TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (BIGCOUNTRYHOMEPAGE) – On this week’s edition of Big Country Politics, News Director Manny Diaz spoke with Lt. Governor Dan Patrick about a variety of hot-button topics regarding senate bills.

With recent events, mental health and school safety have been at the forefront of many conversations. One topic Patrick elaborated on is how they plan to address the lack of mental health facilities in rural areas such as the panhandle and the Big Country.

“We did not have, and do not have in this state, enough mental health hospitals in rural Texas,” Patrick explained. “We’re going to spend… over two billion dollars in building more mental health care beds… It’s very important that rural Texas, and all of Texas, have access to that treatment when needed.”

Senate Bill 11 is a security bill for school districts. Patrick shared that they will be putting a billion and a half into school security. Districts will have the opportunity to decide what is needed the most to ensure the protection of students and staff with the allocated money.

“We have many rural districts that let their teachers carry because they are a long way from police support if something happens. So if they carry, it’s up to those schools,” Patrick explained. “Some of our schools don’t want teachers to carry, for example. Other schools want metal detectors, others do not… we want the local districts to make these decisions.”

Senate Bills 1396 and 1515 would bring the ten commandments and prayer back into schools. However, there is some pushback, something that surprised Patrick.

“It passed on partisan lines and I was surprised by that because God is not a partisan issue and I think that citizens, whether it’s a Democratic district or a Republican district across the state should be in support. I respect everyone’s beliefs and their decisions,” Patrick expressed.

Another bill, Senate Bill 16, would ban critical race theory in Texas universities. Patrick defined this topic teaches ‘if you’re white you’re racist and if you’re a person of color you’re a victim.’

“I don’t want our students in school to learn it, that’s why it’s banned for K through 12,” Patrick explained. “We’ve passed a bill to ban tenure, to ban equity, diversity and inclusion in the highering practices in our universities and to ban CRT. And I hope the Texas house picks up all of those bills.”

Another bill that is in the works is Senate Bill 13, which would ban obscene books in school libraries. Back in November, parents demanded that the Abilene Public Library remove 26 books and reclassify them from the young adult section to the adult section. If this bill passes, Patrick said there would be a state mandate on the books. While he added it would be difficult to keep track of all the school libraries in the state, he agrees that some of the books should be removed.

“Different books, different titles, telling the same message and it’s really sexualizing our children for the most part. In this particular book that I’m talking about, they actually have chapters of how children can get onto porn sites,” Patrick said. “There’s a degree of morality and responsibility that comes with teaching our children.”

Staying on the topic of education, another bill (Senate Bill 9) could increase teacher pay by $2,000 each and an additional $4,000 if they teach in a district with less than 20,000 to help close the salary gap between urban and suburban teachers. Patrick said he thinks this will pass and plans to close the gap even further in upcoming legislative sessions.

“And for our retired teachers, they’ve wanted a COLA, a cost of living allowance increase. They’ve never had one because of the surplus but now we have the ability. This is an expensive package for us to do, four and a half billion, we’ve never had those kinds of dollars before,” Patrick shared.