Author: Staff

Pardon the disturbance, but we refuse to be silent (Op-ed)

“[The Legislature is] the place to put down the guns, unclench the fists and act like decent, full-grown humans willing to solve their differences without violence. And — this is the part that actually makes it work — to abide by the results until the next time to fight, whether that’s in court, at the polls or in the next legislative session.”

Legislators show that men will be boys — if you let them

— Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune

Texas Tribune Executive Editor Ross Ramsey attempts to minimize the events in the Texas House of Representatives on the last day of the session (“Men will be boys”), where a member of the majority party threatened a peaceful protest of an unjust law, calling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and yelling for deportations. The protesters were predominantly Hispanic.

To continue reading this story go to Trib Talk.

Giddings: We must choose ‘community over chaos’ (Op-ed)

The meltdown on the final day of the 85th legislative session hardly came as a surprise. This story did not begin that day. It has been smoldering underneath the surface the entire session, with polarization and attacks on motives and character becoming the norm. Candidly, what is muttered away from the microphone is sadly far worse than what the public can hear or see.

The Texas House descended into chaos on May 29. When a protest broke out in the House gallery, the worst of our natures emerged. There were threats of violence, shoving, and even calls to deport peaceful protestors.

To continue reading this story go to the Houston Chronicle.

Surprise: Senate tacks ‘bathroom bill,’ property-tax reform onto House measure

AUSTIN — In a surprise move, the Texas Senate early Wednesday tacked its controversial version of the ‘bathroom bill” and property-tax reform measures into a catch-all House bill.

But it was a trap, the House author of the so-called “Christmas tree” bill confirmed, and the measures added to it are now dead.

Among the 48 amendments the Senate tacked onto House Bill 4180 were the Senate-passed versions of Senate Bill 6 and Senate Bill 2, two measures the House had watered-down greatly before approving them in recent days.

To continue reading this story go to the Houston Chronicle.

Editorial: Restore Medicaid therapy funds

A young Houstonian named Ky’ Zohn has been waiting eight months for physical therapy, which he needs for his balance and mobility. The four-year-old was born with delayed development, and his family is seeking therapy so he can learn to walk without falling.

The family is willing to go to a clinic or have home care but his mother says she can’t find an available therapist in Houston’s Medicaid program, the federal-state insurer for the disadvantaged and disabled.

Her son is not alone. A growing number of vulnerable children have reduced options for therapy, following the Legislature’s 2015 gutting of the rates that Medicaid uses to reimburse therapists.

To continue reading this story go to the Houston Chronicle.

Democrats Fighting for Families Amid GOP Dysfunction

There’s a tremendous amount of work to do in the last two weeks of session. The budget negotiations, especially in regards to health care cuts that could dramatically exceed what the state suffered from in 2003 and 2011, will be front and center. And of course we’ll all be working to pass our bills through the Senate and get our priorities across the finish line.

But before we look ahead to the busy closing weeks, I want to take a moment to share my thoughts on last week.

The dysfunction I saw on the floor of the House last week was unlike anything I’ve seen in my time in the Legislature. A small group of Tea Party Republicans effectively hijacked the Legislative process from many of us who have worked in good faith towards a productive session. Lawmakers killed an entire Local & Consent Calendar for “policy” reasons — then those same lawmakers voted against a cyber-bullying bill and a bill cracking down on human trafficking. It’s enough to make you wonder just what kind of “policy” those lawmakers really care about.

Their actions are the latest example of misplaced priorities taking over the business of the Texas House. From the so-called “sanctuary city” bill to allowing child service providers to divide and discriminate against foster kids, House Republicans continue to ignore the real needs of Texas families in favor of controversial and likely unconstitutional measures that will tear families apart.

Fortunately, House Democrats were able to stall out some of the worst House bills of the session and, at the same time, ensure passage of critical legislation:

During a week where in-party fighting led to House Republicans shutting down the House, I’m proud that Democrats were able to stay focused on important priorities that will help Texas families.

There’s a lot left to do in the final weeks, and I’m proud to be working with each and every one of you to see it gets done.

Franchise Tax Bill Could Be Disastrous

This headline from the Texas Tribune says it all: “Texas House votes to cut business tax that funds public schools.”

Last Thursday, Texas Republicans brought forward a bill that would eventually phase out the franchise tax. Built upon the idea of a fake surplus, the bill would count GR-dedicated funds as “extra” money, and use those calculations to create a total by which the state would cut the franchise tax. The Legislative Budget Board analysis found that the bill could create as much as a $3.5 billion hit to our state’s general revenue fund and, thus, our public schools in just a few years.

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Statement on Passage of Sanctuary City Bill

SB 4, the  so-called “sanctuary city” bill, passed the House on a party-line vote in the dead of the night. The bill was bad enough to begin with, but Republicans managed to make it even worse by turning it into a “Show-Me-Your-Papers” bill. This Arizona-style legislation will discriminate against millions of Texans, and marks one of the darkest days in the Texas House in my four terms.

Make no mistake, SB 4 is a discriminatory bill that represents politics as its worst. It’s a tragic irony that the passage of this bill comes on the heels of three consecutive federal court rulings this year that have found the Legislature engaged in intentional discrimination in its adoption of redistricting and photo ID laws.  As the passage of SB 4 demonstrates, the Legislature’s zeal to do harm to minority Texans continues unabated.

The children who stood at the entrance of the House chamber yesterday, pleading with House members to oppose SB 4, are rightfully scared of what may come next. But as Rep. Giddings said on the House floor this afternoon, they need to know there is a much higher power than the Texas Legislature, a power that will never forsake them.

Raise the Age Bill Passes Texas House

After many sessions of trying, Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr. successfully passed an important criminal justice raise-the-age bill that will have a tremendous impact for Texas families.

Current state law requires a 17-year old to be tried in the adult criminal justice system. Rep. Dutton’s “raise the age” bill changes that so that you aren’t automatically tried as an adult unitl you are 18-years old. Raising the age will help reduce recidivism rates, and ensure age-apprporiate rehabilitation for younger teens.

The bill, one of many examples of smart criminal justice policy reforms offered by Rep. Dutton and House Democrats this session, now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Fighting Against the Sanctuary City Bill

The so-called “sanctuary city” bill before the Texas House this week is a major threat to the safety and security of Texas families. But Governor Greg Abbott, serving as a right-hand man to President Donald Trump, has made the bill an emergency item — and Texas Republicans in the Legislature have been all too quick to move it along.

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The Importance of the Sandra Bland Act

It is not every day that a Texas House member proposes a bill that is not just a piece of legislation, but is also a powerful statement of our values that charts a clear course for making our state better for all Texans. That was the case last week when Rep. Garnet Coleman presented the Sanrda Bland Act before the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee.

Ms. Bland’s death was a terrible and unnecessary tragedy.  But it’s not enough to simply acknowledge that; we must take action to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.

That’s what Rep. Coleman’s House Bill 2702 would do: by emphasizing de-escalation and mental health trainings and putting in place important safeguards for both law enforcement and the public, his legislation would make our state a better place. As he works with law enforcement organizations, civil rights groups, and House committee members on the bill, I’d like to take a moment to thank Rep. Coleman for his leadership, tenacity and courage for making the Legislature consider difficult issues