Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Conversation With Greg Abbott: Creating a Better Texas

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit with Texas Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott in Round Rock.  After a campaign event at the 620 Bakery & Cafe, General Abbott sat down with me for a one-on-one interview about his approach to several issues.  Here are the highlights of our conversation.

Individual Independence a Touchstone for This Nation.

A major theme of Greg Abbott's work as the Attorney General and now of his campaign for Governor, has been the fight against inappropriate federal intrusion into state issues.  In the courts, Abbott has defended Texans on a variety of conservative issues, including 1st and 2nd Amendment rights and Voter ID laws.

If elected Governor, he has indicated that he will continue to fight federal intrusion by working with state agencies.  I asked him if he was concerned about the way that sometimes our state agencies are being used to circumvent the will of Texas voters and implement Obama policies. (Case in point:  Common Core architects were invited into Texas to help create CSCOPE.)  General Abbott was emphatic about keeping agencies accountable to voters and Texas law, and not permitting any "back door implementation" of Obama policy.  He added,
"We see the pathway that some other states are going down...they've bought into these federal programs, or tried to replicate them at the state level.  We see how devastating it is for their states and for their people.  Conversely, we've seen the Texas Model.  We've seen it work for creating jobs, but it also works for something more important:  preserving individual independence.  Which is, I believe, the touchstone of this nation.  Without individual liberty we have nothing.  So we will continue to fight for individual liberty."
Room for Improvement in Texas Right to Work Law.

We talked about the need to protect the Texas Model, and I asked General Abbott about the growth of labor union membership in the state (which increased by 65,000 in 2012).  Did he think we were doing enough to preserve our 'Right to Work' status and strong economy?   He agreed that union growth was a concern and stated that one of his goals is to stay "ahead of the curve" on keeping union power in check.  Abbott has vigorously enforced Texas right-to-work laws, and in 2011 he filed legal action opposing the National Labor Relations Board's attempt to punish Boeing for expanding into South Carolina (another right-to-work state.)  Earlier this year, he encouraged Senator Seliger and Representative Anderson to craft state legislation protecting the right to cast a unionization vote by secret ballot, and to provide a Texas Workers Bill of Rights.  
I asked, "Do you think there's room for more tweaking of our right-to-work laws?"

Abbott replied, "Yes, absolutely."
Abbott noted that the impact of union control is even more "devastating" on the public sector side.
"You saw what happened in Chicago, you see what's happening in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, where the public sector unions are running the state, and running the state into the ground.  I can guarantee you that will not happen in Texas."
"School Choice is a win-win."

The last topic we tackled was education reform.  During his speech, Abbott mentioned education as one of the top three issues facing the state.  Noting that the legislature had failed to act on any parental choice measures this session, I asked if he saw Texas eventually embracing the kinds of reforms that have been enacted in states like Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, etc.
"In the last couple of weeks I've been studying up on what happened in Florida, what happened in Louisiana, and some ideas that we have here in Texas, looking for where we are going.  We are going down the pathway of more school choice, and what we are looking for is more school choice options.  

School Choice is a win-win for several situations.  First and foremost, if you look at the driving force, the most effective component...it is parental involvement.  And the best way to have parental involvement, is by having the parent of that child be involved in where their child is going to be attending school.

Second, you shouldn't have one set of rules for the wealthy and well-to-do, and one set of rules for the poor.    The well-to-do have school choice...the impoverished don't have school choice.  Their child is trapped in a bad school, trapped in a school filled with violence, trapped in a school filled with drugs, trapped in a school with failing teachers and administrators.  The impoverished parent has nothing to do, no avenue to pursue.  We need to give the kids in those bad schools, and parents of those kids options and opportunities.  When we have school choice it really injects competition into the school marketplace, which is going to improve the quality of education across the board. 
A Spine of Steel to Stand Up to Unions

This brought us back to the issue of unions, since teacher unions can be one of the obstacles to allowing parental choice in education.   General Abbott was very direct on this issue:
I was very serious, although it was funny line, I've proven I have, and that I will have a spine of steel in fighting against these unions.  You need someone with a proven stiff spine to be able to deal with things like that.  It's a funny way of characterizing it, but I do have a stiff spine and I will use it on these types of issues, where I'm not afraid of going up against those unions because they're wrong- they're wrong for the future of Texas and I have one single goal and that is creating a better Texas.  
Texas has been a largely successful state, but we are under assault and our next Governor will indeed need a stiff spine.  It sounds like Greg Abbott fits the bill. 


One personal note:  I've met numerous politicians over the years, and I have found some to be shockingly arrogant and condescending; some truly ooze slime, and I can spot a womanizer from a mile off.  But there are good ones too, and my impression of Greg Abbott is that while he may be in a wheelchair, he 'walks the walk.'  I have met him on several occasions and found him to be genuine and straightforward, but always kind, never patronizing, and never condescending.  You might find a few political issues on which you disagree with him, but I think he is a man of solid character.  We need more like him in modern politics.

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