1 percent, followed by the Amarillo MSA and Odessa MSA, which tied for the second lowest with a rate of 2.6 percent. The Austin-Round Rock MSA recorded the third lowest rate of 2.7 percent.
Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.