In a speech at Moody Gardens on Friday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pledged to support issues important to Galveston.
Citing his close relationship with state Sen. Larry Taylor and a fondness for the island, where his family vacations, Patrick said he would support some of the local issues the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce had named as its top priorities for the current legislative session.
Among those issues is the continued advocacy for a coastal barrier to protect Galveston and surrounding areas from hurricane-driven storm surges.
“I’m all in,” Patrick said. “I know these issues for Galveston, like the coastal barrier, are correct, so we need to be all in.”
The chamber, which hosted Patrick at a legislative luncheon, has said addressing public education funding, securing a coastal spine, reforming windstorm insurance and supporting Texas port and maritime issues were among the most important things the legislature could do for Galveston during the session.
The session began last month and ends on May 27.
Patrick offered few actual comments about the Galveston issues and delivered a speech about some of the early highlights of the session — including a renewed bid to cap local property tax rate hikes and on his work with the White House on advocating on issues related to illegal immigration.
Most notably, however, Patrick said that he, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott were working together and in agreement on major policy priorities, which may make some locally important bills easier to pass during the session.
During the 2017 legislative session, Patrick found himself at odds with some cities over proposals for a tax cap, and with chambers of commerce and tourism groups over his support for the so-called bathroom bill, which would have prescribed which bathroom transgender people should use based on a birth certificate.
The bathroom bill failed and Patrick has said he doesn’t intend to make it an issue again this session. Meanwhile, he’s lauded the apparent agreement already reached over property tax reform. Members of the house and senate have filed identical bills that would place a cap on property tax increases at 2.5 percent, unless local voters approve a greater increase.
Speaking after Patrick, Taylor said he was hopeful local issues would also come as easily during the session.
It was critical that the legislature come to an agreement on how to provide matching funds for a $4 billion federal project to build storm surge protection barriers in counties north and south of Galveston, Taylor said.
Getting those funds secured this year was critical to the state’s hopes for building a larger, $32 billion system of barriers, seawalls and gates around Galveston County some time in the future, Taylor said.
“This session we have to get our act together on the coastal barrier,” Taylor said. “They’ve given us $4 billion that we have to match. If we don’t do that, we won’t get the middle part.”