Abbott Could Add Police Pay, Medicaid Expansion
and Election Lawsuit Abuse to Emergency Agenda
February 16, 2021
The massive power outages across Texas this week should be a wake up call for GOP leaders and lawmakers who've avoided the real emergencies facing the state and the world like climate change.
The state electricity system collapse isn't the only crisis situation that Governor Greg Abbott and the Republicans who control the Texas Legislature could tackle if they cared about making the Lone Star State the best place it can be.
After declaring electricity system reform on Tuesday as an emergency issue that the Legislature can tackle immediately, Abbott could start thinking big by slapping an urgent tag on an expansion of Medicaid that the state clearly needs based on its experience during the coronavirus crisis that's exposed the vast disparities in health care in Texas.
The governor could show that he and his fellow Republicans truly care about law enforcement by designating police pay and reform as an emergency as well. Abbott had stamped a fast-track label on legislation to punish cities for defunding local police in the package of emergencies that he unveiled more than two weeks ago in a speech on live television.
The net effect of the so-called Back the Blue campaign would be to discourage local governments from cutting police budgets below their current levels.
Instead of being content to try to keep police compensation from going down, Abbott and Republican legislative leaders could invest in a safer Texas by pushing for a package that would give cities the ability to give the cops a substantial raise. There's always a tradeout, however, and police who are woefully underpaid would have the incentive of weeding out racists and rogues on forces that would have to improve to qualify for boosts in benefits.
After designating civil liability protections for businesses and election integrity as official emergencies on February 1, Abbott could consolidate the two into a measure that would be designed to outlaw frivolous lawsuits in election challenges.
A law like this could have prevented the riot at the U.S. Capitol that left at least three police officers dead in its wake. The insurrection that a bipartisan U.S. Senate majority found Donald Trump guilty of inciting was a direct product of his attempt to overturn the democratic American election based on lies and conspiracies. It would give Abbott and the Republicans here an opportunity to show that tort reform isn't just a buzz phrase designed to make big donors richer.
Abbott expressed outrage on Tuesday with the state power grid collapse when he blamed ERCOT for the meltdown as the nonprofit agency that manages the grid without offering to share in the responsibility as the leader of the executive branch that oversees it.
“The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Abbott said. “Far too many Texans are without power and heat for their homes as our state faces freezing temperatures and severe winter weather. This is unacceptable.”
Widespread blackouts that go on for days are among the worst nightmares that a Texas governor ever encounters. There are no legitimate scapegoats in the state's latest unforeseen crisis in light of the fact that ERCOT is regulated by the Public Utility Commission that Abbott controls and the Legislature funds. While Abbott can point the finger at bureaucrats and others, he knows that the buck stops at the top on ERCOT.
The ruling Republicans have known for years about the power grid's vulnerabilities and lack of emergency reserve. But they have chosen to overlook this and other major infrastructure needs as a result of the steep cost that it would take to prepare Texas for the future.
more to come ...