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Gov. Greg Abbott names 'emergency items' for 2019 Legislative Session

During his State of the State address Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott identified five emergency items.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Governor Greg Abbott has high expectations for the 2019 Legislative Session. 

"A session, by the way, that is going to etch landmark achievements into this already historic chamber," Abbott said. 

He delivered is biennial State of the State Address to the Legislature Tuesday morning. Abbott started by discussing many of the state's achievements from economic success to population growth before getting to the meat of the speech, the emergency items. 

By declaring something an emergency item, the governor allows lawmakers to bypass the 60-day waiting period outlined in the Texas Constitution and begin voting on the items.

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Abbott declared five emergency items Tuesday. His first was centered around public education. 

"I am declaring school finance reform and increasing teacher pay as emergency items this session," Abbott said. 

He didn't talk specifics but also declared school safety an emergency, recounting the shooting at Santa Fe High School.

Abbott added everyone agrees there is a need for mental health resources and pointed to a bill by Republican Senator Jane Nelson

"Senator Nelson also provides a broad-based plan, a plan that creates a mental health care consortium to collaborate on statewide mental health needs," he said.

That bill is his third emergency item. 

Abbott's fourth item is property tax reform. The governor didn't throw out numbers, but already said he supports House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2. The matching bills would decrease the rate cities, counties and schools can increase property taxes for homeowners and businesses without the option for an election from eight percent to two-and-a-half percent. 

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Governor Abbott's final item, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, is to strengthen the state's response to disasters. 

"There were a couple of things missing," said State Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) who is the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. 

House and Senate Democrats said they were disappointed Gov. Abbott made no mention of funding Pre-K. Nor did he talk about health care, when Texas ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for having the most uninsured residents. 

The Democrats also expressed concerns about protecting elections in light of the Secretary of State releasing a list of registered voters who his office said were possibly non-citizens. It turns out thousands of the people on the list are in fact citizens. 

"Our Secretary of State is engaged in an organized, illegal attempt to purge Latinos and other naturalized citizens from the voter roles. Period. End of story," said Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin).

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And they aren't quite sold on the proposed rollback rate reduction, noting it divides the state.

"By making it only apply to larger jurisdictions. It is a shame, a shame that they would have someone like Charles Perry (R) from Lubbock exempting most of his counties but it for more urban areas," said State Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston). "We just historically have not operated like that in the State of Texas."

House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2 apply the rollback rate reduction to taxing entities that collect more than $15 million.

Still, the Democrats said they are ready to work and because they remain outnumbered in both the House and Senate, are just asking for a seat at the table.