Your San Antonio Chamber of Commerce officially kicked off its 2020 Road to Session Series last Friday with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Richard Perez sat down with Lieutenant Governor Patrick to discuss education, the Senate’s legislative priorities and the Lieutenant Governor’s thoughts on limiting liability for businesses that reopen during the pandemic.
“Public education is very important to me; it is key to all business all across the state and key to living the American dream,” Lieutenant Governor Patrick told business and community leaders attending the event. He wanted to clear up any misinformation and reaffirmed that schools will be fully funded by the state of Texas. If a school decides to push back the start date, they will be funded every day they are in school but must make up the days missed at the end of the school year. He also mentioned the authority to decide how schools will safely open this year lies with local school boards. If schools want another four weeks of all virtual learning after the first four week back-to-school transition period, it will require a school board vote and a Texas Education Agency (TEA) waiver, which will be on a case-by-case basis.
In addition, Lieutenant Governor Patrick shared that the state is spending $200 million to provide one million laptops, iPads, and Chromebooks to ensure every student has some type of device to be online. In addition, the state is providing funding for 500,000 hot spots and PPE to schools and teachers at no cost.
The topic on everyone’s mind was how COVID-19 will impact the 87th Legislative Session. Patrick assured everyone that the top priority is to ensure members, staff, and visitors feel safe in the Capitol. Lieutenant Governor Patrick said the number one thing he values is public input, not just invited testimony or government relations professionals, but the input from fellow Texans. He and the Senators, along with the House members, are working on safety precautions and a plan on how to conduct business in the Capitol. Of the 116 Senate Interim charges, he wants to have hearings on 7 to 12 of them before the start of session.
The day before our event, Lieutenant Governor Patrick was in West Texas with President Trump. The Lieutenant Governor said the President was uplifted by his visit to Texas. He talked about the reason for the visit and the need for refiners to buy West Texas American oil first, because it helps Texas and the U.S. Economy. The oil and gas industry is a key driver of the Texas economy, and without it we wouldn’t be here today. Lieutenant Governor Patrick told business leaders that the barrel of oil needs to be about $45 to $50 dollars to help the industry recover.
He also stressed the need to have a liability shield for businesses who choose to reopen during the pandemic. “We cannot ask businesses to go back to work and open their doors, even if they are not protected, because they are going to be sued,” the Lieutenant Governor told business leaders in attendance. He would rather have Congress pass a liability bill but is willing to take it up at the beginning of session if needed. Lieutenant Governor Patrick concluded his remarks by stressing the importance of the U.S. Census and said Texas is lagging behind a little, and we need Texans to complete the census. The census helps determine the number of Congressional seats Texas has and the federal dollars our state receives.
He also touched on a variety of issues including higher education, bipartisanship, redistricting and public service student loan forgiveness. Given time constraints, Lieutenant Governor Patrick was unable to answer all viewers’ questions live but agreed to do so after the event. Chamber staff has shared all unanswered questions with the Lieutenant Governor’s office, and once they are answered, they will be posted on the Chamber’s microsite, sachamberrapidresponse.org.