Author: Staff

Editorial: Maybe feds need to supervise Texas elections

Two court rulings, one last month about how state legislators redrew congressional districts in 2011 and one this week about the restrictive voter ID law adopted that same year, stand a good chance of landing Texas back under required federal review of any future changes in its election laws or procedures.

Think about that. We’d need Washington’s blessing on almost every aspect of our elections.

We’ve been there before — for decades.

We only got off the federal review list when the Supreme Court struck a match to it in 2013, ruling that the Voting Rights Act procedure for determining who was on the list was so outdated as to be unfair.

To continue reading this story, please visit the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Update on Cuts to Acute Therapy Services

As the Texas Legislature crafts the state budget for fiscal years 2018-2019, no version of the House or Senate budget has yet to include a full reversal of the Medicaid rate cuts for acute therapy services from 2015. Unless the cuts are fully reversed, tens of thousands of Texas’ neediest children can expect to lose some or all services – with families living in Texas’ rural communities expected to be hit the hardest.

As we did in 2015, Texas House Democrats are fully committed to taking the lead on reversing the cuts to acute therapy services so we can ensure every Texas child receives the care and support they need. Throughout the week, we will feature videos from the #TXKidsMatter campaign of children asking the Legislature to fully reverse the cuts, to build off last week’s successful online campaign that reached over 200,000 people.

Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr has prepared budget amendments to fully reverse the cuts, and House Democrats will follow his lead and that of other Democratic appropriators as we do everything we can to fulfill our promise to protect Texas children.

Preview for House Budget Debate

The House will debate the state budget this week. Before we begin discussing amendments and our core priorities, it’s important to remember that some of the most important decisions about our budget were made years and years ago.

We must invest more money in our local schools, so our students and teachers have a fair shot at success. Yet the way previous Legislatures have decided to fund schools has left us in a hole we’ve never really dug ourselves out from. The last major change to our school finance system was in 2006, when the Legislature decided to cut property taxes and create a “franchise tax” that underperformed from the beginning, and has now been cut so much it doesn’t generate the money our schools and students need.

Our priority is to protect Texas children. Yet serious policy reforms and critical funding needs for our foster care system we needed 10 years ago were kicked down the road, until we reached the crisis we are at today. Rather than invest in fixes we knew had to be made, the Legislature cut taxes, eliminated services, and horded away billions in the Economic Stabilization Fund. The budget that will come to the floor this week has a number of positive items in it – but it also underfunds CPS reform, Medicaid rates for acute therapy services, and countless other programs for Texas kids in need — all while leaving billions of dollars untouched in our state savings account.

When oil and gas revenues came in low last year, it created a revenue shortfall because the Legislature has not sufficiently diversified its revenue sources. The investment in transportation improvements we made in 2013 — the one Texas voters approved in a constitutional amendment election — will be great for our highways. But Texans have yet to see the same commitment from our Legislature.

As the week unfolds, Texas House Democrats will offer amendments to improve our budget to better protect Texas children and make sure every Texan has a fair shot at success. But if we really want to change how we invest in the future of our great state, we’ll need to look beyond the budget and start fixing the way we do business across the board.

Redistricting and TrumpCare Updates

For the last few weeks, we’ve been following the developments in federal court over the Texas redistricting case, as well as Congress’ attempts to pass TrumpCare legislation. Here’s a brief update on the two stories:

Redistricting: Plaintiffs Seek Injunction for 2018 Election
Earlier this month, a three-judge federal court ruled that the U.S. Congressional District map drawn by the 82nd Legislature in 2011 is discriminatory to Hispanic and African-American voters in Texas, and was adopted with discriminatory intent.

Plaintiffs in the case — including the NAACP, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, LULAC and several African-American and Hispanic members of Congress — are asking for an injunction to ensure the discriminatory maps will not be used in the 2018 election. Read more in the Dallas Morning News.

TrumpCare: Epic Collapse for DC Republicans
Now that President Trump and Congressional Republicans failed to reach a deal on their TrumpCare legislation, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay “for the foreseeable future.” And don’t take our word for it; that’s according to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan.

One of the interesting stories to emerge from the Republicans’ colossal legislative failure on Friday is that North Carolina and Kansas are now moving forward with plans to expand Medicaid under the ACA, as 31 other states have done. Of course, we know that Texas – the state that has the most to gain with Medicaid expansion – has still failed to do so.

The solution here is simple: Governor Greg Abbott should direct the Health and Human Services Commission to work with the federal government on adopting a plan that draws down Texas’ share of federal tax dollars so that a million more Texans can access affordable health coverage. To not do so needlessly denies Texans the health care they would have if they lived in other states and costs our state billions of dollars a year that we should be recouping from the federal government.

Senate’s Misplaced Priorities Cloud Session

While the House has focused on fixing the CPS crisis and putting forward a responsible budget that invests in Texas families, the Texas Senate’s focus on needless social issues has cast a dark cloud over the first half of the legislative session.

Last week, the Texas Senate passed the discriminatory “bathroom bill” and voted outtwo anti-women’s health bills. The Senate’s so-called “sanctuary city” legislation had a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee, where tremendous leadership from the Mexican American Legislative Caucus has at least helped slow down the bill.

And the Senate’s Education Committee has a hearing scheduled on Tuesday on a voucher bill that a Texas pastor decried because it wants “to make commodities out of our children and to make markets out of our classrooms.

These are the wrong priorities for Texas families. As House Democrats continue our work on the issues that matter, we must also keep an eye on these and other dangerous bills as they make their way through the legislative process.

Budget Preview: What We Can Expect

The House Appropriations Committee is continuing its work on the budget for the 2018-19 biennium. Additionally, the supplemental appropriations bill, House Bill 2, has been filed — that is the bill that fills the gap for underfunded programs in our current two-year budget cycle.