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November 2017 Texas Constitutional Amendments Voting Guide

Getting people out to vote for something that is intentionally opaque and hard to understand is a tough sell. We get it.

If you need a single reason to get out to vote for something that some view as arcane and inaccessible, it should be to vote against Prop 4, which we oppose. (See below).

Items appear on the ballot in proposition order, without reference to the bill number.  Proposition numbers are assigned at random by the Texas Secretary of State.  We’ve included bill numbers only to aid in research.  

The language used for most propositions is confusing to everyone, but voters are allowed to bring notes into the voting booth.

For more info from some trusted sources, the League of Women Voters has a non-partisan guide here.

And the Texas Legislative Council has more detailed analysis here.

Without further ado, here’s where we stand.

1. We Support Proposition 1 — HJR 21

Indivisible TxLege Stance on Prop 1: For.  

Proposition 1 allows a property-tax exemption on the homestead of a partially disabled veteran if the homestead was donated in part and purchased in part by the veteran.

Current law allows the exemption only if the homestead was donated in full.

That means that right now, partially disabled veterans get a property tax exemption according to the percentage of their disability on any homes entirely donated to them. This proposed amendment would tweak that law to allow disabled veterans who pay up to half of the donated home to get an exemption too.

This specific tax break for veterans would be expanded to include an additional, but unspecified, number of disabled veterans.

More information >>

2. We Oppose Proposition 2 — SJR   60

Indivisible TxLege Stance on Prop 2: Against.

Undermines homestead protections in Texas and benefit banks at the expense of borrowers.

Proposition 2 primarily eases restrictions on home-equity loans (extensions of credit secured by a lien on a homestead). If Prop 2 passes, it would allow a homeowner to refinance a home-equity loan as a non-home-equity loan.  Currently, the option to refinance a home-equity loan into a non-home equity loan is prohibited.  Changing the nature of the loan would allow foreclosure without a court order, remove other protections for borrowers, and permit lenders to have recourse against other assets.

More information >>

3. We Support Proposition 3 –S JR 34

Indivisible TxLege Stance on Prop 3: For.

Makes sense to us. Placing a limit on how long an appointee could continue serving in office would ensure that these unsalaried volunteer positions are rotated among qualified Texans. We believe that appointees should do their best while they can, then get out of the way so that someone else can bring their own life experiences, their perspective, their backgrounds to bear on the unique problems and opportunities our state faces.

Proposition 3 creates an exception to the requirement that appointed officials serve until their successors are confirmed.  State appointees who complete their terms of office currently continue to perform their duties until a successor is confirmed by the Texas Senate. This amendment would limit how long unsalaried officials with an expired term appointed by the governor could hold over even if no successor has been approved.

More information >>

4. We Oppose Proposition 4 – SJR 6

Indivisible TxLege Stance on Prop 4: Against.

It is the Attorney General’s job to advise the legislature when a proposed law is unconstitutional. Simply put, Texas deserves an AG who is better at their job. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Proposition 4 requires notice to the Texas Attorney General when a case is filed in state court that challenges the constitutionality of a Texas statute. After giving this notice, the court would have to wait 45 days before issuing a final judgment, to give the attorney general time to intervene in defense of the challenged law.

Courts should be able to give Texans relief from unconstitutional laws as soon as possible without a mandated waiting period. If you need a reason to get out and vote, it should be to vote No on this one.

More information >>

5. We Support Proposition 5 –H JR 100

Indivisible TxLege Stance: For.

Current law allows charitable foundations of certain professional sports teams based in Texas to conduct charitable raffles; this amendment would expand the list of teams eligible for this exemption from the general prohibition of lotteries and gift enterprises.

In 2015, voters allowed professional sports teams to conduct charitable raffles during home games. Teams can conduct so-called 50/50 raffles where half the money raised during a game would go towards cash prizes and the other half would benefit charities such as youth summer programs, food banks, etc. Only professional teams would qualify such as the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and the National Hockey League. The proposed amendment would expand the number of professional sports leagues that qualify and would include the Women’s NBA, American Hockey League, United Soccer League, NASCAR, Professional Golf Association and others.

More information >>

6. We Support Proposition 6 – SJR 1

Indivisible TxLege Stance: For.

The constitution currently allows a homestead tax exemption for the surviving spouse of a member of the U.S. military killed in action. This proposition extends the same treatment to the surviving spouse of a first responder killed in the line of duty.

More information >>

7. We Support Proposition 7 – HJR 37

Indivisible TxLege Stance: For.

Proposition 7 and its enabling legislation would allow banks to hold raffles to provide incentives to put money in a savings account. Current law allows raffles only for charitable causes.

More information >>

Texans Do Not Want a Border Wall. Pass the DREAM Act Now.

The Texas border has never been more secure than it is now. On the Mexican border, there are already nearly 700 miles of fencepredator drone aircraft with facial recognition technology, military-grade surveillance equipmentaerostat balloons — gigantic blimps with 360-degree, infrared sensors that detect movement from 5,000 feet in the air–motion-triggered cameras, miles and miles of barbed-wire, and thousands of heavily armed border agents.

DHS employs more than 12,000 sensors along the border, with hundreds of license plate readers at ports of entry, and giant X-ray scanners for trains and trucks. In fact, once-sleepy border towns are now mass-surveillance zones, where every move of innocent residents is documented and cataloged.

Crime rates are lower in U.S. cities along the border with Mexico than elsewhere in the country. The border is safe. Unauthorized border crossings diminished to historic lows in recent years. In fact, net migration from Mexico is at zero or less. The number of Border Patrol agents along the border has OCTUPLED since 1982.

The border is already heavily militarized and secure.

And yet House Republicans, led by Michael McCaul (TX-10), unveiled a plan to provide $10 billion for Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico. The package would add 10,000 more border patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers, tap the National Guard to patrol the southern border and target people who have overstayed visas.

A $20-billion dollar, 2,000-mile, 30-foot high, poured-concrete wall is, quite literally, the last thing that our country and our state needs.

According to the Department of Homeland Security:

The number of unauthorized foreign nationals deported from the U.S. has been declining since its 2012 peak of nearly 410,000. These include apprehensions at the border and those removed from the interior of the U.S., according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with policing the border. Factors such as fewer immigrants trying to get to the U.S. and stronger border enforcement have contributed to the trend, as has an Obama administration focus on deporting criminals.

Like previous Republican-led efforts, McCaul’s “border security” package focuses exclusively on enforcement, without reforming our outdated system that fails to provide adequate channels for obtaining legal immigration status.

Republicans like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick have been fear-mongering for years about the need for increased border security. Despite the reality of the situation, they continue to make specious claims that the United States government is not in control of the border, and that the lack of control is somehow deliberate, and speak as if “illegals”–the word used by white supremacists for undocumented immigrants–were pouring into the country in waves.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

And according to the Pew Research Center:

The undocumented population isn’t growing. Data analyzed by the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project show that the number of people living in the U.S. illegally has declined slightly to just over 11 million.

The cowardly pandering to a dwindling minority of nativists that Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and their lieutenants in the Texas GOP engage in will be their undoing in Texas. Demonizing, scapegoating, targeting, demeaning, and spreading lies about immigrants is now just what the Trump-era GOP does. It does not represent the spirit and wishes of real Texans, who know that immigrants are part of the fabric of our society. Those who vilify immigrants to appease their dwindling base–like the Empower Texans-backed “Texas Freedom Caucus” in the Texas Legislature are in the minority.

The majority of Americans do not want to pour billions of their tax dollars into funding Trump’s mass deportation machine. The fact is, the wall is an unpopular idea. Most Texans oppose it.

We’re calling on every Texan to shift the conversation to the urgent need for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children.

82% of voters believe that DREAMers should have a path to citizenship, including 69% of Republicans. 

Politicians want nothing more than to be popular. Not only do we have the leverage to put a stop to Republicans in Congress pandering to nativists with border wall and militarization, but we are in the majority. We have leverage to pressure Congress to pass the DREAM Act. And we should use it. 

I don’t subscribe to a view that a utilitarian or meritocratic justification for immigrants is necessary. But members of the Texas Congressional delegation do.

So in that regard, making an economic case for a clean DREAM Act is a no-brainer: there are 138,440 DACA recipients in Texas alone, and each year they contribute $313,095,000 in State and local taxes.

Passing the DREAM Act, and placing all of the potentially immediately eligible workers on a path to legal status, would add a total of $22.7 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Because the gains from legalization grow each year, the cumulative increase in GDP over 10 years would be $281 billion.

Texas has the most to gain and the most to lose, based on how we move forward on immigration reform. Our leaders refuse to show courage and leadership, so it’s up to us.

We have to act, and we have to act now. Call your members of Congress. Tell them you do not want a wall, and urge them to pass a clean DREAM Act.

If helpful, use the following script:

YOU: Hi, my name is [name]. I’m calling from [address/city/ZIP Code].

YOU: I am calling to ask [MoC/House Member] to vote NO on the proposed “border wall” package that Michael McCaul has sponsored and brought to the House for a vote. This is not something that Texans want or need.The border is already heavily militarized and secure. Crime rates are lower in U.S. cities along the border with Mexico than elsewhere in the country. Unauthorized border crossings have diminished to historic lows in recent years. In fact, net migration from Mexico is at zero or less. The number of Border Patrol agents along the border has OCTUPLED since 1982. Our Members of Congress should not be wasting their time and energy on this when the country has other very urgent matters we could be addressing, namely, passing the DREAM Act.

YOU: This cannot wait. I implore the Congressman to vocally, publicly signal his support for a clean DREAM Act, which would provide permanent protection and a pathway to citizenship to unauthorized immigrants who came to the country as children. The economic incentive is a no-brainer. There are 138,440 DACA recipients in Texas alone, and each year they contribute $313,095,000 in State and local taxes. Passing the Dream Act, and placing all of the potentially immediately eligible workers on a path to legal status, would add a total of $22.7 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

YOU: Finally, it’s very important the DREAM Act not be held hostage with clauses, caveats, riders, or amendments that would add additional border militarization, or call for more deportation forces to be added. We will not accept the Congressman’s support for any bill that compromises the integrity of the DREAM Act with language that would allow any kind of “wall”, increased militarization, or deportation forces.

YOU: Thank you and have a nice day.

Capitol Switchboard:

(202) 224-3121

Secretary of State Rolando Pablos Must Obey the Law & Do His Job

Under the Texas election code, high school principals are required to provide at least two opportunities for eligible students to register to vote every year.

However, data from the 2016 election shows that too few high schools are providing their students with the opportunity to participate in the democratic process.

In 2016, just 198 of 1,428 public high schools in Texas, or 14%, and zero private high school requested voter registration forms in the semester before the voter registration deadline.

On September 5, 2017, our partners at the Texas Civil Rights Project delivered a letter to Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos demanding that he not only comply with the state law, but that he do so in a way that takes substantive steps to actually empower Texas high schools to get their students registered.

Rolando Pablos has written an op-ed in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram that says, essentially, “Principals, this is your problem.” His office has otherwise refused to comment.

So we’re going demand that the Texas Secretary of State to take a more direct, proactive role in helping register high school students across the state to vote. And we’re going to call, email, write postcards, and visit his office until he does.

Here’s what Secretary of State Rolando Pablos needs to do:

  1. Distribute voter registration applications to all Texas high schools every year, instead of requiring high schools to to submit a written request for these applications themselves
  2. Ensure that all Texas high schools offer their senior students who are eligible to vote an opportunity to register to vote by instituting a tracking process that would gauge the success of each high school’s implementation of the law
  3. Enhance procedures that notify all Texas high schools of the need to comply with the law
  4. Create trainings for all Texas high schools in order to ensure all legal duties and administrative rules are clear
  5. Enforce state law to ensure that all Texas high schools are in full compliance and register their students to vote.

Directed by Greg Abbott, Pablos’ office already complied with the Trump’s sham “election integrity commission”. We simply refuse to accept further efforts by his office at voter suppression–in this case, by not complying with an existing law.

High school students are the future of our democracy. The Secretary of State must do more to ensure all eligible students are registered to vote.

Contact:
Secretary of State Rolando Pablos

Email: secretary@sos.texas.gov or elections@sos.texas.gov

Phone: (512) 463-5650 or 1-800-252-8683

Fax: (512) 475-2811

Sample Script:

Hello there, my name is ____ and I live in <YOUR ZIP CODE>. I’m calling today because the Secretary of State needs to take a more active role in helping register high school students across the state to vote.

Under Texas election code, high school principals, public and private, are required to register eligible students to vote two times a year. However, only fourteen percent of schools even requested voter registration forms, and zero private schools requested any. High schools are simply not complying with this law.

We are petitioning the Secretary of State’s office to automatically send voter registration cards to the high schools instead of high schools requesting the cards themselves. We are asking that the Secretary of State enhance procedures that notify all Texas high schools of the need to comply with this law. We are also asking that the Secretary of State’s office create trainings for all Texas high schools in order to ensure all legal duties and administrative rules are clear. And we’re demanding that the Secretary of State enforce state law to ensure that all Texas high schools are in full compliance and that they register their students to vote.

 

High school students are the future of our democracy. The Secretary of State must do more to ensure all eligible students are registered to vote.

 

Special Session Wrap-Up

Reposted with Permission

Below is a wrap up of the dearly departed Special Session of the Texas Legislature that I hope you will find helpful.  Some bad things got stopped but 3 more abortion bills passed – there just seems to be a never ending list of impediments the lege finds to keep women from taking care of their own health the way they prefer.

The State of Texas, represented by the Governor and Attorney General, suffered another blow when the three-judge federal panel in San Antonio ruled that two of the state’s congressional districts are unconstitutional and have to be redrawn.  That could result in a gain for Democrats.  More on this in a few days.  We are also waiting for that panel to release its decision on the state representative districts – should be coming quickly.

What else on earth can that Trump guy do to embarrass us and our country?  Let’s get into the upcoming issues should the congress actually start to legislate when they come back from vacation.  I’ll be sending some information to you from the national Indivisible group that should help prepare us all for the fights ahead.

Please help us grow this group by send the names and email addresses of friends who would like to be a part of the Trump resistance.   The work is only beginning and the 2018 very important elections are not that far away.

Sunset legislation     Passed          

During this year’s regular session, lawmakers failed to pass “sunset” legislation needed to prevent some state agencies from closing

SENT TO GOVERNOR

Teacher retirement benefits   Passed

Abbott asked the Legislature to put more money into the Teacher Retirement System amid concerns that retired teachers would no longer be able to afford their medication amid rising health insurance premiums and health care costs.

FAILED TO PASS

Increasing teacher pay    Died

Abbott asked lawmakers to require school districts to rearrange their budgets to increase teacher salaries by an average of $1,000, a measure  educators vehemently opposed and criticized as an “unfunded mandate.”

SENT TO GOVERNOR

School finance reform     Passed   

Note:  This is not reform – the Senate took out the $1.8B that the House passed which would have been the first step towards real finance reform and would give all school districts some relief. 

At first, Abbott said he would task legislators with creating a commission to study the school finance system. But in July, he added immediate school funding reform to the session’s agenda amid complaints from Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House that the state’s beleaguered system for funding public schools deserved more concrete action.  On the last day of the special session, the House reluctantly agreed to the Senate’s version of House Bill 21, which put $351 million into public schools. That funding includes a transitional grant for small, rural districts to offset the upcoming loss of a state aid program, money for charter schools to pay for new facilities, and funding for an autism and dyslexia grant program for public schools. The bill also tasks a commission with studying future reform to the school finance system.

LED TO PASS

“Vouchers” for kids with disabilities  Died

During the regular session, the Senate passed a measure to subsidize private school tuition using state funding. But school-choice proposals have long faced significant opposition in the House, particularly from Democrats and rural Republicans. Abbott narrowed the issue for the special session by calling for “private school choice” specifically for students with disabilities. The Senate passed a bill on this issue but the House never took it up.

 Property taxes SB1   Died

       Note:  Every once in a while the truth comes out.      House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, told members from the front mic that they would be foolish to go back to their home districts and try to convince voters that this proposal would cut their property taxes.  To be perfectly clear, Rep. Bonnen said SB 1 does not offer “one ounce” of property tax relief.

In an exchange with House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner of Arlington, Chair Bonnen also said the only way for the Texas Legislature to cut the property tax bills around the state would be to increase the state’s share of the cost of public education.  “School finance reform is the only way for the legislature to reduce school taxes,” Bonnen said plainly.

Amid Texans’ complaints about rising property tax bills – often driven by rising property values – Abbott called on the Legislature to tackle measures aimed at reining in increases in local property taxes. Local government officials argued the bills would hamstring their ability to deliver services their residents expect. The Senate passed a measure, Senate Bill 1,  to limit the amount local entities could raise taxes.  SB 1 required local entities to hold property tax rate elections if the tax increase passed a trigger of 4%.  The House responded by raising the trigger to 6 percent.   Leaders in both chambers tried to negotiate a compromise but on the 29th day of the session, the House abruptly moved to stick with their original proposal and then voted to end the special session. The Senate then adjourned as well, rejecting a final offer to accept the House’s plan.

FAILED TO PASS

Caps on state government spending  Died

Abbott asked lawmakers to require future legislatures to limit how much state spending can grow to the estimated combined growth in population and inflation, a figure that is often lower than the one lawmakers currently use. The Senate passed a bill on this issue. During the last weekend of the special session, a House bill was derailed by a parliamentary tactic known as a point of order and was then never revived.

FAILED TO PASS

Caps on local government spending  Died

Abbott asked lawmakers to cap how much additional money local governments could spend each year without an election, drawing immediate criticism from city and county officials. They say such a limit would make it difficult to develop long-term financial plans and fund maintenance and services that residents want from their local governments. Neither chamber passed a bill directly related to this issue during the special session. 

Limits on local tree regulations    Passed

Dozens of cities and towns across Texas have ordinances protecting trees on private property; in many cases, property owners either have to pay a fee or plant new trees if they cut down larger trees on their land. Abbott tasked lawmakers with looking at measures that would weaken those local ordinances or make them illegal. While the Senate originally advocated for a more restrictive measure, it eventually agreed to a House proposal that was very similar to a bill Abbott vetoed in May that would allow property owners to plant new trees to offset municipal fees for tree removal on their land.

FAILED TO PASS

Speeding local government permitting      Died

Lawmakers considered measures to make it easier for developers to get approval for projects in cities. Abbott wanted state law changed so that permits would be approved automatically if cities didn’t respond to them fast enough.  The Senate passed a bill on this issue that never passed out of the House.

ILED TO PASS

Texting while driving              Died

Texas will be under a statewide texting-while-driving ban startingSept. 1. But Abbott has complained that this measure leaves in placedriving safety regulations that differ across cities and counties. He has called on lawmakers to effectively pre-empt existing local ordinances in more than 40 Texas cities that are stricter than thestatewide ban. The Senate passed a bill on this issue, but it never reached the House floor.

FAILED TO PASS

Bathroom Bill     Died     

Among the most contentious issues during the regular session, proposals to bar transgender men, women and children from restrooms that do not match their biological sex are back under consideration in legislative overtime. Efforts to pass such restrictions fizzled out in May as part of an ongoing fight that’s pitted Republicans against businesses and Republicans against Republicans.  While the Senate passed a bill on this issue during the special session, bathroom legislation never received a vote on the floor of the Texas House.

FAILED TO PASS

Union dues deduction     Died

State lawmakers considered for the second time this year a measure that would have ended the practice of collecting membership dues automatically from the paychecks of certain public employees who are in labor unions or other associations. The proposal would have applied to public school teachers, corrections officers and other government employees, but firefighters, police officers, emergency first responders and charitable organizations would have been exempt. That carve-out drew a lot of pushback, even from some of the law enforcement groups that would have benefited from the exemption. The Senate passed a bill on this issue, but it never reached the House floor.

FAILED TO PASS

Taxpayer funding for abortion      Died

State and federal law already prohibit using tax dollars to pay for abortions, but Abbott wanted the Legislature to broaden that ban to block local and state government agencies from entering into any financial contracts — including lease agreements — with clinics that are affiliated with abortion providers (Planned Parenthood), even if those clinics don’t perform abortions. The Senate passed a bill on this issue, but it never received a vote on the House floor.

SENT TO GOVERNOR

Abortion insurance   Passed

The Legislature approved a measure requiring Texas women to pay a separate health insurance premium if they want their health plans to cover abortions performed outside of medical emergencies. House Bill 214 was sent to Abbott, who signed it.

Abortion reporting 2 Bills      Passed

The Legislature sent two bills to the governor on this issue. House Bill 13 requires physicians and facilities to report more details about abortion complications — and fine those who do not comply. Another measure, House Bill 215, requires additional reporting from doctors on whether minors seeking abortions did so because of a medical emergency and whether they obtained parental consent or a judicial bypass. Abbott signed both bills.

SENT TO GOVERNOR

Do-not-resuscitate protections     Passed

The governor asked lawmakers to ensure that doctors couldn’t issue a do-not-resuscitate order until a patient or legal guardian consented to it. Proponents argued such a law codified practices already in place at many hospitals, while some opponents said it would needlessly complicate the process of issuing such orders. Both chambers ultimately passed the same version of Senate Bill 11, which creates both a criminal penalty for doctors who willfully violate a patient’s do-not-resuscitate wishes, and an exception to that penalty for doctors who err “in good faith.”

SENT TO GOVERNOR

Mail-in ballot fraud   Passed

Texas lawmakers this year put a newfound focus on mail-in ballot fraud, a documented vulnerability in elections. During the 2017 regular session, Abbott signed into law a bill that overhauls absentee balloting at nursing homes, in an attempt to shore up that process. During the special session, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 5 which widens the definition of mail-in voter fraud and increase penalties for those who commit it. The bill also repeals the nursing home law Abbott had signed just weeks earlier, after various Republicans described their earlier support for that law as a mistake (KL Note: they realized the bill they had passed would actually help people in nursing facilities to vote).    Abbott signaled that he too believed he shouldn’t have signed that nursing home bill by signing SB 5 withinhours of the Legislature sending it to him.

SENT TO GOVERNOR

Maternal mortality     Passed

In 2013, lawmakers created The Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity to examine why so many Texas mothers die within a year after their pregnancies end. A study last year in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that Texas’ maternal mortality rates had nearly doubled between 2010 and 2014. While public health experts and legislators have not been able to pinpoint reasons for the spike in deaths and pregnancy complications, there was bipartisan support behind extending the task force until 2023 to continue its work.   Lawmakers were able to steer Senate Bill 17 to the governor’s desk during the special session. Abbott signed the bill.

SENT TO GOVERNOR

Municipal annexation      Passed

A bill that would have allowed homeowners targeted by a city for annexation to vote on the proposal died during the regular session.  After Abbott added annexation reform on the special session agenda, lawmakers in both chambers debated tweaking the original measure. Eventually both chambers passed Senate BIll 6, which included a five-mile buffer around military zones, and Abbott signed it. Menendez told The Texas Tribune on Sunday that his filibuster was worth it because of the revised bill’s changes.

Trump’s “Election Integrity” Push is Voter Suppression on a Massive Scale

Yesterday, the Trump administration defunded the federal agency protecting against vote hacking, ordered states to purge voter rolls, and asked states to supply voter data to suppress even more votes with the Kris Kobach-led office aimed at addressing Trump’s fake “voter fraud” claims. This commission is a sham designed to spread lies about voter fraud & suppress votes.

Texas’ record on voting is already, literally, the worst.

The Kobach commission will use this public, rudimentary data–first and last names–to generate thousands of false matches, leading to misleading claims about the prevalence of double voting. That results in hundreds of legitimate voters being removed from the rolls.

But aside from the wrongness of the Trump administration-GOP’s obvious effort to continue their attempt at remaking America through restrictive voting laws, disenfranchising people of color, the elderly, and young voters, the Kobach-Pence led voter suppression initiative also leaves YOUR personal information–address, phone number, and parts (if not all) of social security numbers–totally susceptible to easy extraction by bad actors. In short, it’s an open invitation to further meddling in the US electoral process by Russian state intel.

Obviously, states should refuse to participate.

While we fear that the Abbott-Patrick-led Texas GOP is happy to carry any water the Trump administration asks it to, especially in light of the fact that they’ve been all too happy to pass any number of unconstitutional laws this session, we must make a concerted effort to resist this voter roll purge.

The sovereignty of our electoral process has already been compromised. Our election was hacked by the Russian government, to help Donald Trump win. This is not conspiracy. This is fact.

Contact the Texas Secretary of State and the Governor’s office, and do this NOW. Demand that they refuse to comply with the Pence-Kobach “election integrity” commission. Remind them that we know our electoral system was breached by a hostile adversary’s spies, and that it’s madness to freely offer up your social security number over an unencrypted channel for more of the same.

UPDATE: Rolando Pablos, Texas’ Secretary of State, said he plans to respond to the request, but it’s not entirely clear how much data he’ll be handing over.

Continue to contact both the Secretary of State and Governor’s office and demand that NO information whatsoever be “turned over”. The endgame of Texas’ participation in this sham commission is simply to create a pretext for federal legislation to make it harder for people to register & vote.

Secretary of State, Elections Division

(512) 463-5650
1-800-252-8683

Secretary of State, Elections Email
elections@sos.texas.gov

Secretary of State, Information Technology

(512) 463-5638

Secretary of State, General

(512) 463-5600

Governor’s office

(800) 843-5789

(512) 463-2000

 

Texans: Amplify Your Activism

Texans: Amplify Your Activism

Do you want to get your member of the Texas legislature or member of Congress to hear what you have to say on an issue that’s deeply important to you?

Are you frustrated by what’s happening with our democracy and do you want to get more involved?

I. If you haven’t already, begin by studying the Indivisible Guide: https://www.indivisibleguide.com. This is your army field guide for the war on our democracy.

Next, pick your issue. What mobilizes you to action: Healthcare? Immigration? LGBT rights? Voting Rights? Repro Rights? Disability Rights? Environmental Protections? Education?

Pick a primary issue (many issues are intersectional and will overlap) – one that energizes you or angers you the most. Then consider your personal connection to that issue: How does this issue touch your life? Does it threaten your health? Safety? Family? Finances? Future? Etc.

II. Find out who decides what will happen to your issue. Is your issue being addressed (or ignored) by bills, laws, or executive order? Find out where your issue belongs:

Local Government:

  • Mayor
  • City Council member
  • Board member (if public school district issue)

State Government:

Your Senator and your House Rep. can be found using the links below.

Federal Government

House of Representatives: You have one for your district

Each State has two Senators that represent the entire state.


When you know Who you need to contact and you’ve thought about Why the issue matters to you, it’s time to write your story.

  • Your story is what makes your stance on an issue so compelling: not only for your community or for the media, but for your representative. I can argue all day about how healthcare is a civil right and how a free market solution and the loss of a social safety net with cost human lives, but that argument is more effective and I’m likely to better argue it when you can tie it to something that personally affects you.

Put together your story in 200 words or less using this outline:

  • Cause
  • Concern
  • Connection
  • Consequence(s)
  • Call-To-Action

Always include your name, address, phone number, and email address so they can reply to you and so they will know you are a constituent (not necessary for letter to the editor submissions)

For example, the issue that drives me and compels me and keeps me up at night is health care. So let’s break it down here, as an example:

  • Cause: Healthcare
  • Concern: The AHCA bill will unravel ACA protections and gut Medicaid
  • Connection: My daughter needs life-saving access to care. She is disabled and has several pre-existing conditions including heart disease and Down syndrome. We are self-employed and qualify for ACA subsidies for access to insurance coverage and are grateful to not be charged more for my daughter’s care due to her disability and existing conditions.
  • Consequence: If AHCA passes and Medicaid cuts go into affect, we may be forced to close our small business and look for work for another employer. Contractors who work with us will not have work. If we can’t afford coverage for my disabled child she will go without treatment for her complex medical conditions, placing her life at risk. Cuts to Medicaid will prolong wait lists for waiver services, placing my daughter at risk of institutionalization.
  • Call-To-Action: Therefore, I ask you Senator Cruz to oppose Medicaid Cuts and Trumpcare.

Now you have your story. It’s time to get your representative to hear it and take action!

Below are the order of operations I like to take for advocacy. You will want to connect with the highest-level government official who can take the action you demand. Ask to meet directly with your representative but be willing to talk with someone else – for now.

Request an in-person meeting with your Representative.

Visit the State Legislature or Congressional website for your Representative to request an in-person meeting with your member of legislature (for State) or member of Congress (federal). Most of them will have an online submission form you must use to request a meeting. Tell them you want to meet and discuss an issue [describe in one sentence what that issue is] and then be sure to copy and paste include your story. If you don’t get a response in a few days, follow up with a phone call to their office to check on the progress of your request. If the representative is unavailable (as they will claim to be in most cases), ask to meet with the regional director (for members of Congress) or Chief of Staff (for state legislators) at the office nearest you. Keep up the request and don’t stop until you get a meeting.

Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

If you still don’t get a response within a few days, say so on social media. Tag your representative to let them know you’ve reached out but no one has answered you. Keep calling and emailing to follow-up until you get an appointment. You may also wish to drop by unannounced at your nearest field office for your representative. Then you can ask them in person about your request for a meeting. Bring a printed-out copy (and an extra) with you in case they offer you an impromptu meeting with the director, deputy director or staff member or intern. Agree to the meeting and at the close, get business cards, ask for a photo of you with the staff member, then ask for a follow-up meeting with the representative in person. Next, snail mail and email a thank you note, a copy of your story and mention your follow-up request to see your representative.

Get Creative!

Write a song, do some artwork, make a video, or write a poem about your issue. Have fun! I’ve seen activists do a “silent-film” style performance about the death of the ACA. It was awesome! Do your thing and deliver it to your representative. Post it on social media. Organize a demonstration with your local Indivisible group on social media and host a rally. Follow up from your rally with a small sign for your representative from the demonstration as a token of the demonstration and deliver your personal letter and call-to-action with your contact information included for follow-up. Photograph the delivery of that action. Spread it across all social media.

Aim for the Top of the Food Chain

The Congress person or State Senator/Representative will likely not meet with you, but they should offer you the opportunity for a meeting with a staff member at their regional office. You want to meet with the highest ranking staff member so ask to meet with the Regional Director (they will pawn you off on an intern if you let them, or another staff member and sometimes the Deputy Regional Director).

You can choose to meet with these other staff members if they don’t make a meeting with the Director available. When you do, take pictures, deliver a print copy of your story and follow-up with a thank you card, email, and post images on social media of your meeting (be sure to flag your MoC in that FB or Twitter post).

In every follow-up correspondence, in addition to thanking them for the meeting, restate your request to meet next with the MoC in person. If you must, settle for a follow-up with the next higher-up – usually the regional director for your Senator or Chief of Staff/Exec. Director for your House Rep. If that option isn’t available, you can also request a conference call with the DC policy point person for your issue.

For example, my issue is healthcare, so I ask to speak with my Senator’s healthcare policy director in DC.

And when meeting with my Texas state legislator, I ask to speak with their Chief of Staff and their healthcare policy director.

Chain of Command

It’s worthwhile to know the how the chain of command works so you can work your way to the top:

  1. Senator or House Rep
  2. Chief of Staff or Executive Director
  3. Policy Director (in Austin for Texas Lege or in DC for MoCs. There is usually one for each major issue).
  4. Regional Director
  5. Deputy Regional Director
  6. Local Office Staff Member
  7. Intern

Follow-Up Procedure

VERY IMPORTANT! Following up correctly is arguably as important as the meeting itself. After every meeting or phone conference, email and snail mail a thank you note and a request to meet with your Representative or MoC (or request a follow-up meeting again if they actually met with you in person).

Remember: you are building rapport with staff. By being persistent in your efforts, they will understand that the only way to get rid of you is by granting you access to your representative or MoC. And when that happens, you will build on that relationship as well. They work for you, after all.

 Your Team

In addition to getting to know the gatekeepers for your Representatives, you will want to get to know and follow reporters and fellow advocates that have access to networks and media. These will be the folks you will notify of all your actions. They will be the voices who will help you amplify your efforts. Find them, friend them, and follow them:

  • News Media, local, state and national
  • Issue-Related Group Networks on Twitter & FB
  • Local and Statewide Issue-Based Advocacy Groups
  • Local and Statewide Indivisible Groups

Helpful links:

Here’s a guide to writing and sending your personal story to members of Congress: http://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/ContactingOfficials/Tips

How to testify at the legislature: http://covertexasnow.org/Resources/How-to-Testify

How to set up a meeting with your MoC: http://familiesusa.org/product/how-set-meeting-your-member-congress

Other Tips:

Don’t forget our Representatives at the State and Federal levels WORK FOR YOU! If you feel intimidated by the process or afraid to ask for what you believe in, don’t be. They represent US. They work for US. And while you don’t need to threaten them with the fact, remember that if they don’t represent us, we will VOTE THEM OUT.

You don’t have to go it alone! It’s great to show a united front for an issue and to show how this affects many people. So bring a buddy! Or two, or three. I would limit visits to Legislative and Congressional staff to six or less people. More than that will usually be too many to accommodate in a meeting comfortably and for whatever reason, in my experience if you have more than half a dozen folks they will ask you to split into smaller groups or come back later. If you do go as a group, make sure you decide in advance who will speak first and what you will say. Make sure everyone is taking the same stance on the issue so there is no divisions among you. And everyone in your group should bring a one-page letter with their story, contact info and call to action –preferably.

Keep up the fight until you see the change you desire. And if you don’t, find out who will run for office to unseat your representative and start working for their campaign. If no one is running, consider a run for office! There is always something we can do. Our democracy depends on our persistent efforts to defend our civil rights and to protect the future for all Americans.

In solidarity,

Julie Ross

 

 

 

Just to Clarify

Why is there a definition of “sex” in a bill about ride-sharing services?

House Bill 100 creates a new chapter in the Occupations Code to regulate drivers hired by ride-sharing services, which the bill calls “transportation network companies” (TNCs).  The bill specifically states that regulating TNCs “(1) is an exclusive power and function of this state; and (2) may not be regulated by a municipality or other local entity . . . .”

This is yet another move on the part of the Republican-dominated state government to take power away from cities (many of which Republicans do not carry in state-wide elections), counties, and school districts.  In the bill analysis supporters say this:

The bill would be an acceptable infringement on local control because current municipal regulations are eroding, not protecting liberty. Local control is a tool to increase freedoms, rather than an end goal in and of itself. Unlike the state’s relationship to the federal government, Texas municipalities are creations of the state, which grants their powers, so it would be acceptable for the state to limit local control of TNC rules.

In other words, the Legislature thinks they should get to decide if your community’s decisions protect liberty and freedom in the way the State wants it protected and for the benefit of those the Legislature wants to protect. (How exactly the inherent rights of home-rule cities, including the right to referendum, fits into this is a subject for another day.)

This power grab is evidenced by this bill, the sanctuary cities bill, the bathroom bill, the short-term rentals bill, and the plastic bags bill, just in this session.

So what does HB 100 have to do with sex or gender?

HB 100 requires TNCs to adopt anti-discrimination policies that prohibit drivers from “discriminating on the basis of a passenger’s or potential passenger’s location or destination, race, color, national origin, religious belief or affiliation, sex, disability, or age . . . .”  Rep. Tony Tenderholt offered an amendment to this section to clarify that “ ‘sex’ means the physical condition of being male or female.”

As Tenderholt himself said, “The bottom line is there’s no huge reason behind it. I just wanted to clarify.”

The author of the bill, Rep. Chris Paddie, said he didn’t think the amendment would affect transgender people because “if you’re transitioning from a male to a female, you’re still one or the other.” I guess that’s one reading of the amendment.  https://www.texastribune.org/2017/04/20/house-democrats-disavow-ride-hailing-bill-after-addition-sex-amendment/

The amendment was approved and the bill was passed.  The companion bill in the Senate, SB 176, is pending in committee.  The text, analysis, and history of HB 100 can be found here: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=HB100

In case you are lucky enough to have forgotten about some of Tenderholt’s other work, he’s the one who introduced HB 948, which made abortion the legal equivalent of murder.  His reasoning was, to quote him clarifying things for us again, “Right now, it’s real easy. Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child,”  https://www.texasobserver.org/texas-lawmaker-no-abortion-access-would-force-women-to-be-more-personally-responsible-with-sex/   In spite of his language about “consenting adults,” Tenderholt does not support allowing abortion for pregnancies resulting from rape nor does his bill make the father an accessory to the “crime” of abortion.

A Dark Day For Texas

We are deeply grieved that Texas House Republicans took what was already on its face a racist law in SB4 and made it even worse, turning it into true “show-me-your-papers” legislation. Every single Republican House member shamefully voted in favor of this bill.

SB4 is intentionally divisive legislation whose specific aim is to vilify Latinos and immigrants. It will make the task of local law enforcement even more difficult, it will break up families and it will sow anxiety and suspicion among members of minority communities around the state.

An attempt to “soften” this bill backfired when Rep Matt Schaefer, a hard-right extremist from Tyler, added an amendment onto the bill lifting language from the Senate version that would allow law enforcement to question a person’s immigration status while “detained”, not just under arrest. The definition of “detained” is so broad that it could mean anything.

Additionally, Republicans in the House voted down any attempts at exempting veterans, pregnant women, and even children from interrogation. It was appalling to witness, but again, unsurprising given that the GOP has introduced a Senate bill written by a lobbyist for the GEO Group, a prison company that runs the 830-bed Karnes County Residential Center, would allow the detention facilities to detain children who are seeking asylum for much longer than what is currently allowed.

There can be no clearer statement that the GOP in Texas is willing to target innocent children, break up families, and encourage constitutional violations like racial profiling and make ALL Texas communities less safe, solely to make immigrants feel unwelcome in Texas and score points with an extremist base, emboldened by Trump rhetoric.

Make no mistake: SB4 is specifically designed to satisfy white supremacists. It is “whitelash” in its purest form.

In Houston, Latinos are already reporting 40% fewer rapes so far this year, and it’s because of the fear of deportation. Once Greg Abbott signs this racist piece of legislation into law, it will have already led to an *increase* in crime. This law has nothing to do with keeping us safe.

In Texas, we are under direct attack by those who have been elected to protect us.

For the last three months, since Greg Abbott went onto the House Floor and spread lies about the Latino community to score points with white supremacists in this state, we’ve fought this every step of the way. We’ve occupied offices, we’ve flooded Reps with phone calls, we’ve protested loudly and often, and, once it was clear that the GOP was willing to ignore the law enforcement community and every shred of real, factual data on immigration and crime, we even went on a hunger strike.

Our resolve has never been stronger. We will continue to stand with the immigrant community and our allies against this hateful, wasteful and unnecessary bill. And we will see to it that each member who voted in favor of this bill is held accountable. They will never live this down.

The Texas Senate’s Cowardly Response to Recent Voting Rights’ Cases

via Texans Ending Gerrymandering:

Oh, Texans (call to action down below). Instead of considering options for DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR ALL TEXAS VOTERS, on Thursday the Senate passed SB 949 (http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx…) that caps legal fees at $250k to reimburse successful challengers when Texas LOSES constitutional rights cases in voting district and school finance claims. SB 949 is the Lege’s cowardly response to Texas being repeatedly found to have violated Texans’ voting rights under the US Constitution. So if there is a future ruling at the Supreme Court that adopts the Wisconsin standard for how much partisan gerrymandering is “too much,” bringing a court case to challenge partisan gerrymandering in Texas will be all but impossible because the lawyers and experts who take those cases can’t be paid if they win. And if Texas continues to racially gerrymander its voting districts in violation of the US Constitution, there will be no financial ability to bring those cases anymore because the state just wrote itself off the hook.

HB 2221 is the House companion bill to SB 949, and it’s in the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence. The bill is set for a hearing on Tuesday next week. NOW IS THE TIME TO CALL THESE COMMITTEE MEMBERS and tell them you OPPOSE gerrymandering and therefore also OPPOSE HB 2221:

Chair: Rep. John T. Smithee (512) 463-0702
Vice Chair: Rep. Jessica Farrar (512) 463-0620
Members:
Rep. Roland Gutierrez (512) 463-0452 ***
Rep. Ana Hernandez (512) 463-0614
Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (512) 463-0186
Rep. Andrew S. Murr (512) 463-0536
Rep. Victoria Neave (512) 463-0244 ***
Rep. Matt Rinaldi (512) 463-0468
Rep. Mike Schofield (512) 463-0528 (the AUTHOR of HB 2221)

*** Representatives that we know already will oppose HB 2221. But still okay to call to say thanks.

Next, CALL YOUR HOUSE REP and tell them to OPPOSE HB 2221.

And if you’re up for making some more calls, here is last night’s voting record for this atrocious bill (and when they’re up for re-election). It’s worth noting this vote was entirely along party lines, with every R voting “yea” and every D voting “nay”:
Yeas:
Sen. Paul Bettencourt 512-463-0107 (2018)
Sen. Brian Birdwell 512-463-0122 (2020)
Sen. Dawn Buckingham (512) 463-0124 (2020)
Sen. Konni Burton 512-463-0110 (2018)
Sen. Donna Campbell 512-463-0125 (2018)
Sen. Brandon Creighton 512-463-0104 (2018)
Sen. Craig Estes 512-463-0130 (2018)
Sen. Bob Hall 512-463-0102 (2018)
Sen. Kelly Hancock 512-463-0109 (2018)
Sen. Donald Huffines 512-463-0116 (2018)
Sen. Joan Huffman 512-463-0117 (2018)
Sen. Brian Hughes 512-463-0101 (2020)
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst 512-463-0118 (2020)
Sen. Jane Nelson 512-463-0112 (2020)
Sen. Robert Nichols 512-463-0103 (2018)
Sen. Charles Perry 512-463-0128 (2020)
Sen. Charles Schwertner 512-463-0105 (2018)
Sen. Kel Seliger 512-463-0131 (2018)
Sen. Larry Taylor 512-463-0111 (2020)
Sen. Van Taylor 512-463-0108 (2018)

Nays:
Sen. Sylvia Garcia 512-463-0106 (2020)
Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa 512-463-0120 (2020)
Sen. Eddie Lucio 512-463-0127 (2020)
Sen. Jose Menendez 512-463-0126 (2020)
Sen. Boris Miles (512) 463-0113 (2020)
Sen. Jose Rodrıguez 512-463-0129 (2020)
Sen. Carlos Uresti 512-463-0119 (2020)
Sen. Kirk Watson 512-463-0114 (2018)
Sen. Royce West 512-463-0123 (2018)
Sen. John Whitmire 512-463-0115 (2018)
Sen. Judith Zaffirini 512-463-0121 (2020)

Texas Ridesharing Bill Amended with Anti-Trans Language; Call Your State Senator

It was just a bill to regulate ride-sharing companies…until state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) amended HB 100 to indicate that “‘sex’ means the physical condition of being male or female”—despite concerns from LGBT advocates that such language would exclude the trans community.

First it was the bathroom bill.

Then it was the failed budget amendment.

Then it was the House’s weakened, but still discriminatory, bathroom bill.

And now this, the latest attack on LGBT rights. Far-right Republicans will stop at nothing to push their agenda—an agenda that they know doesn’t resonate with most Texans.
The bill, as amended, passed the House earlier today. It next heads to the Senate. CALL YOUR STATE SENATOR (I’ve included a script below) and ask them to introduce an amendment deleting this language—especially if your senator is on the Transportation Committee, which is where the bill is likely headed from here. Deleting this language in the Senate would allow a conference committee (the body that negotiates differences between House and Senate versions of bills) to remove it from the final version of the bill.

From the Texas Tribune:

“[Paddie’s] bill was tentatively approved by the lower chamber in a 110-37 vote after representatives tacked on several amendments, including one that seeks to define “sex.” The measure needs final approval from the House before it could be considered in the Senate.

At times, the debate over the bill appeared to veer into one of the most contentious topics this session at the Capitol: gender identity. In the Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has prioritized a “bathroom bill” that would require transgender people to use the restroom in some places that matches their “biological sex.”

On Wednesday, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, successfully amended the ride-hailing bill to define “sex” as the “physical condition of being male or female.” The amendment, which passed 90-52, drew some concern from Democrats, who questioned whether it was a way to exclude a certain group.

“I can assure you that it is not my intent,” Paddie said, adding that he accepted the amendment because he views it as “further defining something that’s already defined.”

HB 100 would require ride-hailing companies to have a permit from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and pay an annual fee to operate throughout the state. It also calls for companies to perform local, state and national criminal background checks on drivers annually — which would override an Austin ordinance.

Read the full coverage at the Texas Tribune here.
Even if your senator is a Democrat, we need to communicate how much of a priority this is. Otherwise, anti-trans discrimination will become a part of Texas law.

▶ TEXAS SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE

Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), chair
(512) 463-0103

Bob Hall (R-Edgewood), vice chair
(512) 463-0102

Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe)
(512) 463-0104

Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston)
(512) 463-0106

Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills)
(512) 463-0109

Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen)
(512) 463-0120

Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham)
(512) 463-0118

Charles Perry (R-Lubbock)
(512) 463-0128

José Rodríguez (D-El Paso)
(512) 463-0129

▶ PHONE SCRIPT, if you don’t know what to say

“My name is [your full name], and I’m a constituent from ZIP code [your ZIP code]. I’m calling about House Floor Amendment 12 to HB 100, by Tony Tinderholt, which establishes sex as the condition of being male or female. I strongly oppose that amendment because it is unnecessary and discriminates against the transgender community, and I’m asking Senator [senator’s last name] to introduce an amendment in the Senate to strike the language that Tinderholt added.”