SAN ANTONIO (Nexstar) — During an event Tuesday afternoon in San Antonio, Gov. Greg Abbott pitched the idea of crafting legislation to provide civil liability protections to people operating businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He pitched this proposal after talking with construction workers and small business leaders during, what his office dubbed, a “listening session.”
Abbott said he will roll out more concrete details about some of these legislative proposals in the coming weeks. At this time, though, he floated one protection after saying business owners that “operated in good faith during the pandemic” face the threat of potential lawsuits for doing so. He said they “shouldn’t have their livelihoods destroyed by frivolous lawsuits.”
At The Polkadot Alley in Lubbock, store manager Kim Halsted spends a lot of time thinking about protecting her customers.
“(There are) so many small mom and pop businesses out there, we’re just trying to do our best and keep everyone safe while still being able to get out and shop and do the things that they need to do,” Halsted said.
Abbott also said he wants to continue building a strong workforce.
“We need to continue to do more to make sure that we provide the skilled training that’s needed in the multitude of jobs that either are or will be becoming available,” Abbott said.
Compared to other segments of the economy, construction has faired well, according to Texas Construction Association vice president of governmental affairs Jennifer Fagan.
“However, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t incurred you know, encountered our roadblocks and difficulties,” she added.
Fagan is working to ensure subcontractors get a seat at the table, so protections and opportunities trickle down to workers.
“Our members are the guys wearing the hard hats,” Fagan said. “They are the specialty trades, the skilled workers who are on site doing doing the work on these big, mostly commercial projects.”
“If we don’t have enough subcontractors, plumbers, electricians, mechanical skilled trades persons— if we don’t have enough of those type of people, then we can’t build the buildings for the new businesses that are coming here,” Fagan explained.
WATCH VIDEO: Gov. Abbott pitches economic proposals to boost workforce, protect small businesses
Additionally, the governor said state lawmakers should work toward identifying which regulations relaxed during the pandemic are “worth keeping” to “cut unnecessary red tape and unleash the full might” of the state’s economy. He specifically mentioned the rule allowing alcohol-to-go sales in Texas.
Abbott also mentioned the need to expand access to broadband services, saying it should become available in every zip code throughout the state.
Abbott promised to keep tapping into the Texas Enterprise Fund, a pot from which he can offer grants to businesses to incentivize a move to the Lone Star State.
The governor’s comments happened at a mixed use community in San Antonio called Brooks and featured at least a dozen speakers from the below list.
Abbott also told reporters Tuesday the state would keep working to make rapid COVID-19 tests available to small businesses as a precautionary measure. Earlier this week, the Texas Division of Emergency Management announced an expansion of this program after a successful pilot program launched in December.
This event is the latest in a series of discussions Abbott has held ahead of his State of the State address, during which he’ll formally announce his legislative priorities. That address will be broadcast live statewide on Feb. 1 starting at 7:00 p.m. on Texas Nexstar stations.
Photojournalists Richie Bowes and David Ewerz contributed to this report.