AUSTIN -- Lawmakers will return to the Texas Capitol in less than a month to pass a budget and consider new laws affecting everyone in the state.
Texas' next governor wants to make sure he's well-positioned to get key agenda items passed, which is why he's reaching out to legislators this week. A new web ad released by Attorney General Greg Abbott's campaign Thursday features video from the governor-elect's week-long legislative round table tour, including a Wednesday meeting with more than two dozen state representatives and senators in Houston.
"I'll be looking to you all for the best answers," Abbott told the group.
The incoming executive has been sending steady signals he wants to get his relationship with the legislature off on the right foot, and a moment with longtime state Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) seemed to suggest his efforts are paying off.
"I just want to let you know I'm rolling my sleeves up to work with you," said Thompson, seated at Abbott's right during a meeting Wednesday.
"That's what we're here for," Abbott responded, noting their work together on child support and human trafficking.
Abbott fielded questions from local reporters after the discussion, including one regarding the use of body cameras on police officers. The state's longest-serving attorney general suggested recent nationwide protests over police actions indicate a need to rebuild trust between communities and law enforcement organizations.
"Equipping them with body cameras or some similar technique I think would be a step in the right direction," said Abbott, despite conceding he isn't familiar with body cameras or their effectiveness. "We've seen the aftermath of Ferguson. We've seen the aftermath of some other challenges, and I don't want anything like that to happen in the state of Texas."
In the city that oil built, Abbott also addressed growing concern over the effects of falling prices on the state's economy. Abbott told sister station KHOU he expects to see tax revenue decrease as the price of oil declines, but also identified potential mitigating factors.
"At the same time, you see increased revenues in other areas," said Abbott. "You see increased sales tax revenues because people have more money in their pocket, because they're spending less on gasoline and they can go buy more at the store. You also see an increase in manufacturing like what we see here in the Houston area, because the cost of the raw product that's used in that manufacturing is less. That stimulates more production at these manufacturing facilities in Houston."
The good news, he says the state will enter the next biennium with a $10 billion budget surplus. Still, Abbott said part of the solution must include efforts to diversify the state's economy by stimulating growth in industries other than just oil and gas.
Discussing another priority, border security, Abbott suggested continuing the surge with additional technology and personnel could receive at least some outside funding -- and not from Washington, D.C.
"My proposal costs $300 million," said Abbott, "However that expenditure could be offset by the money that we take from the cartels themselves."
As the issue of whether the 84th Texas Legislature should alter the state's marijuana laws continues to smolder, Abbott indicated he may be unlikely to stray far from his predecessor.
"I'm not in favor of decriminalizing it," said Abbott. "I am in favor of making sure we don't stockpile our prisons with people who have possession of minor amounts of marijuana. Instead I want to help them go down a pathway that helps them maybe stop using drugs."
The legislature convenes Jan. 13.