Notes & Noticias: A Failure of Leadership

Dear Friends,

We’re still at it.

The House and Senate were unable to resolve their differences on the transportation funding bill, so we’re back for a third special session. The fact that we’re here at all speaks to the overwhelming failure of the Republican leadership to pass this badly needed, common sense legislation.

Read on for more about how Republicans’ failures to prioritize basic, pressing infrastructure needs have brought us to this point. 

A Failure of Leadership

The House and Senate cannot agree on a mechanism for transportation funding, and as a result the Legislature is already back for our third special session.

Despite large majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans cannot seem to pass legislation to address our most pressing and basic infrastructure needs.

This gridlock didn’t have to happen. The House passed a transportation funding plan during the first special session, but Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst chose not to bring transportation funding up for a vote in the Senate on the last day.

Let’s be honest — funding transportation projects with diversions from the Rainy Day Fund isn’t the best solution for the major crisis facing our Texas roads. However, with Republicans refusing to get real about the need for added revenue, the only funds available appears to be the pool of money set aside for emergencies. Even Republican Speaker Joe Straus agrees, saying the amount of money and mechanism is “like using a Band-Aid to cover a pothole.”

The “floor” the Republicans want to institute in the Rainy Day Fund is a bad idea.

It’s already difficult to access those funds for pressing needs in education and healthcare. Such a mechanism — in which transportation funds are only paid out if the Rainy Day Fund has a pre-established amount of money in it — would create tremendous uncertainty for our transportation agency, as they would be unable to forecast if funds would be consistently available over the coming years and decades.

During the regular session, a funding mechanism for the state water plan was passed only because Democrats in the House stuck together to demand more money for public education in return for voting for the plan. Now, with Democrats opposed to the Rainy Day Fund floor and Tea Party Republicans opposed to just about any spending on roads at all, we’re stuck.

Republicans have wasted two special sessions on passing terrible anti-choice legislation and intentionally discriminatory redistricting maps, both of which are likely unconstitutional and will cost the state millions in protracted legal battles. Just the three sessions alone will cost the state over $2.4 million dollars, calling into question Republicans’ claims of “fiscal conservativism.”

These three special sessions are a clear sign that Republican leadership is failing the people of Texas.

Our state needs new leaders who can step up and address the serious challenges we’re facing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure. This endless legislative year has made abundantly clear that the Republicans just aren’t up to the task.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

There’s plenty to highlight in this week’s “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

The Good: President Obama Preventing Future West Disasters

Today, President Obama signed an executive order to improve safety standards at chemical facilities, such as the fertilizer plant in West, Texas that exploded in April, tragically taking lives and destroying much of a small town. The President’s order will also look for ways for federal, state, and local governments to work together to prevent such disasters in the future.

The Bad: Ted Cruz Trying to Shut Down Government Over Obamacare

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents, so it’s especially alarming to see our junior senator, Ted Cruz, leading the charge to shut down the federal government if the Affordable Care Act isn’t defunded. Here in Texas,  we need more access to healthcare, and the Medicaid expansion provided in the Affordable Care Act would be a great way to accomplish that if Republicans weren’t so determined to block it. Republicans need to get serious about providing affordable access to healthcare, and stop playing political games with the lives of uninsured Texans.

The Ugly: Using Tuition Revenue Bonds As A Vehicle For A Conservative Agenda

During this third special session, there’s a chance that tuition revenue bonds (TRB’s) will be added to the call. TRB’s are an important mechanism that will allow our public universities to construct facilities and maintain their competitiveness. Unfortunately some of my conservative colleagues are apparently intending to use TRB legislation as a vehicle for legislation they could not pass during the regular session.

If this third special session teaches us anything, it’s that it’s time for Republicans to set their right-wing social agenda aside and focus on actually passing needed, common-sense legislation.

Back To School Supplies!

It’s almost time to head back to school!

Families who need help preparing can pick up free school supplies at a giveaway on Saturday, August 17th. The fair starts at 10:00 a.m. and supplies are first-come, first-served.

If you can help donate supplies to this cause, please do. All of our Texas kids deserve to have everything they need to succeed in school. Needed items include pencils, pens, glue, crayons, scissors, binders, and backpacks.

You may send donations to Dove Springs Recreation Advisory Board, 5801 Ainez Dr. Austin, Texas 78744, Attention Eunica or Liz.

Thanks again for reading Notes and Noticias. If you enjoy my newsletter, please ask your friends to sign up for it on my website.