Category: Articles

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.

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.

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.

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.