Editor’s note: This Thursday we’re hosting a town hall with Gov. Greg Abbott. Ahead of that, we’ll roll out a series of stories to provide viewers with more context on his campaign promises, legislative priorities and his role in the Texas Republican Party.
AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott won his second term as governor in 2018, beating former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez by double digits.
In their one and only debate, Abbott and Valdez clashed on several issues, including health insurance coverage for Texans and property taxes.
“No government should have the ability to tax you out of your home,” Abbott said. “People who own homes, they’re not renters of the property from the city they’re paying taxes to. We need to reform this in a way that will allow voter approval before taxes are increased.”
During the 86th Legisature, Texas lawmakers passed Senate Bill 2. The legislation aims to slow the growth of Texans’ property tax bills. Gov. Abbott signed the bill into law mid-June.
“The law that we signed today does have transparency aspects to it that are transformative, that are very important, but it has something far more, something that has never been done before,” Abbott said during the signing event. “It limits the ability of taxing authorities to come back in and raise property taxes and jack them back up. Without SB 2, it would lead to quick erosion of the property tax reduction that is contained in HB 3.”
Health coverage for Texans
Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation. Census data released in September 2018 shows that the uninsured rate in the state increased to more than 17% in 2017. More than 4 million Texans don’t have health insurance.
Dr. David Fleeger, president of the Texas Medical Association, was watching and hoping for a possibility of Medicaid expansion in the state.
“It’s not something that’s really a political reality in the state at this time,” Fleeger said. “Our concern as a medical association is that we’re losing a lot of dollars that are going from Texas taxpayers to the federal government and aren’t coming back to our patients who need them.”
During his debate against Valdez, Gov. Abbott said he’s spent months on negotiating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the 1115 Waiver.
“This 1115 Waiver made sure that through the Medicaid system, Texas was going to be providing greater access to Medicaid in the unique ways Texas needs,” Abbott said. “One problem with Medicaid across the board is it’s a one-size-fits-all approach and Texas doesn’t fit the approach that may work for Kansas.”
Laws to help survivors of sexual assault
During his campaign, Gov. Abbott pledged to do more to combat human trafficking and sexual assault. His “Preventing, Protecting, Punishing” Plan recommended setting aside additional funding to eliminate the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits.
“We ended the legislative session with $48 million as an investment in the Department of Public Safety to bring them up to capacity so they can test those kits,” said Katherine Strandberg, criminal justice analyst with the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. “Having that investment in lab capacity and having that be coupled with new legislation like the Lavinia Masters Act and the new DPS kit tracking system that’s coming online in a couple of weeks, I think we’ve really coupled a good investment in DPS with some transparency measures.”
The Lavinia Masters Act, filed by Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, requires an audit of all untested kits and establishes timelines for results to be submitted and extends the statute of limitations. Gov. Abbott also signed into law legislation to establish a statewide telehealth center to expand victim access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and a bill that creates a Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force within the Office of the Governor.