Building a More Prosperous Future for Texas
Governor Greg Abbott gave his State of the State address on Monday February 1st, presenting his list of priorities to a statewide audience. But he’s been laying out some of those ideas throughout the previous month in a series of presentations across the state.
During an event in San Antonio, Gov. Abbott pitched the idea of crafting legislation to provide civil liability protections to people operating businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He pitched this proposal after talking with construction workers and small business leaders during, what his office dubbed, a “listening session.”
Abbott said he will roll out more concrete details about some of these legislative proposals in the coming weeks. At this time, though, he floated one protection after saying business owners that “operated in good faith during the pandemic” face the threat of potential lawsuits for doing so. He said they “shouldn’t have their livelihoods destroyed by frivolous lawsuits.”
At The Polkadot Alley in Lubbock, store manager Kim Halsted spends a lot of time thinking about protecting her customers.
“(There are) so many small mom and pop businesses out there, we’re just trying to do our best and keep everyone safe while still being able to get out and shop and do the things that they need to do,” Halsted said.
Abbott also said he wants to continue building a strong workforce. “We need to continue to do more to make sure that we provide the skilled training that’s needed in the multitude of jobs that either are or will be becoming available,” Abbott said.
Compared to other segments of the economy, construction has faired well, according to Texas Construction Association vice president of governmental affairs Jennifer Fagan.
“However, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t incurred you know, encountered our roadblocks and difficulties,” she added.
Fagan is working to ensure subcontractors get a seat at the table, so protections and opportunities trickle down to workers.
“Our members are the guys wearing the hard hats,” Fagan said. “They are the specialty trades, the skilled workers who are on site doing the work on these big, mostly commercial projects.”
“If we don’t have enough subcontractors, plumbers, electricians, mechanical skilled trades persons— if we don’t have enough of those type of people, then we can’t build the buildings for the new businesses that are coming here,” Fagan explained.
Additionally, the governor said state lawmakers should work toward identifying which regulations relaxed during the pandemic are “worth keeping” to “cut unnecessary red tape and unleash the full might” of the state’s economy. He specifically mentioned the rule allowing alcohol-to-go sales in Texas.
Abbott also mentioned the need to expand access to broadband services, saying it should become available in every zip code throughout the state.
Abbott promised to keep tapping into the Texas Enterprise Fund, a pot from which he can offer grants to businesses to incentivize a move to the Lone Star State.
Abbott also told reporters that the state would keep working to make rapid COVID-19 tests available to small businesses as a precautionary measure. Earlier this week, the Texas Division of Emergency Management announced an expansion of this program after a successful pilot program launched in December.
Abbott also voiced his support for oil and gas workers in Texas following a roundtable discussion with local experts.
The governor signed an executive order during his venture west that aims to bolster the energy sector, which has been hit by a supply glut, COVID-19, and some policies being put in place by the Biden Administration.
Specifically, the president’s executive order allows various agencies across the state to challenge federal ‘overreach’ in relation to oil and gas.
“The men and women who work in the energy industry produce the affordable energy that powers our lives and they are vital to the Texas economy,” Abbott said. “Texas is a pro-energy state, and we will not sit idly by and allow the Biden administration or local governments to destroy jobs and raise energy costs for Texas families. My executive order will help ensure that the federal government cannot take away the livelihoods of Texans who work so hard to provide our state and our nation with the energy we need.”
The executive order comes after President Joe Biden signed his own executive orders putting a 60-day hold on new oil and gas leases on federal lands and rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. The president’s executive order falls in line with the climate change policy he ran on during the 2020 election cycle.