Gov. Greg Abbott Wednesday launched a blitz of some 60 radio and TV appearances planned through next week to promote his bid for a second term, which he announced Friday, and to ride herd on the special legislative session that got underway Tuesday.
Abbott has promised a running public accounting of who’s with him and who’s against him on the 20 items on his special session agenda, and he told Scott DeLucia on WTAW-AM in College Station that the first of what DeLucia called his “naughty and nice” lists should come by week’s end. That will probably focus on gold stars for those legislators who authored or co-sponsored legislation on Abbott’s priorities.
Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said that the bill authors also would be invited to cut ads with the governor at the new TV studio at the governor’s campaign headquarters near the Capitol promoting their role in pressing the governor’s conservative midsummer agenda.
It is from that studio — and from his phone at the Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion — that Abbott will, through appearances on local media, offer blow-by-blow commentary to Texans and try to shape the progress of the session.
On WTAW, Abbott was asked about transgender bathroom legislation, and his answer suggested that he is looking for a bill limited in its scope to schools that would bring uniformity to policies across the state.
Abbott said that from the founding of the Republic of Texas in 1836 until 2016, Texas had never had any problems with bathroom policies. But, he said, in the aftermath of instructions issued by the Obama administration in 2016 for schools to respect the gender identities of transgender students, schools had begun implementing a variety of different policies, and that even the Trump administration’s rescinding those instructions had left things confused and inconsistent.
A new law, he said, was needed to restore clarity and consistency.
On boosting teacher pay without increasing spending, Abbott said that his inclusion of increased teacher pay on his special session agenda, “kicked off the discussion,” and the positive reaction to that idea meant “the hardest obstacle has been overcome,” and now it remains to find the best way to pay for it.
But, unlike Patrick, Abbott said he has seen no evidence that House Speaker Joe Straus’ call for more spending on public education is a prelude to a Straus call for a state income tax, something Straus has never asked for.
“I’m not ready to go there,” Abbott said on WTAW. “I think if we all work together to get things done, we won’t go there.”
And, Abbott said, “as long as I’m governor, we are never going to have a state income tax, so we can put a nail in that coffin real quick.”
In an earlier interview Wednesday with Bob Cole on KOKE-FM in Austin, Abbott said the recent arrest by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents of a “Sureños 13” gang member, who had been previously deported four times, a few weeks after he was released from the Travis County Jail, was proof of the need for a new law banning sanctuary cities and requiring officials, like Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, to fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
But Abbott said, “this is not a roundup by the state of Texas,” and the law does not give police the power to arrest anyone for simply not being a legal resident, or to stop people solely to ask them “to show their papers.”
Assertions to the contrary, he said, are “absolutely false.”