Greg Abbott

Photo Credit: Becca Gamache | Daily Texan Staff

A Republican-sponsored bill restricting insurance coverage for abortions goes into effect in Texas today.  

House Bill 214, passed during the state’s summer special legislative session, requires women to pay a separate insurance premium for non-emergency abortions. Authored by Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, the bill does not include exceptions for rape, incest or fetal abnormalities.

The bill was one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda items for the special session, which he called shortly after the end of the regular session in May.

“This bill prohibits insurance providers from forcing Texas policy holders to subsidize elective abortions,” Gov. Abbott said in a press release after signing the bill.  “I am grateful to the Texas legislature for … working to protect innocent life this special session.”

Smithee was unavailable for comment prior to publication of this article.

Critics of HB 214 dubbed it the “rape insurance” bill because of the lack of exceptions for rape or incest. Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, was a staunch opponent of the bill during the
special session.

Now that the bill is being implemented, Howard said the bill, in practice, will not likely have any major ramifications because many insurance plans already do not cover abortion. The bigger issue is the “chilling effect” it has on women seeking an abortion or doctors who might carry out the procedure, Howard said.

“Part of it is just an ongoing effort to just continue … to make it more and more difficult (to get an abortion) regardless of how pervasive the effects might be,” Howard said. “The fact that this is continuously being at the top of our agenda I think presents some dissuasion in and of itself.”

Howard said one effect the bill could have is reducing the ability of lower-income women from getting an abortion. Some women might not have the money to buy health insurance in the first place, and adding this requirement puts an abortion even further out of reach.

Jensen Soderlund, president of abortion rights advocacy group Texas Rising, said the fact that the bill lacks exceptions for incidences of rape or incest gives credibility to the belief that women need to be prepared for rape, which contributes to rape culture. 

“It’s upsetting for a lot of reasons,” government sophomore Soderlund said. “I love Texas …. It hurts that sometimes it feels like the Texas government doesn’t care about women as much as (it) should.”

Alicia Torres, president of pro-life group Texas Students for Life, said she has mixed feelings on the bill. While she said she always supports legislation discouraging women from getting an abortion, she doesn’t like the possible implication that only wealthy individuals can afford one.

“It’s sort of coming at the whole issue sideways,” said Torres, human dimensions of organization junior. “I prefer policies that are both stopping abortion because abortion is wrong and always ends a human life, and … address the root problems that cause women to get an abortion in the first place.”

In cases of rape or incest, Torres said she is glad there is not an exception within the bill. Having the option to get an abortion only adds to the stress and trauma of that experience, Torres said.

“I think especially in those cases, restricting abortion access is a great idea,” Torres said. “It does remove that tiny problem, which is that temptation (for a mother) to hurt her child and herself longterm.”

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the Republican Governors Association, or RGA, on Wednesday afternoon to garner their support for the new GOP tax plan and reassure them of the Trump administration’s support.

Following an introduction from Scott Walker, RGA chairman and governor of Wisconsin, Pence began by thanking Gov. Greg Abbott for his work on Hurricane Harvey relief.

“Through it all, we never failed to be inspired by the resilience and the faith and the character of the people of Texas, and we never failed to be inspired by the compassion and the strength and the leadership of the great governor of Texas,” Pence said.

Pence then discussed the GOP’s tax plan, which is currently making its way through the U.S. Senate, and congratulated the governors in the room who had already managed to cut taxes in their states, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

“When I look at the governors gathered here, I see a group of extraordinary leaders with extraordinary accomplishments,” Pence said. “Thanks to (the RGA’s) support, these Republican governors are proving every day that Republican policies work in our states … and Republican policies can work to make the entire American economy great again.”

Pence reassured attendees of the Trump administration’s commitment to protecting states’ rights and expanding their control.

“The states created the federal government; the federal government didn’t create the states,” Pence said. “Our administration under President (Donald) Trump knows that governors understand their unique needs better than anyone ever could.”

Pence also championed a recent addition to the GOP tax plan, the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate which requires most people to have health insurance, eliciting cheers from the audience.

The association hosted Pence as part of their annual conference, and prior to Pence’s speech, Walker and Scott hosted a briefing to discuss the party’s chances of maintaining power in 2018. Republicans currently hold 34 of the governorships across the U.S., the highest in the party’s history.

“We think part of the reason for that — not just now, but for the past several years — is (because) Republican governors are getting things done,” Walker said.

Next year, there will be 36 gubernatorial races, 26 of which are currently held by Republicans.

Walker said he isn’t worried about Trump, who is experiencing historically low approval ratings, hurting the chances of Republican gubernatorial candidates winning in 2018.

“If the only argument that (Democrats) have got is that you’re in the same party as (Trump), then I think they are going to have a failing race,” Walker said. “What voters want to hear about is ‘What are you going to do to make my life better?’”

Scott said the best thing Republican incumbents can do to ensure reelection is keep their campaign promises.

“The bottom line is … whether Republican or Democrat, you ran on something, and you need to do it,” Scott said.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Senate on Friday approved a bill allowing the open carry of firearms by licensed owners.

Although the House approved its version of the legislation last month, the bill still needs to go to a final vote in the House before being sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for signing. Abbott said he would sign any version of an open carry bill that comes to his desk.

The bill was passed in the Senate after much argument over a controversial amendment that would prohibit police officers from asking for the concealed handgun license of those openly carrying firearms. The bill passed with the amendment included.

Supporters of the amendment said it will prevent police from profiling and harassing minorities.

"If somebody is going to be profiled for walking around the streets of Houston or Austin with a gun, someone who looks like me is more likely to get stopped," Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) said, according to ABC 13.  

“[This] is the most egregious mistake I have ever seen us [the Texas Legislature] make,” Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) posted on Facebook, in reference to the amendment.

Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) argued that the amendment would, in practice, equate to the unrestricted open carrying of firearms by anybody, regardless of whether that person has the proper license, which advocates call constitutional carry.

"This is nothing but a backhanded way to accomplish constitutional carry," Whitmire said. "We are really, really playing with a dangerous matter. It's not something that we can afford to be wrong about."

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick praised the Senate for passing the open carry bill.

"With time running out on this legislative session, the Senate has once again stood up for the Second Amendment to ensure law-abiding licensed Texans have the right to open carry," Patrick said.

House Speaker Joe Straus said the bill for open carry on college campuses will be put to a vote before the legislative session ends June 1.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott shocked the civilized world by openly pandering to right-wing conspiracy theorists. In an unprecedented move, he ordered the Texas National Guard to “monitor” proceedings of the United States military as they conducted a training exercise known as “Jade Helm 15” across the country, including in this state, specifically near Bastrop. These training exercises are meant to replicate the unique environment that members of our armed services may encounter overseas.

The aforementioned crazies believed this was a part of some type of power-grab by the federal government meant to enslave the people of Texas into tyranny and socialistic serfdom. (Yes, really.)  The speculation was further fueled by the apparent temporary closings of a few rural Walmarts. Conspiracy theorists opined these stores were connected with an elaborate system of underground tunnels, would serve as distribution centers during martial law and would even be a headquarters for “invading troops from China.” (Once again, really.)

Now, any reasonable sane public official would not breathe life into these maliciously slanderous rumors, much less condone them. But that is exactly what Abbott did by dispatching the state’s National Guard to somehow keep an eye on the American armed forces. All of a sudden, the wingnuts felt emboldened and vindicated by their governor, doubling down on their firm believe that the feds were coming to take their guns and impose Lenin-Marxism.

Basically trying to hold back laughter, representatives from the Pentagon clarified that there would be no armed takeover of the state of Texas and that Jade Helm 15 was, indeed, a training exercise. But you can’t convince the unconvincables, including radio talk show host Alex Jones, Congressman Louie Gohmert, Sen. Ted Cruz and Abbott. Quite a motley crew has assembled to ostensibly “protect” the people of Texas from their country’s military; at least, that is what they have deluded themselves into thinking.

Thankfully, many former leaders in the state have been quick to be voices of reason. These include both former Gov. Rick Perry and former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, respectively, who both sharply castigated Abbott for pandering to idiots and disrespecting the military by insinuating that they would somehow institute martial law against their own people.

It is positively unacceptable that our state’s governor would risk the integrity and safety of this state’s residents in a pathetic attempt to increase his bona fides with nutjobs. Texas, yet again, has become the laughingstock of the entire country, as folks from Washington to Florida have groaned and rolled their eyes at just how gullible we must be. 

What is perhaps saddest of all is that these assumptions of Texas will stick around far longer than the fleeting training exercises that birthed them. Most Texans haven’t heard of Jade Helm 15, much less spent enough time watching InfoWars to actually be convinced that they are some type of nefarious plot to enact a new world order. For whatever reason, however, our governor has shamelessly pandered to that minuscule minority nonetheless. 

For shame, Gov. Abbott!

A ranking is only as useful as its underlying methodology. If it relies on an algorithm that reasonably weighs empirically measured variables against one another, it might have some value. But if its components fail to reach that standard, it's about as useful as a BuzzFeed quiz. 

So as encouraging as it is to hear fiscally conservative Gov. Greg Abbott promote high-quality public education, I'm concerned by his severely flawed approach to reforming Texas universities.  

Abbott routinely emphasizes his goal of pushing five schools in Texas into the top 10 of U.S. News and World Report's annual ranking of public universities. But the U.S. News formula's reliance on subjective data makes it statistically useless, and its emphasis on alumni donations and retention rates leaves it inherently biased against schools as economically diverse as Texas'.  

In other words, there's no way to achieve Abbott's goal without forcing most of the state's public universities to deviate from their educational missions. 

According to the U.S. News website, 22.5 percent of a school's ranking is tied to how well it fares in a survey of high school guidance counselors and college administrators. The rationale, the magazine claims, is that the counselors can accurately measure a college's notability, while administrators can rate "intangible" characteristics like "faculty dedication to teaching." 

But guidance counselors at public high schools, if they're doing their jobs right, tend to concern themselves with helping stressed and indecisive teenagers navigate the process of finding and applying to suitable colleges. They aren't equipped to evaluate the quantity or quality of a university's research output, nor are they experts on how well a school's donor base reflects overall alumni satisfaction. 

In the same vein, effective school administrators are probably more worried about making sure their own campuses run smoothly than about whether they're fairly evaluating another school's "faculty dedication to teaching." Indeed, I'd be somewhat concerned if David Laude, a chemistry professor and UT's senior vice provost for enrollment and graduation management, could accurately measure whether Texas Tech's sociology professors infuse their lectures with a sufficient amount of gusto. 

In essence, then, U.S. News is banking almost a quarter of its rating system on the expert testimony of non-experts. And while I'm sure that some counselors and administrators are knowledgeable enough to turn in accurate evaluations, the rest  probably base their opinions on the information most readily available to them online, which includes rankings like those published in U.S. News. That creates a feedback loop in which a school's ranking largely depends on how highly it has been ranked in the past. 

Another 22.5 percent of the ranking comes from a combination of a school's six-year graduation rate and its freshman retention rate. That's bad news for schools as socioeconomically diverse as UT. Accepting a large number of students from underperforming high schools inevitably leads to higher dropout rates and lower graduation rates when those unequipped for the rigors of college life either quit school or stick around long enough to retake courses they've failed. 

To remedy that problem, UT has become something of an education policy laboratory, implementing all sorts of innovative strategies to support flailing students from underprivileged backgrounds.  

But U.S. News doesn't recognize those efforts. As far as its ranking is concerned, UT would become a better school if it just didn’t accept those students in the first place. So if Abbott is serious about fulfilling his promise, he could start by abolishing the top 7 percent rule, thereby preventing bright students in underserved areas from accessing the state's premier public universities. 

Other factors in the ranking, from the percentage of donating alumni to student-to-faculty ratios to professor salaries, favor small schools over big schools; rich schools over poor schools; and, most damningly for UT, homogeneous schools over diverse schools. The only feasible path toward pushing Texas universities up the ladder involves radically changing the makeup of their respective student bodies. 

In that regard, playing the rankings game isn't beneficial to public universities of UT's size. Texas taxpayers subsidize universities so that they can affordably and effectively educate the state's future leaders. It's unclear how tailoring those universities to suit an arbitrary list from an arbitrarily chosen magazine furthers that goal. 

Shenhar is a Plan II, government and economics sophomore from Westport, Connecticut. Follow Shenhar on Twitter @jshenhar.

Gov. Greg Abbott has stated he “wants next year’s pre-kindergarten class to graduate from high school in the top-ranked school system in the nation.” This is a great goal, like many of his other goals, but how do we achieve this? Currently, Texas ranks 39th in the nation in education and receives an overall grade of C-, according to Education Week’s State Report. For the SAT, which many of us have taken, Texas ranks 47th in the nation and would likely rank dead last if all (instead of the 62 percent currently) Texas high school students were required to take the SAT.

The problem is real. Texas students are struggling to keep up with the rest of the nation. The United States is having similar problems on a global scale, with our country falling behind other developed nations in recent decades. As a result, state education chiefs and governors in 48 states came together to develop the Common Core, a set of clear college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in the English language, arts, literacy and mathematics. It was a bipartisan effort in creating, adopting and implementing standards, which are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to take credit-bearing introductory courses in two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce. 

Forty-three states have adopted Common Core, and the results have been successful. The top nine states in education, according to Education Week, have all adopted Common Core. In addition, the top 11 states with regard to SAT scores have adopted Common Core (No. 5 Minnesota only adopted the English Language Arts standards). 

Opponents of Common Core cannot argue against the facts of the program; thus, they have fallen back on catchphrases and rhetoric, such as, “We do not need a one-size-fits-all solution,” or by comparing it to the controversial Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Opposition to Common Core comes from the far right of the Republican Party, which I personally believe opposes Common Core because of President Barack Obama’s support of it. On the other hand, the majority of Republican governors support Common Core because they participated in its creation and have seen the positive results from its implementation.

Studies have shown that Common Core standards are a lot better than 85 to 90 percent of the states standards that they replace. We need more rigorous standards to better prepare this country’s students for higher education and for the workforce, which is why organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have supported Common Core.  

Additionally, Texas simply cannot become the best state for primary education with the low standards that we have now. 

I understand that politically, it is perilous for Republicans, especially in a state like Texas, to support Common Core. I believe Abbott, who opposes Common Core, does so because he is worried about a primary challenge from the right in 2018. Specifically, he is worried about Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. However, there is a way around this. What Texas needs to do is adopt standards superior to Common Core. Don’t let Common Core be the ceiling, but simply the floor for educational standards. For example, Minnesota is the highest-ranked state, which has not adopted Common Core completely. Part of the reason is that Minnesota has developed standards that are, in fact, superior to Common Core in math

It is without a doubt that Texas needs better education standards. We are ranked toward the bottom in almost every metric, yet — due to our low academic standards — we have the second-highest high school graduation rate in the nation. This indicates that we are graduating too many high school seniors who are not ready for higher education or the workforce. I agree with Abbott that Texas should be number one in education, but to achieve that, we need to adopt Common Core or standards superior to it. 

Hung is a first-year law student from Brownsville.

This is the time of year when many high school seniors in Texas have received their college acceptance letters, and most of them are probably excited to be going off to school next fall. Many students’ anxieties overlap. They worry about being away from home and getting into the classes they want. However, some students have very different concerns. They want to know that they will be able to get around campus easily and that their disabilities will be accommodated adequately. These students, and others in Texas, should be able to feel that they have the resources they need.

Some are troubled, however, by what they perceive to be a lack of state support for disabled Texans. According to the Statesman, Gov. Greg Abbott is the first U.S. governor in almost three decades to use a wheelchair. But many disability advocates are troubled by how Abbott has addressed disability issues in the past.

Many are frustrated by the fact that Abbott supports “sovereign immunity,” a legal doctrine that a few states still use in attempts to avoid lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In his support of the doctrine, Abbott has shared his wish to avoid placing court costs from these lawsuits on taxpayers. While Abbott has promised to have a large impact on disability issues, he has also shared a desire for lawmakers to prioritize tax cuts and border security, leading many to assume that disability issues will not soon be addressed. 

Potential issues that disability advocates want to resolve include the aforementioned “sovereign immunity” doctrine, as they wish for Texas to stop fighting ADA lawsuits. They also support efforts to shut down Texas centers for the intellectually-disabled. They want Abbott to throw his support behind them. According to the Statesman, Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities, said, “[Abbott] talks about the economic environment, job creation. He talks about universities getting to top tiers. But very little about health care. That tells me there is ground to be made.” 

Abbott himself has stated that he thinks the fact of having a disabled governor is beneficial to disabled Texans. According to the Statesman, Abbott says that “having the chief executive of the state be a person with a disability sends a message to employers across the state that they can hire people with disabilities.”

Hopefully, reforms will come soon. United Cerebral Palsy, a group that conducts state rankings of disability services, ranked Texas second-to-last after judging the Texas Medicaid programs that are designed to help those with disabilities. While this is discouraging, many support disability reforms in Texas and other states. Rhode Island congressman Jim Langevin—who is a quadriplegic—expressed a desire to help others with disabilities. Lex Frieden, a quadriplegic who helped create the Americans with Disabilities Act, was also quoted in the Statesman, saying, “I don’t think we should depend on Governor Abbott simply because he uses a wheelchair….this should not be an area that any leader ignores.” 

Frieden is certainly correct. Thousands of people in Texas live with many different types of disabilities that impact their daily lives. Many of them suffer from inadequate healthcare treatment and unemployment. Lawmakers should strive to help a segment of the population that has been underserviced in the past, and allow for reforms that help those with disabilities overcome obstacles.

Going back to the students with disabilities, it seems cheesy and outdated to suggest that the college experience should be a four-year party free from worry and responsibility. However, students at UT and across the state should feel that the resources and support they receive will allow them to have the same enjoyable college experience as others, and not have additional stress placed on them. College offers its students many opportunities, and everyone, regardless of ability, should have an equal chance to experience them.

Dolan is a journalism freshman from Abilene. Follow her on Twitter @mimimdolan.

Gov. Greg Abbott reappointed Vice Chairman Steve Hicks. Abbott also appointed UT alumni Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck as new regents, pending Senate approval.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Senate confirmed Wednesday Gov. Greg Abbott’s three appointees to the UT System Board of Regents.

The Senate unanimously approved Sara Martinez Tucker, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative. 

Current Regent Steve Hicks was confirmed by a vote of 28–2. Sens. Bob Hall (R-Canton) and Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) voted against Hicks.

Senators also approved David Beck, a partner at the Beck and Redden law firm in Houston, by a vote of 27–3. Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) voted with Hall and Burton against Beck’s nomination.

In order to take their places on the board, the nominees must be sworn in as regents, according to UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo. 

Last week, the Senate Nominations Committee approved the appointees and sent them before the Senate for a vote. The committee unanimously approved Martinez Tucker, while both Hicks and Beck were approved by 6–1 votes. In the committee, Burton voted against both Hicks and Beck.

In light of investigations into UT admissions and the UT School of Law’s forgivable loan program, Burton said Beck, the president of the UT Law School Foundation from 2002–2006, and Hicks have contributed to a lack of transparency. 

“[Hicks and Beck] have presided over a period of secrecy, privilege and sharp rises in tuition at the University of Texas,” Burton said in a statement. “The University of Texas is in need of a fresh start, with Regents concerned first and foremost with improving the strength of the University, getting tuition under control, and ensuring an admissions process that rewards the brightest students and not those with connections.”

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education issued a statement in support of the confirmation.

“These regents will help Chancellor McRaven advance the UT System past detrimental and unnecessary conflict and controversy, and toward a future focused on creating and sustaining excellence in higher education across the System’s academic and medical campuses,” the statement said.

Martinez Tucker and Beck are replacing current Regent Robert L. Stillwell and Vice Chairman William Eugene Powell on the board. Hicks’ term has been extended until 2021.

The Senate Committee on Nominations questioned Gov. Greg Abbott’s first three appointees to the UT System Board of Regents on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Andy Nguyen | Daily Texan Staff

The Senate Committee on Nominations questioned Gov. Greg Abbott’s three regent appointees for more than five hours about admissions, open records requests, and other issues that have prompted conflict in the UT System at a committee hearing Thursday.

Abbott’s first appointees to the UT System Board of Regents, Steven Hicks, Sara Martinez Tucker and David Beck, appeared before the Senate Committee on Nominations as part of the confirmation process. Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) asked the appointees questions regarding a report’s findings that UT President William Powers Jr. secured the admission of a few applicants over the objection of the admissions office.

When asked about his opinion of the report, which the UT System commissioned, Hicks defended UT Powers told the committee members the president should have some discretion when looking at admissions.

“I don’t see how you could keep a current president from having some role in admissions,” Hicks said. “The admissions officer today reports to this president. I do know [UT System Chancellor William] McRaven is very active in this area, and he’s going to ensure there are no irregularities in this admissions cycle.” 

Hicks was also asked about the extent to which regents should have access to documents, alluding to the controversy surrounding current regent Wallace Hall, who filed open records requests for thousands of documents regarding Powers’ presidency and other UT affairs in 2013.

“I would hope that transparency would be first and foremost in your minds,” committee member Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) said. “I would hope that you would not be an obstructionist to someone that is trying to be transparent and accountable to the people of Texas.” 

Hicks said he thinks regents should have the right to documents and that policies should be implemented to handle large-scale public information requests within the System. 

“I don’t think restriction is the right term; I think there has to be some practicality involved,” Hicks said. “If you’re requesting 2,000 documents, I think there has to be a reasonable set of guidelines.”

At the meeting, board members also questioned Martinez Tucker, who has previously voiced support for the common-core curriculum in certain states. Martinez Tucker said although she admires core curriculum, she is glad it is not implemented in the state. 

“I am thrilled that we have the Texas essential knowledge and those standards,” Martinez Tucker said. “It is the state’s right to create standards. I will respect that, and I will live by that.” 

When asked about tuition affordability at UT institutions, Beck said he wanted to emphasize that affordability was critical.

“I couldn’t afford to go to the University of Texas even back in the 1960s,” Beck said. “Affordability is very important to me and to say that somehow, [affordability is a negative], in the abstract — I don’t agree with that.”

Abbott announced his nominations Jan. 28, shortly after being sworn in as governor. As current regent vice chairman, Hicks is the only appointee with prior regent experience, having been a board member since 2009.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Gov. Greg Abbott made higher education research an “emergency item” in his first State of the State address Tuesday.

In his speech at the Capitol, Abbott urged lawmakers to prioritize legislation related to funding higher education research initiatives. He also said the state should work to create more tier-one research institutions to benefit Texas’ economy.

“My budget jump-starts the process of elevating Texas higher education into the highest echelons by committing a half-billion dollars to enhance research programs and attract nationally recognized researchers and Nobel laureates to Texas universities,” Abbott said.

Abbott’s budget, released Tuesday, allocates about $56 million to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to attract prominent researchers to state universities. He also allocated $40 million to current and emerging research institutes. The budget does not go into detail on how the money will be distributed between different universities. 

Additionally, Abbott’s budget allocates between $400 and $540 million to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas for cancer research at higher education institutions and about $532 million in tuition exemptions for veterans and their families. 

Abbott said he also plans to sign a law that will make Texas the 45th state to allow the “open carry” of guns.

“It is a basic second amendment right for citizens in that it allows them to carry their handguns visibly,” Bridget Guien, College Republicans communications director and economics freshman, said.

Abbott said he is looking to deploy 500 new state troopers and double border-security spending. Ashley Alcantara, Plan II sophomore and communications director of University Democrats, said she disagreed with Abbott’s plans to increase border security, although she appreciated his focus on early and higher education.

“I think it’s a lot more effective to work with immigration reform instead of simply throwing money at the border,” Alcantara said. 

State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) said he appreciated that Abbott made an effort to reach across the aisle in his speech, but said he found Abbott’s support of open carry troubling. 

“The devil is always in the details,” Ellis said. “The question is whether open carry in Texas is a throwback to the ‘Wild Wild West,’ or something which is far more reasonable, which I’m convinced most of those [44] states probably have.”