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Gov. Greg Abbott gives State of the State Address, focuses on tort and budget reforms

Southeast Texas Record, February 7, 2017

By: Dawn Geske

AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott has given his State of the State speech to the citizens of Texas where he addressed what his priorities and emergency activities will be for the 85th legislative session.

He began his speech by discussing the oil industry related to the state’s health and economy. In his prepared remarks, he said, “Sure, we had a downturn in the oil patch like we have almost every decade. And like every other time, Texas has come roaring back. Last year when oil hit bottom, Texas still added more than 200,000 new jobs.”

He went on to discuss the new industry sectors that are thriving in the state and weaning it off of energy – biotech, defense, wearable tech, and clean tech – before he went on to outline his plan for the coming year.

While Abbott discussed Child Protective Services, education in the state, and protecting Texas’ borders, attention was brought to the economic advancements that are occurring in the state and creating new jobs, which he attributed to tort reforms.

“One of the reasons Texas attracts so many jobs is because of the strides we’ve made on tort reform,” Abbott said. “But, our work is not done. Hail-storm litigation is the newest form of lawsuit abuse. To reduce the economic havoc, I want legislation on my desk that limits abusive hail-storm litigation.”

These comments were applauded by Richard J. Trabulsi Jr., president of the Texans for Lawsuit Reform, who said in a released statement: “Hail-related litigation is the worst lawsuit abuse in Texas today, and if left unchecked it will hurt every Texas homeowner through increased property insurance premiums and deductibles, or reduced or lost coverage. We look forward to working with Gov. Abbott and the Legislature to pass a balanced solution that protects Texas homeowners from bad actors – whether that is an insurance company that acts unfairly or an unscrupulous lawyer.”

Abbott also went on to address the state’s budget by saying, “Just as families have to balance needs versus wants, so must we. That process doesn’t start with the next budget. It starts now.”

He recommended cutting spending on the current biennium to ensure the state lives within its budget with a hiring freeze through the end of August for all state agencies. He believes this will free up $200 million in the current budget and allow next year’s budget to avoid “looting the Rainy Day Fund.”

Abbott closed his State of the State address by discussing the federal government, which he said, “has grown out of control.” He advised that term limits should be put in place as well as restoring the 10th Amendment, and providing a balanced budget amendment.

He said, “We should demand that federal government do two things. One: Fulfill important – but limited – responsibilities as written in the Constitution. And two: On everything else, leave us alone, and let Texans govern Texas.”

Trabulsi agreed with the comments made by Abbott saying, “Texas is a beacon for economic growth because our leadership prioritizes sound principles – including common-sense tort reform – as the bedrock of our economy. We are pleased that he continues to fight against new and evolving abuses of our courts.”