Notes & Noticias: Silver Linings in a Rough Week at the Capitol

Friends,

This week was perhaps one of the toughest I have seen–not just in this legislative session but in my 12 years in the Texas Legislature.

Democrats have spent the 84th session debating some of the most harmful, discriminatory bills that have ever been filed in our great state. On Tuesday alone, we spent more than 14 hours debating bills that, for the most part, have nothing to do with making Texas a better place.

  • The Republican-controlled¬†Legislature did not argue over dedicating more money for our significantly underfunded public education system.
  • The Republican-controlled¬†Legislature did not work hard enough to reinstate the hundreds of millions of dollars we cut from our Pre-K programs.
  • The Republican-controlled¬†Legislature did not advocate for families who cannot afford the out-of-control costs for basic healthcare.
  • This¬†Republican-controlled¬†Legislature did not try to find a way to make sure that our children are fed and healthy, that our elderly are cared for, that our low- and middle-class workers can afford to buy or stay in their homes.
Instead, we spent hours trying to kill bills that will bring guns to our college campuses, will make it harder for women to get the reproductive health care they need, and will discriminate against adults in loving same-sex relationships.

The extreme right has hijacked our Legislature and put misguided priorities above good public policy.

There were more than 6,000 bills filed this session, and while we can’t discuss them all, I do want to share some of the highlights:

The Bad

We passed two bills that will allow for “open carry” and “campus carry,” with many Republicans secretly agreeing that allowing guns on college campuses is taking our Second Amendment obsession too far. The final version of SB 11, the campus carry bill, was somewhat watered-down, and will allow campuses to opt-out in many cases. But make no mistake: this is a horrible piece of legislation, and it puts our sons and daughters at risk.

We also passed Senate Bill 9, a statutory spending limit proposal that was substantially modified by the House but remains a dangerous bill in the way it will allow us to calculate future state budgets.

And just hours ago, the Senate passed a House bill that would effectively reduce abortion access for minors‚ÄĒespecially minors with abusive parents or without parents entirely. The bill, which is sure to be signed by our governor, creates substantial hurdles for abortion without exceptions for rape and incest victims.

The Good

We ran out the clock on two of the worst bills of the session. One would haveprevented same-sex couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents and another would have removed abortion coverage from state health insurance plans.

We also fought against the repeal of a law that allows our undocumented students to attend Texas universities at the same in-state tuition rates as their peers.

We managed to keep a hateful bill referred to as “American Law for American Courts,” or the “Sharia law” bill,¬† off of the agenda. This bill was filed to fan the flames of religious intolerance and marginalize people that are a part of our communities.

A bill that would have meddled with payroll deductions for union dues died in committee. This was an obvious Republican attempt to choke the funds of organizations that tend to support Democratic.

Campus Carry “Compromise”

On Tuesday, one of the longest nights of the session, Democrats worked for more than 14 hours to kill bad bills at the bottom of the day’s agenda.

There are many people saying Democrats “cut deals” to pass campus carry just 20 minutes before the midnight deadline. We were very close to that deadline, and we had enough amendments filed to continue debate past the deadline to vote. Many may be disappointed we didn’t do enough to kill the bill when we had a chance.¬† I’m disappointed, too.

So let me be clear: Democrats did not cut a deal. Republicans, on the night of the campus carry vote, already had 29 signatures – four more than the 25 needed – to force a vote on the bill.

And if we had not allowed the vote to occur, we might have opened the door to other bad bills being called for a vote.

In today’s Austin American-Statesman, reporter Ken Herman summed it up like this:¬†“Did the Dems give up? No. They did the best they could. That‚Äôs pretty much all Dems can do in the Texas Capitol these days.”

While I appreciate Mr. Herman’s perspective, I think we can do better, but we need your help. We need to recruit and elect more Democrats to the Texas Legislature.
If you’re as fired up as I am, consider helping our Texas Democratic Party with adonation today.¬† We need to start building our war chest now.
Regards,
Eddie Rodriguez