AUSTIN (KXAN) — Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State address Thursday night, Texas Democrats’ rebuttal featured sharp criticisms of Texas Republicans’ efforts on school safety and education, border support and grid reliability.
The rebuttal began with testimony from families of the victims in the Robb Elementary mass shooting. Sen. Roland Gutierrez led calls for Abbott to “show some political courage” in enacting policies to prevent future mass shootings.
School safety, public education
In Abbott’s Thursday address, he listed school safety as one of seven emergency items added to the 2023 legislative session, alongside the topic of parental rights and school choice.
On the school safety front, Abbott called for more healthcare professionals in schools and the establishment of the safest standards, as well as ensuring districts and campuses are in compliance with them.
In a post-debate analysis panel, Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, criticized some gun safety policy proposals from Democrats, specifically calls to raise the legal age of purchasing assault-style weapons from 18 to 21 as “unconstitutional.”
On educational priorities, Democrats criticized Abbott’s proposal of a “school choice” state-funded savings account.
The Democrats’ rebuttal featured testimony from a former Lubbock ISD teacher who said she left the profession due to what she called “gag orders” enacted by Republicans on school teachers and curriculum. She added school choice vouchers would destroy rural school districts and are rooted in “defunding public education.”
But on that issue, Abbott said it’s essential Texas honors parents’ right in having a say in both where a child learns and the curriculum they’re learning. He called out an alleged “woke agenda” that had subverted education into “indoctrination.”
Support for migrant care
With Abbott calling for billions more in funding to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, Texas Democrats advocate for directing funding to local governments who are providing migrant care.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, called for supporting local municipalities located in border communities who aid in migrant populations crossing the border. She also encouraged investing in these ports of entry so they have the resources they need to handle incoming migrants.
In addition to increased funding toward border initiatives, Abbott proposed mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in prison for anyone caught smuggling illegal migrants into the U.S., and highlighted his administration’s work busing migrants to sanctuary cities across the country.
Abbott’s speech claimed 14 bipartisan bills have been signed into law related to grid reliability, adding no Texan has lost power due to grid failure since.
But Texas Democrats’ rebuttal included reminders of the February 2021 winter storms, where millions went without heat and power for days and hundreds died as a result, per a Buzzfeed News analysis.
The party’s response featured testimony from one Texas woman who said the February 2021 storm cost her $100,000 in damages, adding that she was just one of millions impacted.
In addition to the 14 pieces of legislation Abbott referenced, he said increased demand will happen as the state’s population continues to grow and the state will work to continually reassure grid reliability.
Texas reproductive, transgender healthcare
Toward the end of the Texas Democrats’ response, they said the way Abbott and his fellow Republicans have responded makes it seem they know more about reproductive healthcare and related abortion procedures than those undergoing those health needs.
One mom featured in the rebuttal criticized state-led investigations into families with transgender children. Democrats said focusing on transgender and reproductive healthcare issues detracted from significant problems impacting Texans statewide.
In a post-debate analysis, Republican Sen. Donna Campbell from New Braunfels cited her medical background when she alleged transgender drugs are being used against what they were tested on and approved for. She introduced a bill to limit gender-affirming care options in the state and said she feels no one under the age of 18 should have access to physical procedures and instead need mental health support.