Tyler Morning-Telegraph: Lt. Gov. Patrick sings praises of legislative session

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made a touch-and-go stop in Tyler to tout the successes of a freshly ended Legislative Session and talk about the tasks that lay ahead.

Patrick is a little more than a week removed from his freshman session as lieutenant governor and seemingly walked on air into the Jet Center at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport on Wednesday during a three-stop, day-trip media tour of Abilene, Wichita Falls and Tyler.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, joined Patrick, and both spoke glowingly about the Senate’s work to move prioritized items during what Patrick described as a very successful and conservative 140 legislative days.

“Every senator worked hard and accomplished a lot and saved taxpayer dollars by getting it done on time and with no special session,” he said.

Patrick said legislators in both chambers were able to approve big items, such as additional resources for border security and expanded Second Amendment rights with campus and open carry bills. Another success, he said, was the new, long-term transportation revenue stream that would reduce diversions in the hands of November voters and provided property and business tax relief.

Legislators more than doubled border security funding to $800 million, which will pay for more Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and surveillance equipment along the TexasMexico border. Patrick said the resources would go a long way to addressing illegal crossings, which he said are trending down according to law enforcement detainment numbers.

“There’s still more we can do,” he said. “We were one vote short on sanctuary cities and didn’t address in-state tuition (for illegal immigrants), but we’ll keep trying.”

Patrick said it would take patience and persistence to address many issues the state faces but that he believed the Senate and House addressed a miraculous number of priorities.

Eltife returned the adulation. There were many questions among political analysts going into the session about how Patrick, a staunch, sometimes confrontational, conservative, might handle the most powerful position in the state.

“He did an outstanding job,” Eltife said of Patrick. “The Senate ran smoothly and efficiently. We passed a good budget and for once we had a lieutenant governor and governor admit the problems of the state and showed a willingness to fix them.”

Eltife said Patrick showed political courage to prioritize items that had been neglected for years, including state facilities, and seek solutions for problems such as the state’s $46 billion debt.

Patrick said Eltife led a bold legislative agenda in the Senate and showed it by moving a medical cannabis bill that could have been derailed easily within a cautious House and Senate.

“I told him ‘run with it,’” Patrick said. “He did. He got an overwhelming majority of Senators on board and helped build its case in the House. It was a bold thing to do.”

Patrick said the cannabis oil bill would not usher in expanded legalization of cannabis.

Patrick said the positives, including addressing fracking bans by cities such as Denton and the new public education accountability system that provides A to F ratings for schools, far outweighed missed opportunities such as addressing school choice, the burden of indigent health care on counties or additional work on long-term water supplies, which he called the “toughest issue we face as a state,” because of the interplay between urban and rural interests, including demands on water districts and the rights of rural landowners.

“We got a lot done this session,” he said. “Some things take time. It can take years and sessions to get things done, but we have to stay patient, persistent and stay the course.”