ABILENE, Texas – Dan Patrick went first to border security.
On Wednesday, the state’s new lieutenant governor basked in the glow of an “A-minus” 84th session for the state Senate. Patrick is on a fly-in tour to talk about the accomplishments of legislators, whom he does not expect to be called back for a special session.
“Terrific job,” he said of the work of the senators over whom he presides. Patrick was elected in November to succeed David Dewhurst, whom he had soundly defeated in the Republican primary. Texans, he said, were eager to see what would come of the session under new leadership, with Gov. Greg Abbott also new to the job. House Speaker Joe Straus, however, was back in his role.
“We made a lot of promises,” Patrick said. The voters, he said, expected follow-through.
After listing the topics he wanted to highlight — including public education, property and business tax relief, and transportation, Patrick first addressed border security. A Senate plan to spend $800 million was set forth, close to triple what was available under former Gov. Rick Perry.
“This is so important to our national security,” Patrick said, citing drug cartels, criminals, sex traffickers and terrorists as potentially crossing the border into the United States if not thwarted.
The result of tightening the border, he said, is this: Although 7,000 to 8,000 people each week were trying to cross last summer, the number has dwindled to 2,500.
How will the money be spent? Paying Texas Department of Public Safety officers for 10-hour days, or the equivalent of having 600 officers on duty, and hiring more officers. There also will be money spent on technology and money set aside if the governor needs to call the National Guard to the border, as Perry did.
It was interesting that Patrick talked first about border security. Tax relief — and potential taxation — likely has a more direct impact on more Texans.
He said voters in November will have a say in putting into the state constitution a prohibition of sales tax on home and business property sales. Thirty-eight states now allow that, he said, but it’s not good for Texas.
Patrick, who formerly headed the Senate’s education committee, championed parents’ right to choose a school for their child, briefly noting that the House did not follow through on school choice. He called the new A-F grading system for schools a means of “transparency” for parents. If a school their child would attend is average or failing, parents have the right, he believes, to shop elsewhere.
In Abilene, the new Texas Leadership Charter Academy, ironically to be housed at a former Abilene ISD elementary campus (College Heights), is accepting applications. The city has been served for nine years by Premier High School.
Patrick reaffirmed his stances in favor of education choice, against abortion and for protection he said is afforded by the Second Amendment, including the carrying of a firearm on college campuses by those qualified to do so. That shows that five months into his new job, he is not backing down from the beliefs that brought him to the public spotlight and ultimately won him election. Still, he has critics.
Though Patrick’s views are based on personal conviction, he deftly justified his positions with fact. For example, abortion clinics must provided the same care as an ambulatory surgical center, a law that an appeals court upheld Tuesday with one exception. Not all clinics could, meaning that many shut down and only seven are open today. Thus, getting an abortion in Texas is harder.
Patrick helped write the sonogram bill passed in 2011 and later upheld in courts. This legislation “will continue to keep Texas as the leader in the nation in protecting life.”
Abbott separately cheered Tuesday’s ruling, which set up a predicted showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.
To this point, Patrick has been strategic in his new job, thus attaining a measure of job security.