Thank you all for being here.
We really couldn't begin this morning without taking a moment to acknowledge the passing of a giant in Texas politics.
Gov. Clements was a mentor and a friend to me, like so many others here in Texas and played a major role in shaping the direction of politics in the Lone Star State.
He also served alongside the Army Corps of Engineers during the Second World War and that was just the beginning of a life lived in service- service to his country, his state, and, of course, his beloved Southern Methodist University.
The thoughts and prayers of all Texans are with Rita and the rest of the Clements family during this difficult time.
We started this legislative session with a simple goal to balance our budget without jeopardizing the jobs-friendly climate we've worked so hard to foster over the last decade.
Getting there has, at times, been anything but simple, and we've still got some work to do. But when the dust settles, we'll have a no-new-taxes, a balanced budget that meets our needs while still keeping something stored away for additional emergencies or natural disasters.
Along the way, we took every opportunity to improve the economic climate of a state that's already setting the national pace for job creation with more than 250,000 jobs created between January 2010 and January 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The next closest state added fewer than 100,000 jobs.
Fact is, in today's fast-moving, global competition for employers and good jobs even if you're leading the pack, you'd better find new ways to improve or someone's going to catch you.
Over the last decade, we've taken major steps to reform our legal system, but there was still plenty of room for improvement.
That's why I declared the need for adding a "loser pays" component to our courts an emergency item.
Thanks to the leadership of legislators like Rep. Brandon Creighton and Sen. Joan Huffman, and the hard work of so many others, particularly Sen. Robert Duncan, we stand here today ready to put pen to paper and make "loser pays" a part of the Texas legal system.
HB 274 provides defendants and judges with a variety of tools that will cut down on frivolous claims in Texas and expedite justice for the deserving.
Texas judges will have the ability to dismiss a frivolous lawsuit immediately if there is no basis for the suit just as in 42 other states with the prevailing party able to recover their attorney's fees from their opponent.
Also, trial judges who think a question of law can end the case can now ask an appeals court to decide the matter eliminating the need to play out the entire, costly trial before the question is decided by a higher court.
HB 274 also creates expedited civil actions for cases involving less than $100,000, which will cut down on court time and costs in smaller cases.
It encourages timely settlements by penalizing parties who turn down fair settlement offers in search of a "home run" at trial.
Thanks to these important new reforms Texas employers will spend less time in court and more time creating jobs.
They will invest more of their resources in expansion and growth instead of wasting them on extended, frivolous, lawsuits.
It's a step that will make Texas that much more attractive to employers seeking to expand or relocate from countries all over the world.
I congratulate everyone involved in this process, from our friends in the legislature to independent organizations and private individuals.
This is an important day for Texas and promises many more great things in the future for Texans.