Category: Government

Texas Republicans Lay Groundwork for Voter Purge w/o Evidence

Late last Friday, Sec. of State David Whitley and Attorney General Ken Paxton announced, without evidence, that tens of thousands of non-citizens in Texas — at some point after having requested a driver’s license — voted. In the statement, Whitley issued a request to county election officials to review these voters as “WEAK” matches [all-caps by the state].

 

According to the Texas Tribune, this means “counties may now choose to investigate the eligibility of the individuals who were flagged, which would require them to send a notice asking for proof of citizenship within 30 days, or take no action.”

 

Let’s be clear: these accusations do nothing to further citizens’ trust in the electoral process. 

 

Furthermore, these claims should be taken with great skepticism. State officials provided no documentation for their claims, relying on data from the Texas Department of Public Safety. As you know, DPS’ data can’t be automatically trusted. In 2012, the Houston Chronicle found that the state’s effort to purge voters was based on countless errors:

 

“State election officials repeatedly and mistakenly matched active longtime Texas voters to deceased strangers across the country – some of whom perished more than a decade ago – in an error-ridden effort to purge dead voters just weeks before the presidential election, according to a Houston Chronicle review of records. 

 

Voters in legislative districts across Texas with heavy concentrations of Hispanics or African-Americans were more often targeted in that flawed purge effort, according the Chronicle’s analysis of more than 68,000 voters identified as possibly dead.”

 

Conservatives in the Texas Republican party have a long history of discrimination and voter intimidation, as federal courts have repeatedly ruled in recent years. This weekend’s claims are just another shameful attempt at discrediting the will of Texas voters in the 2018 election.

 

These partisan efforts at voter suppression are happening across the country, too:

 

 

It’s time for Texas Republicans to end these voter suppression efforts, and stop making claims without evidence as an excuse to cancel voter registrations. For House Democrats, our focus will be to continue our fight for every Texan to enjoy their right to vote free of discrimination and intimidation.

Texas House Democrats are already making their presence known

With the start of the 86th Legislative Session last Tuesday, House Democrats have already begun to make their presence known at the Capitol:

 

Wednesday, the Texas House voted for a bipartisan effort to strengthen sexual harassment policies. Reps. Donna Howard and Nicole Collier played a major role in crafting the policy, along with other Democratic members of former Speaker Straus’ working group on the issue: Reps. Lina Ortega, Abel Herrero, and Gene Wu. These reforms were overdue and we are appreciative of the efforts of all the House members who made the new policy a reality.

 

On Thursday, Representatives Jessica González, Mary González, Celia Israel, Julie Johnson, and Erin Zwiener announced the formation of the Texas Legislature’s first ever LGBTQ Caucus. The formation “marks a turning point in the fight for equal representation. Nearly one million Texans identify as part of the LGBTQ spectrum, signaling a drastic need for representation at all levels of elected office,” Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Mary Gonzalez said.

 

On Friday, the State Preservation Board voted to remove an historically inaccurate and racist plaque from the Texas Capitol. Rep. Eric Johnson led the effort to remove the plaque, and I would like to thank him for his unwavering leadership on this issue. Thanks also to Rep. Joe Moody, who requested the AG opinion that ultimately led to the Preservation Board taking action.

 

The Texas House Democratic Caucus is helping diversify the Texas Legislature. For example, our Caucus now has 27 women in it, comprising nearly half of our Caucus and more than 80 percent of all the women in the House. Last Thursday, Democratic women held a press conference outlining legislative priorities and goals on key issues, including education funding, foster care, violence against women, the minimum wage and gun safety.

With 5 weeks until session, Texas House Democrats continue to file substantial bills

With only five weeks until session, the HDC wants to continue highlighting some of the important bills that Caucus members have filed:

 

HB 56 by Rep. Armando Martinez – Cost-of-Living Increases for Retired Teachers
Rep. Martinez’s legislation would require the Teacher Retirement System to meet the last week of October and increase benefit rates at a rate equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), provided the fund is deemed actuarially sound.

 

HB 60 by Rep. Lina Ortega – Educate College Students on Women’s Health Programs
The bill would require universities to email all students, at the start of each academic year, information regarding eligibility for and services provided by the Women’s Health Program, to better educate college students about what is available to them.

 

HB 100 by Rep. Eric Johnson – Make Texas Ready for Climate Change
Rep. Johnson’s legislation would require that a number of state agencies — TCEQ, the PUC, DPS, the GLO, etc. — include in their strategic plan an analysis of expected changes, including adverse impacts, in the services provided by the agency because of projected changes in weather, water availability, and climate variability, as determined by the Texas state climatologist ’s report.

 

HB 198 by Rep. Shawn Thierry – Improved Mental Health Services for Students
Rep. Thierry’s bill would ensure that school health centers are also permitted and encouraged to provide mental health services and education, as part of their regular work with students and the school community.

 

On education, the environment, and improved health care, Texas House Democrats are taking the lead in putting forward real solutions for all Texans.

Texas House Democrats filed 2/3 of all bills as of Nov. 26th

Bill filing is well underway, and House Democrats are actively preparing legislation that will provide real solutions for Texas families. The HDC  ran the numbers, and of the 436 House Bills and House Joint Resolutions filed as of today, 287 of them — nearly two-thirds — have been filed by House Democrats. We’re off and running for the 86th Regular Session!

 

In the coming weeks, we’ll be highlighting a number of those bills — starting today with some legislation Members have already asked us to showcase:

 

  • HB 52 by Rep. Gina Hinojosa – Leveling the Playing Field for Texas Families
    Rep. Hinojosa’s legislation will create a pilot program allowing employers to contribute to an employee dependent care flexible spending account — one that will help Texas workers earning less than $65,000 a year.

 

  • HB 131 by Rep. Joe Moody – Extreme Risk Protective Orders to Keep Texans SafeRep. Moody’s legislation would allow an individual that feels their life or the life of another could be in danger due to violent behavior of an individual with serious mental illness can request that a “risk protective order” be issued by a court.

 

  • HB 255 by Rep. César Blanco – The Every Texan Counts Act
    From Rep. Blanco: “The Every Texan Counts Act will form Texas’ state-wide complete count commission to promote a complete and accurate counting of all Texans in the upcoming 2020 census…With our rapidly growing population and historically hard-to-count populations and areas along the border, we need a statewide effort that maximizes our statewide count so that our communities and state get their fair share of federal resources and political representation.”

 

  • HB 266 by Rep. Diego Bernal – Ensure Access to Safe, Decent Housing for All Texans
    Rep. Bernal’s legislation would clearly define what is meant by safe, decent housing as it relates to affordable housing and ensuring families with moderate income can compete in the private market for a good place to live.

 

  • HJR 11 by Rep. Mary González – Funding for Economically Distressed Communities
    From Rep. González: “Texans across the state, including residents of my district, have long endured a lack of access to potable water and adequate wastewater infrastructure. In the year 2018, there are people in Texas who cannot flush their toilets, or get clean water from their taps; that is an unacceptable reality that must be changed.”

 

The HDC looks forward to working with our Members to support these and hundreds more pieces of legislation in the coming weeks and months as we advance our agenda throughout the coming session.

With election wins, Texas House Democrats become central factor in Speaker’s race

“The Democrats are shopping. They’re buyers in this market, and they’re going to be empowered to find somebody who’s going to give them a good deal,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor and analyst from the University of Houston.

— “Democrat wins will shift the race for Texas House speaker,” Houston Chronicle

 

This week’s historic elections will re-make the Texas House for the coming session. Texas voters embraced Democrats’ positive vision, promoting real solutions for all Texans on critical issues such as public education, affordable health care, and a stronger economy for everyone.

 

Voters at the ballot box sent a strong message: the next Speaker will be elected only with bipartisan support, and House Democrats will be a central part of that decision.

 

The HDC congratulates all of its new Democratic members, as well as its returning members, and looks forward to working with each and every one of them in the next Legislature toward a better future for all Texans.

Voting begins today — here’s what is at stake

Today, as we begin early voting in Texas, we are reminded of just what’s at stake in the coming election.

 

A ruling late Thursday from a 3-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that Texas’ foster care system, as managed by the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS), remains in dire straits, even after improvements made by the Texas Legislature during the 85th Regular Session. The 5th Circuit Court ruled that the State of Texas continues to violate the Constitutional Rights of children in the state’s care by having an inadequate number of caseworkers and other protections against abuse.

 

In the 86th Regular Session, our state budget will need to account for changes necessary to make improvements to our foster care system. Our priorities for next session will also include:

 

  • Revamping our school finance system, so we can invest more in Texas children while lowering property taxes for everyone

 

  • Transforming our health care system, including Medicaid managed care, to ensure all Texans have access to reliable, quality health care

 

  • Fully fund all rebuilding and recovery efforts from those impacted by Harvey, and improve planning and preparations for future natural disasters

 

Bill filing for the Texas Legislature starts in three weeks. The HDC looks forward to working with everyone to ensure our caucus is fully prepared to take a lead on these and other issues critical to all Texans who are headed to the polls in the coming weeks.

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.

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.

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.

Giddings: Why is emergency special session ignoring Texas’ student debt crisis? (Op-ed)

AUSTIN — Last month, Gov. Greg Abbott called a special legislative session, declaring, “If I’m going to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for a special session, I intend to make it count.” He proceeded to lay out 19 items for our consideration, including a new “bathroom bill” to regulate local school district policies, a “revenue cap” to regulate local municipalities, and new abortion reporting burdens to regulate local hospitals.

The governor can call us back to work for any time or any reason. He is fully empowered to set the agenda for debate. However, special sessions should be called when there is a pressing need facing Texas families. Because we are operating on the taxpayer’s dime, we should be focused on the urgent problems of our state.

To continue reading this story go to the Dallas Morning News.