Author: Staff

Public Charges and Immigration

A few months ago, the House Democratic Caucus learned about a proposed rule on “public charges” as it pertains to immigration. We also helped convene a meeting with legislative offices to learn more from stakeholders about how the law would work. Now that there is a formal rule to consider, we have a better understanding of exactly how the Trump administration intends to discriminate against immigrants and their families.

 

From Vox, an explainer:

 

At the heart of the new regulation is a change in how the government looks at public benefits an immigrant has already used or is likely to use. While only cash benefits are considered right now — benefits that only 3 percent of noncitizens use — the new approach would include Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), Section 8 and other housing benefits, and subsidies for low-income earners in Medicare Part D.

 

The proposed rule is just another disgusting attempt to scare up support among Trump’s base, even if it jeopardizes necessary assistance for immigrant families and the more than one-in-four Texas children (1.8 million) who have at least one undocumented parent.

 

We encourage you to follow along with national and state groups on the latest developments on this issue, as we anticipate more news — and ongoing debate — in the weeks and months ahead. The CPPP has a new blog that helps explain the matter further, as well. We will be sure to stay up-to-date on this important issue, and will share opportunities for action as they develop.

Update: Less schools funded, less insured by health care

Improving public education and increasing access to quality, affordable health care are two of the biggest priorities of our caucus. Last week, we got upsetting news about each.

 

On education, we learned that the Texas Education Agency has requested more than $3 billion less for our local schools for the next biennium. Rising property taxes will continue to cover up the Republican leadership’s refusal to invest more in our kids’ future. This morning’s Houston Chronicle editorial couldn’t have put it any clearer: “You pay billions more in property taxes so that the state can pay billions less and your local school district ends up with the same amount of money.”

 

At the same time, Texans’ access to health care is getting worse. New numbers from the U.S. census found that hundreds of thousands more Texans were uninsured in 2017 than in 2016, reversing a years-long trend of steady improvement Texas had enjoyed under President Obama and the Affordable Care Act. The total number of Texans without health insurance jumped from approximately 4.5 million to 4.8 million residents, which meant a corresponding increase in the rate of uninsured from 16.6 percent to 17.3 percent.

 

Under President Trump, we are going in the wrong direction and Texans are suffering. Every man, woman, and child in Texas should have access to quality, affordable health care. Instead, we’ve seen purposeful efforts by the White House to wreck our health care system, and, sadly, these are the results.

 

We must remain committed to do everything we can to find legislative solutions for our schools and uninsured Texans. The future of our state depends on it.

Voter registration deadline is one month away

Texas’ voter registration deadline is October 9, 2018 — just one month away. The coming month is our chance to make sure all Texans are prepared and ready to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

 

The Secretary of State website has all the resources you need to register to vote, find out if you are registered, and the latest on what type of ID you may need to vote.

 

Members of the House Democratic Caucus have worked to improve access to voting for years. Unfortunately, Texas is still one of only 12 states without online voter registration, and Texas high schools aren’t following voter registration laws.

 

That’s why our education efforts are critical in the coming weeks. I encourage you to send out information about the registration deadline to all constituents, and to partner when possible with community organizations on voter registration drives. We must do all we can to make sure every Texan is eligible and able to vote.

Texas Education Agency to roll out school ratings

On Wednesday, the Texas Education Agency will roll-out its first “A-F” ratings for every school district in the state of Texas. Campuses won’t receive a letter grade until 2019, but will receive a numeric score on a 0-100 scale.

The letter grades, which come out as students and families prepare to go back to school, will be issued at a time when Republicans in control of the Texas Legislature continue to underfund our local schools. Consider:

 

    1. Texas is relying more on more on rising property taxes to cover the state’s share of funding our students and local schools (Source: CPPP)

 

    1. TEA and the state of Texas need to find up to $3.2 billion to get our state’s special education services up to standards (Source: Houston Chronicle)

 

    1. Our retired teachers haven’t received a pay bump in over a decade, and Texas – which contributes less to its state pension fund than any other state – would need to identify $786 million annually in order to ensure our retired teachers get the support they deserve (Source: Austin American-Statesman)

 

I expect that Texas’ A-F ratings for school districts will stir up plenty of discussion about Texas’ local schools. In that conversation, we should remember what is possible — that Texas, one of the richest economies in the world, could and should be doing much more to invest in the future of our kids and our local schools.

Gov. Abbott’s inaction on school safety

Two months ago, Gov. Greg Abbott announced a lengthy “school safety plan” to address the tragic shootings at Santa Fe High School. The announcement pacified the immediate call from community leaders for gun violence prevention. But in those two months, Texans have seen no action or leadership from Abbott on the topic — and the biggest concern about his proposal remains unaddressed.

 

Abbott Already Caving on Red Flag Laws

In his original plan, Gov. Abbott encouraged lawmakers to examine how “red flag laws” — laws that allow a judge to issue a court order to remove guns from individuals that are determined to be a threat to themselves or others — may be amended during the next session. Chairman Joe Moody held a lengthy Criminal Jurisprudence Committee meeting on the subject that generated positive discussion on how the law could work.

Unfortunately, Abbott showed no leadership on the matter. And once Lt. Governor Dan Patrick spoke out in opposition to the policy idea, Abbott — just like he did all last session — deferred to Patrick’s politics and has now signaled he doesn’t see this issue moving forward.

 

Misusing Federal Dollars for School Hardening?

As the Caucus laid out in its report on Abbott’s proposal, two-thirds of his suggestions that require funding specified no method of financing at all. And there are still serious questions about how he intends to finance the “school hardening” proposals in his plan.
In his plan, Abbott suggested that the state could use up to $62 million in federal grant dollars for “immediate school safety improvements, including school hardening.” However, the grant dollars he identified cannot be used for metal detectors or one-time school facility improvements, a fact that even the Texas Education Agency made clear in the updated grant application instructions they sent to school districts following Abbott’s announcement.
How does Abbott plan to pay for safer schools for our students?

With billions in the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, the state has money ready for these kind of one-time expenditures. Would Abbott and Patrick be willing to use those Rainy Day Fund dollars to keep our kids safe?

 

Texas House Democrats Taking Action

These past two months have left us with more questions than answers. To date, the Santa Fe School Shooting appears to follow the unfortunate cycle of so many other school shootings in recent years — tragedy, outrage, and then nothing of substance from Republicans who are unwilling to support real solutions for gun violence prevention.

Texas Democrats are taking action. Rep. Joe Moody continues to push his red flag law proposals. Rep. Canales is exploring legislation to limit the 3D printing of guns, and Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and Rep. Gina Hinojosa continue to meet with student activists who are committed to making their schools safe places to learn. A full list of proposals from House Democrats is listed below.

 

The stakes are too high for us to do nothing. Hopefully, Abbott and Patrick will reconsider their positions on these important issues.

 

The list above details some of the gun violence prevention proposals members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus have laid out in recent sessions.

 

 

The Family Separation Crisis — How to Help

The family separation crisis at our border continues. In the last two months, nearly  2,342 children have been separated from their families. A federal judge gave the Trump administration until Tuesday to reunite all children under age 5 with their parents, a deadline they are sure to miss.

 

None of this should have happened. President Trump’s zero tolerance policy, which Greg Abbott defended, created this crisis – and House Democrats are taking it head-on. HDC members marched for justice, worked with state agencies to get answers, and shared resources — any and all actions available to help separated families.

 

There are more ways we can all continue to help. Click here to view and download a list of resources to help children and families who are separated. 

 

If you know of organizations we should add to this list, let please let us know. Additionally, be sure to check with Chairman Rafael Anchia and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, who are coordinating member visits and organizing additional ways we can all help.

 

We encourage you to share this list with your own email lists and organizations, on your social channels, and any other way we can help spread this information.

Abbott Endorses Trump’s Position on Family Separations

On Sunday’s Lone Star Politics, Governor Greg Abbott endorsed President Trump’s position on family separations, repeating the lies that the immoral and despicable Administration practice of separating children from their families requires a legislative solution.

Here’s exactly what Abbott said:

“And [Trump] was adamant. He said, Listen, if the Democrats would agree with him right now they could pass a law today that would end the ripping apart of these families and make the border secure, and so the President and Republicans have an offer on the table. All the Democrats have to do is to take it, and this could end today.”

Gov. Abbott has a long history of repeating the falsehoods of the extreme right, and his silence about any number of harmful Trump policies has been disappointing. But this is something else.

The Trump administration created this policy. The administration can end this policy. For the Trump Administration to take these children hostage as leverage for policy negotiations is absolutely, unquestionably wrong – and those who defend or endorse this policy are equally wrong.

I’m proud of the efforts of many House Democrats to speak up, loudly and forcefully, for the end of this policy. This dark chapter in our nation’s history needs to end immediately.

On Gov. Abbott’s support for family separations

On Sunday’s Lone Star Politics, Governor Greg Abbott endorsed President Trump’s position on family separations, repeating the lies that the immoral and despicable Administration practice of separating children from their families requires a legislative solution.

 

Here’s exactly what Abbott said:

 

“And [Trump] was adamant. He said, Listen, if the Democrats would agree with him right now they could pass a law today that would end the ripping apart of these families and make the border secure, and so the President and Republicans have an offer on the table. All the Democrats have to do is to take it, and this could end today.”

 

Gov. Abbott has a long history of repeating the falsehoods of the extreme right, and his silence about any number of harmful Trump policies has been disappointing. But this is something else.

 

The Trump administration created this policy. The administration can end this policy. For the Trump Administration to take these children hostage as leverage for policy negotiations is absolutely, unquestionably wrong – and those who defend or endorse this policy are equally wrong.

 

The Caucus is proud of many House Democrats for speaking up, loudly and forcefully, for the end of this policy. This dark chapter in our nation’s history needs to end immediately.

The leadership vacuum in Texas has never been so apparent

The leadership vacuum in the state of Texas has never been so apparent as it was last week. At a time when the people of Texas need their elected officials speaking up for them, Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have remained silent:

 

 

  • Silent on the removal of false, confederacy-glorifying plaques in the Capitol
    Neither Abbott nor Patrick replied to a direct request from Attorney General Ken Paxton to weigh in on who has the legal authority to remove the insulting plaques in the Capitol that falsely state that the Civil War was not fought for slavery. Chairman Joe Moody requested the Attorney General opinion from Paxton.Meanwhile, Rep. Eric Johnson continues to lead on the removal of this plaque, an unnecessarily difficult task he has worked on since August 2017.

 

  • Silent on Trump’s insulting remarks about the heroes of Hurricane Harvey
    In yet another bizarre and pants-on-fire statement, President Trump said last week that the Coast Guard had to rescue Texans during Hurricane Harvey who were just watching from their boats. As anyone – literally, anyone – who paid attention to the storm can attest, the people of Houston went out in boats to rescue their neighbors, and their courage was a true display of the Texas spirit.

 

 

Abbott and Patrick, of course, said nothing to correct Trump or speak up for the hundreds of people who risked their lives for their fellow Texans.

The leadership vacuum in this state is deeply worrisome. The people of Texas deserve elected officials who are unafraid to speak up and fight for real solutions to the challenges facing our state. The HDC is proud of the work that members of our caucus do, every day, to fulfill the promise to serve.

Update: health care and family separations at the border

The Dallas Morning News has published an incredible, heart-breaking series titled “Pain & Profit” that details how the state’s managed care system is failing Texas’ most fragile citizens. The key summary, from their report:

 

We reviewed more than 70,000 pages of documents, including patient medical records and material that state officials and the companies tried to keep secret. We crunched financial and insurance-industry data and talked to hundreds of families, doctors and policy experts.

 

We found that state officials are protecting a booming multibillion-dollar industry while the most vulnerable Texans wait in vain for wheelchairs, psychiatric drugs and doctors’ appointments. That system has failed countless disabled adults and sick children who can’t advocate for themselves.

 

To date, they have released three parts of their series:

 

Part 1: The preventable tragedy of D’ashon Morris

Part 2: As patients suffer, companies profit

Part 3: Texas pays companies billions for ‘sham networks’ of doctors

 

The HDC will continue tracking these articles and will provide additional information that comes to light about what’s gone so wrong with so many aspects of managed care for fragile Texans.

 

Update: HDC Responds to Gov. Abbott’s School Safety Report

 

Last week, Gov. Abbott revealed his policy response to the tragic Santa Fe High School shootings. Though some of his proposals will gain bipartisan support, others – including the expansion of the school marshal program while simultaneously reducing the training requirements to become a marshal – are highly troublesome.

 

The most substantial fixes we need — more counselors, school facility upgrades, and additional support for our students — require funding, something Gov. Abbott largely glossed over in his proposal. Look for a more detailed analysis of his proposal from the HDC later this week, as we continue the discussion on how best to increase the investment in our local schools in order to keep our kids safe.

 

Quotes from the Ending the Separation of Families Events Last Week:

 

San Antonio rally: 

Rep. Bernal: “There is no strand of faith that makes what’s going on OK.”

Houston rally:

Rep. Wu: “This our civil rights moment. We are going to be on the right side of history. We will not let families be separated and treated like cattle.”

Houston rally:

Rep. Alvarado: “People proclaim to be pro-family when it comes to certain issues. Si estas con nuestras familias, you will end this ridiculous family separation policy that is inhumane.”

Austin rally:

Rep. Rodriguez: “It is bigotry and it is wrong. How we treat these children is not an immigration issue. It is a moral issue, and separating families is wrong.”