This week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivered his annual State of the State address, a state-mandated speech meant to inform the people of Texas about the governor’s legislative and governing priorities. With more than 37,000 Texans dead from COVID-19, notably Abbott’s agenda did not include a single item to address the pandemic for regular Texans. It offered nothing to help people get vaccines more quickly, support hospitals and schools, nor make nursing homes safer.
Instead, the governor delivered a battle cry to Republican presidential voters, using his prime-time address to grandstand for a national audience. But the priorities he identified are disconnected and out of step with what Texans need: things like pandemic relief, policing reform, support for schools, and health care expansion.
Here are the facts about the issues Abbott addressed in the State of the State address:
FACT: “Election integrity” is code for voter suppression. The governor says we need emergency measures to deal with “election integrity.” This is a coded term for voter suppression. Abbott paints himself and his allies as victims of lax voting laws. That’s just wrong. Our safe and secure electoral system delivered significant victories to the governor’s party in the November election.
The actual problem with voting in Texas is that it’s too difficult to vote, especially for Black and Latinx voters. These Texans wait in the longest lines, have the hardest time registering, are most likely to be unfairly prosecuted by the attorney general, and were targeted for being removed from the voting rolls by the secretary of state. Do not be confused: When Abbott says “election integrity,” he means making it even more difficult to vote, especially for non-white voters.
FACT: The governor is reneging on his promise to George Floyd’s family to support meaningful police reform. In June, Abbott met with the Floyd family and said he was committed to “working with the family of George Floyd to ensure…” that police officers in Texas never take another life. In his State of the State, the governor didn’t even mention George Floyd’s name or the bill named in his honor that would finally address police misconduct at the state level. Police misconduct affects Black people more than any other group. Instead of dealing with the real issue, Abbott is attacking local leaders working to make their communities safer.
FACT: The majority of Texans support safe, reliable access to abortion care. At the start of the pandemic, Abbott grabbed the opportunity to ban abortion outright for a month from late March to April 2020. During this time, hundreds of people had to travel across state lines to address urgent medical needs for abortion care. The governor wants to deny Texans their right to get the medical care they need through even more restrictive abortion policies. This is an extreme move to limit access to reproductive health care in a state where most people support safe, reliable abortion.
FACT: Bad bail legislation won’t make us safer. Abbott is not addressing the real crisis of bail legislation in Texas. Instead, he is doing favors for private interests and attempting to push through an “emergency” bail bill. Under the governor’s bill, rich people who get arrested can get out of jail as soon as they pay bail. But he wants to keep people who can’t pay for their freedom locked up, even during the pandemic. The crisis Texas faces is an incarceration rate that’s among the highest in the world, with overcrowding that leads to COVID-19 outbreaks in our local jails.
The governor likes to wrap himself in the banner of freedom. At the ACLU of Texas, we know that freedom depends on everyone being able to exercise their civil liberties, not just those in Abbott’s base. Join us in our fight for all Texans by signing up today for our next legislative training webinar where you’ll learn how to become a civil liberties advocate at the 87th Texas Legislative Session.