Governor Greg Abbott is still a neophyte on the job as governor. He just gave us all a glimpse into his philosophy of being governor. He recently closed out the Legislative Session by vetoing 42 separate bills–some good; more bad.
Probably the Governor’s greatest failing was that he made a big show of wanting to create better ethics for state government. He had a good start when he dismantled several of Rick Perry’s slush funds which doled out almost a billion dollars in tax money--mostly to Perry’s campaign contributors. He also has gotten a pretty good handle on non-bid contracts by requiring extensive review before such contracts are granted.
Unfortunately, some of Abbott’s rhetoric concerning ethics did not ring true. He left undone anything about “dark” money whereby people are not required to let the public know where millions of dollars, if not billions, come from when spent on electing or defeating public officials. On the plus side, Governor Abbott vetoed an attempt by some members of the Legislature to avoid having to fully disclose millions of dollars worth of property in which they have an interest claiming it belonged to their spouse.
Then again, on the minus side, our Governor signed a bill removing jurisdiction of investigation of public official crime from the long-standing public integrity unit residing in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. By doing this, Governor Abbott has assured there will be no thorough investigation of a no-bid contract done by an official of the Department of Public Safety. This is true because the responsibility for investigating the Department of Public Safety now lies with the Texas Rangers--a subdivision of the Department of Public Safety. If the Rangers (not a citizen jury) find just cause to suspect a crime by a public official, they must send the matter to the official's home courts for trial or dismissal. Even worse, the head of DPS says he does not have funds to conduct such an investigation and the Travis County grand jury can't. Consequently, another one of Perry’s appointees will go with no investigation for his possible wrongdoing.
On the finance side, the Governor let stand some added money to colleges and universities, particularly for building, and did a little to shore up teacher retirement and retirement for other state employees. But, he failed miserably in restoring millions and millions of dollars robbed from the schools of Texas in the preceding Republican legislative sessions.
Again, on the plus side, however, the Governor signed the bill doing away with the “pick-a-pal” selection of grand juries and allowed the law requiring grand juries be randomly selected from citizens much the same as other juries are selected.
Our Governor Abbott gave a little assistance to school districts by vetoing a bill which would have created a giant loophole in the area of property taxes mainly benefiting giant oil corporations such as Conoco/Phillips. On the other side, however, he signed a bill making it impossible for cities and local governments to stop bad practices of oil companies within the borders of their cities. This means that "fracking", which causes drinking water pollution and possibly earthquakes, will continue virtually unabated in portions of North Texas.
Unfortunately, the Governor’s bad experience of being subjected to a tragic accident leaving him without the use of his lower extremities did not do much for his empathy of others in Texas suffering from medical problems and accidents. The Governor did absolutely nothing to try to relieve the fact that Texas has more uninsured citizens than any other state of the union, leaving many children within our borders to suffer without adequate medical care. He also vetoed a bill which could have been life saving to people caught in the grip of drug addition. He did so by vetoing the bill which would have given immunity from prosecution to someone who calls in to report someone possibly dying because of an overdose of drugs.
I suppose there is some hope in the fact that if our new Governor truly considers education and ethics his high-priority items, he should have plenty of challenges in future sessions.