Category: News

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Howard: Amendment would make Texas shoulder more school funding (Op-ed)

Upon receiving their property tax notices, Texas homeowners seem ready to channel Peter Finch in the 1976 movie “Network” by throwing open their windows and yelling, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But at whom should that ire be directed?

Some wolves in sheep’s clothing at the Texas Capitol are pointing their fingers at your locally elected officials and pursuing legislation to tightly restrict cities. But don’t be fooled; it’s the wolves themselves who have driven up your property taxes.

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

House Democrats, business groups push for repeal of ‘sanctuary cities’ ban

AUSTIN – Texas House Democrats on Tuesday vowed to use “every conceivable tool” at their disposal to fight discriminatory legislation during the special session, including the so-called bathroom bill and a ban on ‘sanctuary cities.’

Members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and other House Democrats wasted no time targeting the legislation.

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

Texas Democrats lay out their own special session priorities

House and Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled their priorities for the upcoming special legislative session, including some measures that fall in line with the agenda Gov. Greg Abbott laid out in his call and some that depart entirely from it.

In a joint press conference, Democratic leaders in both chambers vowed to champion the issues “that matter to all Texans,” and to fight for legislation that will protect “our kids, our economy, our health and our communities.” Priorities for the Democrats include school finance reform and reducing maternal mortality — both of which are on Abbott’s list in some capacity. Several other issues, including criminal justice reform and equal pay, are not — and are unlikely to make it to the floor for a vote.

To continue reading this story go to the Texas Tribune.