The best news we heard this week was Rick Perry’s announcement that he will not seek re-election as Governor.
Perhaps it was the polling that showed a majority of Texans are ready for a new governor after 13 years of failed leadership. Or maybe it was a desire to focus on aggrandizing himself on a national stage again.
While Perry tries to frame his legacy as one of strengthening the Texas economy, in reality the cost to many Texans has been very high. This week’s newsletter examines the real legacy Rick Perry leaves behind.
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A Legacy of Messing With Texas
Rick Perry’s legacy is nothing for Texans to celebrate. Over his 13 years in office, Texas has continually ranked near the bottom of most major quality-of-life metrics.
While Rick Perry tries to define his time as Governor as a “Texas Miracle,” remember the millions of Texans who have suffered the consequences of his conservative policies.
Education: Perry signed a budget in 2011 that slashed $5.4 billion dollars from our public schools, the first time in modern history that Texas failed to fund enrollment growth. Though Democrats were able to stand together this year and fight to restore $3.9 billion to our Texas kids, we could never expect to do any better with Perry threatening a veto. In the meantime, Texas is ranked 50th in the country for percentage of the population with a high school diploma and 47th in average combined SAT scores. Perry has failed to educate our Texas children to succeed in a competitive 21st Century economy.
Health Care: Texas leads the nation in our percentage of uninsured residents — 28.8% of Texans lack health insurance, and thus have difficulty accessing quality, affordable care. Perry has refused to accept the Medicaid expansion provided by the Affordable Care Act, which would have helped over 1 million Texans gain coverage while easing the burden on local taxpayers who currently pick up the tab for their care through our county hospitals.
Women’s Health: Perry’s agenda has been particularly pernicious where the female residents of Texas — more than half of the population — are concerned. After championing malicious cuts to family planning programs, Perry is now advancing unconstitutional legislation that will all but ban abortion in Texas. Meanwhile, we have the lowest rate of women with health insurance in the nation, and are 50th in the percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester. Perry has systematically destroyed women’s access to health care in Texas, the impacts of which will continue to be felt for generations.
Environment: Perry’s record of messing with Texas extends to our air, water, and land. Texas is currently first in the nation for hazardous waste generated and carbon dioxide emissions. Perry has also worked tirelessly to make West Texas a nuclear waste dump, all for the financial benefit of one of his biggest political donors. We’re fourth in the nation for cancer-causing carcinogens released into our air and water. We’ll all be much better off without Rick Perry championing the pollution of our Texas skies and rivers.
On top of that, Perry has turned our economic development and research funds into political rewards for his contributors and cronies and appointed individuals to our State Commissions and Boards who are more concerned with advancing his political agenda that doing their jobs in the interests of all Texans.
Perry’s retirement gives us the opportunity to elect new leadership that will be responsive to and respectful of the needs of all Texans — not just the most fortunate or those who can donate absurd sums to his campaign.
In the meantime, let’s not let Perry define his own legacy — let’s remember all of the Texans he has actively harmed over his tenure in office, and pledge to do better by them.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Yesterday, the House debated HB 2, the anti-choice bill advocated by Perry and his fellow Republicans, on the floor. It eventually passed out of the House, but not before my fellow Democrats and I pointed out the harm this bill will do to women and the likelihood that it will not stand up in our federal court system.
The Good: Continued Organizing Efforts
The one bright spot in this horrible abuse of our legislative process has been the outpouring of support and anger from pro-choice Texans, who have re-engaged and joined the fight for a more progressive Texas. As I look at photos from the statewide “Stand With Texas Women” tour and other citizen-led events, it’s clear that this fight isn’t just resonating in Austin, but in Waco, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, and all points in between. A broad array of progressive allies are working together to make sure that Texans don’t forget what the Legislature is doing to women.
The Bad: Putting Politics Over Policy
Republicans rejected 26 amendments offered by Democrats that would have lessened the negative impacts of this bill, including one by my colleague Rep. Rafael Anchia that would have given doctors discretion to decide when a pregnant woman’s life is in jeopardy. This overreach and intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship is reprehensible. The rejection of each of these amendments makes clear that my Republican colleagues have no interest in policies that actually protect women or prevent unwanted pregnancies.
The Ugly: Ignoring Voices of the Abused
Throughout this process, my Democratic colleagues have raised the specter of victims of rape and incest that will be harmed by this bill. We’ve heard testimony from scores of Texans who have shared their personal stories, which have been horrific and infuriating. Yet there remains no exception in this bill for victims of rape and incest. How can my Republican colleagues claim to care about the safety of women when they won’t consider the specific needs of women who have been victims of sexual assault?
Join Me This Saturday
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