*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
I want to start by congratulating the recipients of these valor awards. It takes an above-average measure of courage to even be in law enforcement.
You award winners have definitely gone above and beyond the call of duty in making Texas safe. We all owe you another round of applause.
I want to thank you all for having me here today, but, more importantly I want to thank you all for your sacrifices in the cause of maintaining order in our state.
Chris [McGill, President, CLEAT] I want to commend you and your team for standing up for our men and women in law enforcement.
Your folks have their hands more than full, as they manage the challenges of a job that gets tougher every day. Law enforcement has changed a lot over the years when it comes to technology and the demands placed upon our peace officers but the underlying motivation to serve and protect has been there since the beginning of time and will never change.
Peace officers are more important than ever as the threat environment in our state has continued to shift and expand.
At the macro level, Texas faces everything from natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and wildfires to pandemic disease outbreaksto criminal threats posed by terrorists, drug cartels, and increasingly violent gangs.
If you entered law enforcement to get a little variety in your job, I'd say that Texas is the place for you.
Of all those threats, I believe the most pressing may be the transnational gangs that are menacing communities across our state as they work to increase their influence and do the dirty work of foreign drug cartels. As you know all too well, these bad actors are better armed than ever and less respectful of authority than ever so we need to push back hard with everything we have.
That's why I called on the Legislature to provide you the resources you need to not just confront these gangs but overwhelm them.
I'm pleased that your legislators agreed and funded our transnational gang initiative as part of our overall homeland security effort.
They understand the simple math of more police officers plus better support better communications with their peers and properly-resourced prosecutors equals less crime.
The Legislature also passed HB2086 which provided electronic monitoring for gang members opened gang members up to civil suits for their actions and established gang-free zones. These essential financial and legal tools will accelerate us closer to our goal of making all of Texas a gang-free zone.
The other big part of our statewide law enforcement effort is our ongoing approach to securing our border.
I am firmly convinced that, without border security, you can't have homeland security.
The violence going on across the border is very, very real and the toll it exacts mounts every day.
Since January 2009 we have seen a number of attacks on law enforcement officers where violent criminals have either fired on officers or attempted to run them over with vehicles.
Reports out of El Paso indicate that teenagers are being recruited along the border areas to act as smugglers and/or hit men.
In September 2009, a Texas citizen from Horizon City was kidnapped from his home and later found murdered with his arms severed in a Mexican border city.
These criminals are playing for keeps and the threat of cross-border violence is real so a secure border is more necessary than ever.
Unfortunately, the federal government has been an abysmal failure when it comes to fulfilling that responsibility.
I deeply respect the Federal Border Patrol Agents who work with our local and state law enforcement in the border region but they have consistently been shortchanged when it comes to the resources they need to do their job.
That's why we've jumped into the border security business with both feet, starting in earnest back in 2006.
As we have proven the effectiveness of our "boots-on-the-ground" strategy your legislators have devoted more than $110 million in each of the last two legislative sessions to fund our border security efforts.
These resources make it possible to maintain our concentration of law enforcement personnel and equipment in the regions where they are most neededand continue to have a positive effect on violent crime.
Until the federal government decides to fulfill its obligation and start defending our national borders we will continue expending resources to keep Texans safe.
I'm not holding my breath til that happend and neither should you.
However, you have the full, unified support of this state and its leaders.
You know, folks who might try to paint an adversarial picture of the relationship between the governor and the legislature are way off. As governor, I'd put the accomplishments of the 81st Legislative Session up against any other legislature in the country.
First and foremost, they protected Texans' economic safety by passing a balanced budget cutting taxes for about 40,000 small businesses and protecting a Rainy Day Fund that is projected to grow to $9 billion by 2011.
There are probably 49 other states who would gladly swap that record of achievement with theirs but I'm not interested.
I deeply appreciate the fact that legislators like Representative Jose Menendez and Senator Eddie Lucio who are here with us today carried legislation that will better equip you to do your job.
With House Bill 221, Jose convinced his fellow legislators to not only bump up evading arrest from a Class B to a Class A misdemeanor but also increase the punishment to a State Jail Felony if the perpetrator has a prior conviction for evading arrest.
These two gentlemen worked together to pass Senate Bill 872 which should send a clear message about the value we place on your families.
This bill helps those who have lost a loved one in the line of duty by preserving the health insurance benefits connected to that officer.
This is Texas' way of telling you that we not only appreciate the risks you take in our defense but we value the families that you kiss goodbye every day as you head out to take your place between the law-abiding citizens of our state and those that would do us harm.
You and your families deserve the best we can give you because you certainly give your best to this state and help make it the best place on earth to live.
Those of you who ride patrol probably know better than everyone that our population is continually growing.
People come to Texas because they know it's a place where they can find a job, raise their families, and enjoy an outstanding quality of life.
The safety you provide is an essential part of that quality and I thank you for your courageous service.
When people are safe, when they are not looking over their shoulder in fear they will be attacked or robbed they are more inclined to dream and work for a better life.
That safety and order play a key role in our continued status as a national leader with a stronger-than-average economy and an optimistic outlook on life.
Y'all are doing good. Thank you.
Now, I don't want to leave before we take a minute to put pen to paper on these two bills.
Senator Lucio, Representative Menendez, would you join me over here with the leaders of this fine group so we can put this pen to use
and show our state's appreciation for these brave men and women and the families that love them?
On behalf of 24 million Texans, I want to thank you all again for your brave service your devotion to your communities
and your willingness to put others first.
Because of you, Texas is great.
Because of you, Texas will continue to lead.
Because of you, Texas will remain a beacon of security, liberty and hope to a struggling nation.
God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the great state of Texas.