Notes & Noticias: Fighting For The Future

Dear Friends,

The school year is in full swing. Last night, I was excited to be the speaker at the University Democrats’ first meeting of the year — always a high-energy event!

Speaking to these young Democratic leaders always reminds me that the future in Texas is bright, but that we need to fight for our values and continue working hard to make our community live up to our ideals. 

I’ve witnessed this fighting spirit in the work of a close friend of mine, who is currently fighting a battle for her life. In this week’s “Spotlight On” feature, meet my friend Andrea Sloan and learn how she’s trying to gain access to an experimental cancer treatment.

Fighting For Our Future

The University Democrats on the UT Austin campus have quite a reputation.

They’re known for their hard work on behalf of Democratic candidates, their enthusiasm for voting and progressive policy issues, and their commitment to building a better Texas.

That’s why I was excited to be asked to speak at their first meeting of the school year last night, where I updated the group on my legislative accomplishments — reducing high-stakes testing, expanding access to free school meals to low-income students, and supporting local farms and food.

We also discussed the ongoing Republican war on women, the difficulty of funding water and transportation projects, and the challenges I’m looking to address during the interim.

There’s always so much energy in the room during UDems meetings. I’m excited by what the group has planned for the year, and look forward to hanging out with them at Players again soon.

Nourishing Austin From Seed To Harvest

I care deeply about supporting our local food producers and helping all Texans access healthy local produce. That’s why I founded the Texas House Farm-to-Table Caucus, the first of its kind in the nation.

Here in Austin we’re lucky to have so many great programs that support urban agriculture. Urban Roots is one of our most vibrant non-profits, working with East Austin youths and providing access to healthy foods.

Please join me for a fundraiser to support their efforts on Tuesday, October 1st from 6:00-8:30 pm at Malverde.

More information and tickets are available here.

Every Texan deserves access to affordable, healthy local produce. Thanks to Urban Roots for helping make that a reality for so many people in Austin.

Striking With Fast Food Workers

Last week I took part in a national action day with fast food workers striking for higher wages, along with the Texas AFL-CIO and Workers Defense Project. The “Fight for 15” movement, which urges fast food chains to pay workers $15 an hour, is a vital effort to address rising income inequality in our state and nation.

Texas has the second-largest fast food workforce in the nation, and many of these workers are struggling to provide for their families on a $7.25 minimum wage. Meanwhile, the 8 top fast food chains made over $7.35 billion in profits last year.

Rick Perry likes to brag about his “economic miracle” in Texas, but too much of that success comes at the expense of low-wage workers who struggle to make ends meet despite working full-time — and often, far in excess of 40 hours a week.

Every Texan who works full-time should earn enough to support themselves and their families, and not be forced to rely on the social services our state government refuses to fully provide.

Spotlight On… Andrea Sloan

My friend Andrea Sloan is a familiar figure at the Capitol. As the executive director of the Texas Advocacy Project, providing free legal services for low-income women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Andrea has become a friend over the years, and is a deeply beloved member of our community.

Andrea has been fighting ovarian cancer for seven years, yet she has never lost her relentlessly positive spirit. Now, as she prepares for another round of treatment, she’s trying to gain access to a new drug that her doctors at MD Anderson believe offers significant promise.

The drug, BMN673, is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, however the FDA has already indicated that they will grant a waiver for her expanded access, known as “compassionate use” of the drug — butonly if its manufacturer gives her permission to use it.

Unfortunately, the drug’s manufacturer, BioMarin, does not have a policy for these circumstances, and so far they have not yet agreed to give her access to the drug that could save her life.

Andrea has spent her entire life advocating for others. Now, her friends and a growing community known as “Andi’s Army” are advocating for her. So far, over 25,000 people have signed a petition urging BioMarin to give Andrea access to the drug. Her network has also taken to Twitter to ask BioMarin, using the #BMN673 hashtag to advocate for Andrea.

Click here to sign the petition and share it with your friends.

However, as a lawmaker, I want to do more to help Andrea — and raise awareness of other cancer patients like her who are denied access to potentially life-saving drugs.

I am drafting a letter to the California Assembly that I will be encouraging my Texas House colleagues to sign. The letter calls attention to Andrea’s situation in the hopes that they might be able to encourage California-based BioMarin to give Andrea access to the drug that her doctors think provides her the best chance of success.

I urge BioMarin to give Andrea access to this drug, which is already available in the building where she is currently being treated.

Furthermore, Andrea’s story needs to start a broader conversation of how we can make sure all cancer patients have access to the treatments that offer them the best chances of survival. We all have close and personal experiences with cancer, and I don’t know any Texan who wouldn’t do all they can to help a loved one survive this disease.

I’ll remain a stalwart member of Andi’s Army as long as it takes for her to gain access to the treatments she needs. In the meantime, please sign the petition and urge BioMarin to give her access to BMN673.

Thanks Again

Thanks again for reading this week’s Notes and Noticias. I look forward to seeing you around the community in the coming weeks.


p.s. Save the date and join Senator Kirk Watson and me for a Diez y Seis event at the Capitol on Monday, September 16!