Author: Staff

Supreme Court to hear Texas redistricting case

Friends,

The Texas redistricting case is before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, as the nine justices hear arguments about whether or not the state of Texas intentionally discriminated against Hispanic and black voters when drawing Texas’ congressional and state house maps.

Here is some key information and resources in advance of the trial:

  • Two Congressional, Nine State House Districts Under Review
    To learn more about the seats in question, read this Texas Tribune article that includes maps and a primer about each of the districts.
  • Ten Rulings of Intentional Discrimination in redistricting and voting rights cases, there have been ten findings of intentional discrimination by the Republican-controlled Legislature since 2011. Rep. Rafael Anchia and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus had an excellent briefing last week that discussed these rulings and other critical questions the court will consider. If you missed the briefing, you can watch their briefing here.
  • Will Texas Be Put Back Into Pre-Clearance? A major issue yet to be resolved is whether or not the state of Texas – because of its consistent pattern of discrimination – will once again be required to get pre-clearance by the U.S. Department of Justice before implementing any election, voting, or redistricting laws in the future. Rep. Garnet Coleman and the Texas Legislative Study Group have put out an excellent policy paper on this and other matters related to redistricting.

The right to vote is sacred. Texas Republicans have repeatedly and purposefully disenfranchised voters across the state with discriminatory redistricting maps. We will be closely following Tuesday’s oral arguments, and we will continue to provide updates on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Chris Turner
Chair, Texas House Democratic Caucus

 

House Democrats Proposing Real Solutions…

Rep. Helen Giddings Launches Women’s Leadership Summit
“I am so inspired, motivated and exhilarated,” [Rep. Giddings] gushed. “It was, by all accounts, extremely successful and extremely well received.”

The UTD Foundation co-sponsored the summit, called “Making a Difference — While Rising to the Top,” at which 106 women — half established, half aspiring — gathered April 13-14 at Dallas’ Renaissance Dallas Hotel. Events included top-level, black women telling personal stories of how they overcame obstacles to reach their lofty positions.

 

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez on Gun Violence in Texas Schools
State Representative Eddie Rodriguez and Congressman Lloyd Doggett, both Austin Democrats, spoke alongside a handful of students, teachers and other activists on the South Steps of the Capitol after the march.

“Children shouldn’t have to overcome the fear of being shot at school when they get on the bus in the morning,” Rodriguez said.

Next Texas House speaker will be elected with bipartisan support

The editorial below by Chairman Chris Turner originally appeared in the Texas Tribune:

On January 8, 2019, the 86th Legislature will convene and the 150 members of the House of Representatives will cast what may be their most important vote of the entire session, a vote prescribed by the Texas Constitution: “The House of Representatives shall, when it first assembles, organize temporarily, and thereupon proceed to the election of a Speaker from its own members.”

The election of a speaker necessitates that members of the House give up some of their power in order to empower a speaker. The speaker is then entrusted to organize and lead the House. It’s a significant decision for every member.

Running for speaker is a test of a member’s ability to build a broad coalition and convince colleagues he or she has the leadership qualities to preside over a House whose members have varied and competing interests. Every speaker in modern times, in building a winning coalition, has done so by first building a bipartisan coalition. Next year, the new speaker, whoever he or she is, will be elected only after earning bipartisan support.

With three announced candidates and likely several more waiting to jump in, the Democratic Caucus is taking the opportunity to look at what the next leadership should look like.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston has agreed to chair our caucus’ Committee on Governance and Practices of the Texas House. She and other members are identifying the key attributes of a new speakership that our caucus can unify behind and advocate for. Additionally, the committee is evaluating the overall governance of the House and will make recommendations on possible improvements.

Our proactive focus is to find consensus on the type of leadership that works best for all Texans, regardless of party. It’s a conversation our caucus will further explore during a May retreat in Houston, and one I know will continue through next January.

Just as the eventual list of speaker candidates remains unknown at this point, so does the partisan makeup of the House in the next session. After first predicting Republicans would never nominate Donald Trump in 2016 and then confidently dismissing any serious chance of him actually being elected president, I am no longer in the political prediction business. Therefore, I won’t try to guess what the numbers will be in the House after the November election. However, there is good reason to believe the House Democratic Caucus will be bigger than it is today.

A marked increase in Democratic primary turnout compared to 2014 is one leading indicator. For example, in Dallas County, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by more than 50,000 votes — a huge swing from the 14,000-vote advantage Republicans had in the county in 2014. With several competitive races in Dallas County and elsewhere across the state, there are significant opportunities for Democrats to gain seats in the House.

And of course, the party of a president typically loses seats nationwide in mid-term elections. With President Trump’s historically low approval ratings, there is no reason to think Republicans can escape this reality in 2018.

With the potential for so much change in the November elections, we still have a long way to go until the speaker’s race really takes shape. That’s still eight months — and hundreds of presidential tweets — away.

When the election dust settles, we look forward to working with our Republican colleagues to make a decision about a new speaker, one who will allow members of the House to serve their districts well and address the issues important to our constituents.

Early Vote Update & Exposé on the Wilks Brothers

After the first week of early voting, there is good reason to be optimistic about what the 2018 elections will look like for Democrats in Texas.

According to the Houston Chronicle, early voting turnout in the Democratic primary in Texas’ 15 largest primaries is twice as high as it was this time in 2014. To help us continue pushing this trend, we are re-sharing the information about early voting from last week’s email below.

Additionally, in place of our normal member clips, we’ve pasted the feature from last Thursday’s Dallas Morning News on the GOP billionaire donors, the Wilks Brothers, who are using their fortune to push millions of dollars into extreme right-wing groups like Empower Texans and others. It is a very well researched feature that details how far some are willing to go to thwart any efforts for better education, improved health care, and a stronger economy for all Texans.

Texas Rep. Helen Giddings Denounces Hate, Calls for Moment of Silence in House Chamber

In the House chamber Monday, Texas Rep. Helen Giddings (D-DeSoto) called on the membership to stand with her as she denounced hatred, bigotry and terrorism in the wake of Saturday’s deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Members, this past weekend, we witnessed a white supremacist hate group infiltrate the town of Charlottesville, Virginia, carrying torches on Friday night, on Saturday they filled the streets with venom, with bigotry and with violence,” Giddings said, before mentioning the three lives lost Saturday in the protest.

To continue reading this story go to NBC Dallas/Fort Worth.

Texas House votes to extend life of maternal mortality task force

Legislation that would extend the life of a state task force studying Texas’ high maternal morbidity rates was tentatively approved by the Texas House late Sunday night.

Under Senate Bill 17, the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity would continue its work until 2023. The task force, launched by the Legislature in 2013, found that between 2011 and 2012, 189 Texas mothers died less than a year after their pregnancies ended, mostly from heart disease, drug overdoses and high blood pressure.

To continue reading this story go to the Texas Tribune.

Amid divisive issues, Texas lawmakers find unity in fighting pregnancy-related deaths

State Rep. Shawn Thierry told her House colleagues that she feared she would die when she gave birth, feeling as though her heart would “beat right out of me,” as she asked them to approve legislation Monday to extend and expand the role of a maternal mortality task force.

“No woman who chooses to bear life in Texas should ever do so in exchange for her life,” said Thierry, D-Houston, who read the names of mothers who had died as she dedicated her bill to their memory.

The House voted unanimously for her bill and other legislation to keep the task force operating and to give it direction for additional research into stemming the number of Texas women whose deaths are related to pregnancy and childbirth. Among its provisions, Thierry’s bill would direct a look at the disproportionately high rate of deaths among women who, like her, are African-American.

To read the rest of this story, please  visit the San Antonio Express-News.

To prevent maternal mortality, keep studying and take the Medicaid (Op-ed)

Failure to extend the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity is not an option. Texas’ maternal death rate nearly doubled from 2010 to 2014 and is third-world high.

A proposal to extend the task force until 2023 is the one bill that must pass this special session of the Legislature, other than the so-called sunset bill extending the lives of key state agencies that forced the session in the first place.

To continue reading this story go to the El Paso Times.

Gonzalez: Let’s talk bathrooms, Gov. Abbott (Op-ed)

For the last seven months, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott have obsessed over who uses which bathroom in Texas. While these political games have dragged on, thousands of Texas living in rural and colonia communities lack basic wastewater infrastructure and clean water in their own bathrooms.

This is embarrassing, shameful, and yet another example of misplaced priorities in Austin.

Statewide, approximately 500,000 Texans live in colonias, residential areas that lack basic living necessities, like potable water and sewer systems, electricity, paved roads, or safe and sanitary housing.

To continue reading this story, please visit the El Paso Times.

Commentary: Schools need more funds to operate, not Patrick’s criticism

I am a parent, a small-business owner and a school board member at Lytle ISD. I am close to the operational challenges in my district. I can only assume that our state leaders don’t know the facts about school districts like mine; otherwise, they couldn’t possibly be pushing the legislation they promoted this session.

We are a small rural district with a population that’s 75 percent economically disadvantaged. Our property values are lower than many parts of the state, and we are on the low end of dollars allotted per student by the state. Even so, we are committed to engaging and sustained learning for our students rather than subjecting them to standardized test drill-and-kill preparation, like many schools. We have been recognized statewide for our academic achievements.

To continue reading this story go to the Austin American-Statesman.

Abbott and His Armed Militia

Did Gov. Greg Abbott hire an armed paramilitary group to run security on a recent campaign stop?

That’s what Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, is trying to find out through two open records requests. The stop in question was held on July 15 in McAllen. When he stopped into the border town for lunch, the Rio Grande Guardian reported that the “Texas State Militia and McAllen Police Department were outside of the restaurant observing the protest.”

To continue reading the story go to the Austin Chronicle.