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.

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

 

 

 

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.”

SB4 Sanctuary Cities Bill Update: Voted Out of Committee, Headed to House for Full Vote

SB4 – the anti-“sanctuary cities” bill

Today the House State Affairs Committee approved a sanctuary cities ban that changes parts of the Senate’s proposal but maintains the bill’s more controversial provisions. But essentially, the bill is unchanged and is heading to the House floor for a full vote.

Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, tried to strike a balance between the bill’s supporters, who want stricter enforcement of immigration laws (e.g., Trump fans, and those who wish to ride the wave of xenophobia and racism while pandering to his alt-right base), and those who are concerned that it punishes local governments too harshly (e.g., cops and everyone else).

SB4 is still unnecessary, racist, cruel, and unconstitutional, and in light of today’s vote, we put this post together to consolidate many of the arguments we’ve heard from law enforcement, legal experts, activists, and religious leaders in one place. All of that below.

We urge you to continue to pressure your House Representatives to oppose SB4 and all of its companion bills: HB 889, HB 611, HB 754, HB 889, and HB 1308.

Please feel free to use this script, or read on for further discussion.

Sample Script A:

“Hi, my name is _________ and I’m calling to urge _________ to go on the record and reject Senate Bill 4. This bill will only increase mistrust in law enforcement, and will do nothing to actually keep us safe. The research shows that legislation like State Bill 4 only drives undocumented crime victims and witnesses into the shadows, and we’ve already seen in the ICE raids in Texas that these deportation raids are not targeting criminals, as over half of the arrests made were of immigrants who didn’t have criminal records, including a woman with a brain tumor being treated for cancer whom agents removed from the hospital, a woman in court who was arrested on a tip by the man who abused her, and hard-working families, now torn apart.

Governor Abbott’s position on sanctuary cities is a cowardly, overt attempt at capitalizing on the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment that Donald Trump exploited during his campaign. But that doesn’t have any place in Texas. We, Rep____’s constituents will not forget ______ position on this matter, and urge him/her to get on the right side of history, or we will be voting him out of office when he/she seeks re-election.”

Sample Script B:

Hi, My name is __________.  As a concerned constituent of the state of Texas, I urge Representative _______ to oppose SB 4 and all companion bills – HB 611, HB 754, HB 889, and HB 1308.  I care about keeping Texans safe and together, this includes my immigrant neighbors. During the SB4 hearing in the House, there were a total of 638 testimonies out of which 619 were against SB4.  I urge Representative _________ to listen to the concerns of those 619 testimonies, which represent the concerns of our communities.  I urge him/her to also consider the testimony of representatives from law enforcement agencies from around the state, such as Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, that said that this bill will erode public trust in police.  In addition, SB4 will lead to racial profiling, which is un-American and un-Texan.  Senate Bill 4 goes against our values as Texans and many Texans oppose this bill, including faith, business, and law enforcement leaders, and I would like to ask Representative ____________ to also oppose SB4.

Read our early explainer on SB4 here, have a look through the data and articles below, and read on below.

Sanctuary cities are safer and more productive, with better economies.

The effects of sanctuary policies on crime and the economy.

Sanctuary cities do not experience an increase in crime.

Fact check: Immigration doesn’t bring crime into U.S., data say.

Urban crime rates and the changing face of immigration: evidence across four decades.

Anatomy of a statistic: do 80% of Americans oppose sanctuary cities?

The myth of the US immigration crisis.

Texas cities see crime rates dropping.

The trouble with immigration detainers.

City of Houston Police Chief’s Message to the Senate State Affairs Committee.

Law enforcement Senate State Affairs testimony against SB4.

Judge shoots down Miami-Dade detention policy adopted to follow Trump deportation order.

Austin ICE Raids: Meet the immigrants arrested.

President isn’t living up to his promise on immigrants.

Immigration agents deport Houston father of two.

ICE detains woman seeking domestic abuse protection at Texas courthouse.

We know that the reason SB4 is being sold to the public is based on a fallacy. This law does nothing to “make us safe.” With few exceptions, immigrants are far less crime prone than natives or have no effect on crime rates; the data we have from numerous studies is broadly one-sided in support of this fact. The overwhelming preponderance of data tells us that so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ have less crime than non-sanctuary cities, and that immigrants commit less crime than natives or have no effect on crime rates. So on its face, SB4 is being sold to the public based on patent falsehoods about “keeping us safe” with zero proof.

If a policy is to change, it should be in response to careful research on whether immigrants actually boost crime rate. But not only is SB4 based on false claims about immigrant crime–SB4 Violates the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Miami-Dade County’s much-criticized decision to allow county jails to hold undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation by federal agents violates the U.S. Constitution, and their decision has already been struck down in federal courThe presiding judge in that case found that the policy violated the Tenth Amendment, which limits the reach of the federal government over states.

Charles Perry and Greg Abbott’s argument in favor of SB4 so far has centered on the fact that elected officials must uphold the “rule of law”. Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, and any Texas Senator or Representative who votes in favor of SB4 are willfully ignoring their duty to uphold the Constitution. You cannot claim to “uphold the Constitution” and uphold the “rule of law” while simultaneously working to undermine it, which is exactly what Charles Perry, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and any other Texas Legislator who support this bill are doing.

The judge in the Miami-Dade case wrote: “States cannot cede their reserved powers to the federal government—no, not even if they wish to do so”. Ironically, Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, Dan Patrick–and mega-wealthy donors like Empower Texans and the Texas Public Policy Foundation behind them who drive the policy decisions of these legislators–constantly claim that they wish to LIMIT what they perceive as federal over-reach, while parroting their love of “liberty”. SB4 exposes their hypocrisy—this law is the very definition of weak capitulation to federal over-reach.

Furthermore, this is a wasteful law—it will only lead to a lengthy court battle, draining state financial resources that could be better spent on things that Texans actually need; and because the law violates the 10th Amendment, it is a legal battle that the State is CERTAIN to lose.

The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” ICE’s Immigration Detainers have been a central point of controversy surrounding laws like this. Central to that controversy around immigration detainers is the prospect of whether states or localities can be held liable for honoring them. In accordance with Form I-247, federal immigration authorities can issue a detainer when they have:

  • determined that there is reason to believe the individual is an alien subject to removal from the United States,
  • initiated removal proceedings and served a Notice to Appear or other charging document,
  • served a warrant of arrest for removal proceedings, or
  • obtained an order of deportation or removal from the United States for this person.[viii]

The U.S. Supreme Court has articulated an “anti-commandeering” principle, preventing the federal government from ordering state and local officials to carry out federal regulatory programs.

Mandatory ICE detainers would violate the Tenth Amendment’s “Anti-Commandeering Principle”; the legal precedent set in numerous Supreme Court cases shows that SB4 is plainly illegal.

For example, writing in Printz vs. the United States, Justice Antonin Scalia himself wrote that the federal government “may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”

Essentially, what Charles Perry, Greg Abbott and the members of this Legislature who support SB4 are doing is demanding that our local and state law enforcement agencies abdicate their sovereignty, because Donald Trump told them to—that is cowardly and illegal.

Nobody is suggesting that state and local law enforcement cannot or should not work with federal authorities to make their communities safer. On the contrary, we’ve already heard that SB4 makes Texans less safe, which is surely something that Charles Perry, Greg Abbott, and the proponents of this bill do not want.

In essence, those who parrot support for SB4 would rather risk the lives of our law enforcement officers and the lives of Texans so that they can side with Donald Trump.

Charles Perry and Greg Abbott argument in favor of SB4 so far has centered on the fact that elected officials must uphold the “rule of law”.

Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, and any Texas Senator or Representative who votes–or even speaks–in favor of SB4 are willfully ignoring their duty to uphold the Constitution.

You cannot claim to “uphold the Constitution” and uphold the “rule of law” while simultaneously working to undermine it, which is exactly what Charles Perry, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and any other Texas Legislator who support this bill are doing.

Furthermore, law enforcement professionals from across the state are unanimous: SB4 is a bad law that leaves Texans less safe.

Nobody who is arguing against SB4 is suggesting that we should be a country of “open borders”. Of course the U.S. must protect our country from the problems associated with unregulated immigration. But that is already happening, and has been for many years; our borders are more secure than they have ever been. That is a fact. It is not an “alternative fact.” It is a fact. In fact, more Mexicans are LEAVING the U.S. than coming to the U.S.

Greg Abbott has claimed that in refusing to kowtow to Trump’s unconstitutional immigration edict, local officials “implement dangerous policies that make it easier for individuals who commit serious crimes to be placed back into our communities”–this is plainly untrue.

Travis county never said they wouldn’t honor requests from federal immigration officials–but they MUST OBTAIN A WARRANT. Travis county and other policing jurisdictions are already following all state and federal laws, and upholding constitutional rights to due process for all in the criminal justice system.

All this law does is waste law enforcement resources that are already stretched thin, and makes it harder for our officers to protect EVERY Texan and devote their resources to REAL crime—like rape, murder, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and gang violence.

This is already a time of strained law enforcement budgets, and critically low jail and prison bed space. This would have a hugely negative detrimental economic impact on our law enforcement agencies, from which many may never recover. Donald Trump is a notorious con man who has ripped off countless people with whom he had legitimate contracts—there’s no way the Federal government will EVER reimburse Texas for the costs incurred in aiding in its unconstitutional mass deportation program.

Law enforcement professionals from across Texas are in unanimous agreement: SB4 leaves Texans less safeMany Texas lawmakers pay lip service to “backing the blue”; you can’t claim to “back the blue” and then turn around and ignore them. If these lawmakers really wanted to support law enforcement, they would vote NO on SB4 and loudly reject this cowardly, unconstitutional policy of fear.

 

Law enforcement professionals from across the state are unanimous: SB4 makes it harder for them to do their jobs keeping Texans safe.

Solving and preventing crime is a police department’s mission, and law enforcement has been very vocal in their rejection of SB4. In fact, in testimony before the Senate and House State Affairs committee, we heard from

– Houston Police Chief, Art Acevedo

– Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzales

– San Antonio Police Chief, William McManus

– Jo Anne Bernal, El Paso Assistant County Attorney

– McAllen Police Chief, Victor Rodriguez

– El Paso County Judge, Veronica Escobar

– El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Commander, Robert Flores

– Many, many more

The top law enforcement brass in Texas are unequivocal in saying SB4 would undermine an already dangerous job. We’ve already seen that play out, with tragic consequences, as with the case of Irvin Gonzales, a woman in El Paso who arrived at a courthouse and was arrested by ICE on a tip from the man who horrifically abused her. Her ex-boyfriend had brutally beaten her several times, but she’d always been afraid to report him because of her undocumented status.

On February 9th, her worst fears were brought to life. A judge was scheduled to hear her request for a protective order against her abusive ex-boyfriend; but ICE officers barged into the courthouse and arrested her! She is currently in a detention facility, awaiting deportation. An associate judge, a court bailiff, three assistant county attorneys, and González’s caseworker all confirmed that González had been taken into custody on the tenth floor of the courthouse. The arrest was also captured on tape.

How is arresting the victim of domestic abuse on a tip from her abuser “keeping us safe?” What message does that send to women—not only undocumented women, but all women—who are afraid to speak out about sexual and physical abuse?

The message that Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, and supporters of SB4 are sending is: “Hide. Stay silent. Don’t report a crime. Because if you do, we will come after you.”

As Police Chief Art Acevedo pointed out in his testimony to this Legislature’s State Affairs committee, SB4 would “negatively affect and undermine the level of trust and cooperation between local police and immigrant communities.”

Anything that undermines the work of police also endangers the lives of policeOur community is safer when people can report crimes without fear of deportation. Many Texas lawmakers pay lip service to “backing the blue”. But when it came time to put those words into action, despite the overwhelming consensus of the voices of those actually, bravely suit up in blue every day, Charles Perry and the State Affairs committee ignored them, instead sending SB4 to the Senate, where Republican Senators–under the influence of wealthy, hyper-partisan lobbyists–then voted to send it to the house. In showing support for this bill, Dan Patrick, Greg Abbott, Charles Perry, and any Senator who voted in favor, were willfully IGNORING the law enforcement that they parrot support for. They were, in fact, endangering the lives of Texas law enforcement officers. Anyone who voices support for or votes in favor of Senate Bill 4–in spite of vocal opposition by the same police they pretend to support–is putting their hypocrisy on full display for all to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Resistance at the Capitol

Far-right extremists in the Legislature are waging an all out war on Texas’ rural familiesmothers, people of color, workers, women, retired teachers, and schools. The harm they have done to our communities are not because of just one bill, or even a few. The oppressive state of voting rights, worker rights, women’s rights, health care, education, and basic services for Texans in need is the cumulative effect of thousands of bills passed over decades.

Our Chapter has aligned with a broad coalition of progressive advocates to focus on building the collective power of our movement in Texas and in the state legislature. Whether you can join us for a few hours on one day, or every day, your support matters, and it will make a difference.

Every Monday through Thursday, we’re asking anyone who’s able to join us at the Capitol to register FOR, AGAINST OR NEUTRAL ON EVERY BILL that is scheduled for a hearing on that day.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up to get emailed the next day’s bill list here. The next day’s bill list will go out the night before. 
  2. Every night, you’ll get a bill list with Committee hearing times. Keep in mind that hearings are generally in the morning, with the latest hearings usually starting in the afternoon, at 2:30pm. Generally, you can register your position electronically on every bill or issue at a kiosk, but for some bills that won’t be the case.
  3. Hearings are generally in the Capitol Extension. Sometimes, for some of the more controversial bills, the State Affairs committee will hear testimony on the Senate or House floor. If that’s the case, you can just walk in, ask a clerk where the form to register your position is, and wait your turn to testify. But mainly you’ll be in the Extension. To get to there, Walk through the Rotunda, towards the elevators, and go to E1 or E2. There are also staircases leading down into the extension behind the large staircases that go up to the Senate gallery. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone you see–they’ll tell you how to get to where you need to go. Here’s a map.

If you plan to testify, but are unsure about the process, don’t worry! We’ve got an informative, easy-to-understand how-to here. There’s really nothing to it.

Even if you don’t plan to testify, we hope you’ll get to the capitol to register your opposition or support for the bills we’re tracking. It takes two minutes. You step in, sign onto public wi-fi, navigate to , register your position on a bill, and that’s it. Super easy. NB: The Senate is not as electronically savvy as the House, so you’ll need to register your position on Senate bills at a kiosk.

To help inform positions on bills, we’ve asked numerous progressive organizations to share their legislative agendas, as well as drawn from our own priority bill list. Based on that information, daily bill lists of every bill scheduled for hearing will be emailed and available at the Capitol for advocates to reference.

We’ll be at the capitol as a point of contact. You can reach us most easily via DM on Twitter. The packets will also be posted in the private Facebook Group here.

You can also receive the packets via email by signing up at http://bit.ly/txlegeresistance.

The goal and strategy of the #txlege resistance is to harness and leverage the mobilization power of the various organizations and issues we support to 1) increase our impact on bills that matter most to each our communities and 2) make sure elected officials know we are watching every bill, not just a few.

Now it’s time to let politicians know that we’re paying attention, we’re united and we’re fighting for all Texans, all the time.

Every step of the way our communities are committed to resisting. We will persist and we will participate in democracy to the fullest extent.

Join us at the capitol.

Actions for the week.

 

How to Make a List of Bills to Track in the Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislature only meets for 5 months every 2 years. Due to the condensed time frame, the sheer volume of bills can be dizzying, and covering them and knowing what fresh hell the Texas GOP and the mega-wealthy lobbies behind them are trying to push through can be hard to keep track of.

We’re doing our best to keep the process out in the daylight. First, have a look at our Intro to the Texas Legislature Online here, get familiar with the site, and create an account.

Once you’ve created an account, create a list of bills you’d like to track. Here’s how:

1. Navigate your web browser to the Texas Legislature Online:

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/

2. Click on “My TLO”.

3. Click “Bill List”.

4. You’ll be prompted to sign in. If you haven’t already, create an account – it’s simple to do, just make sure you use a secure password and that the email account you use has Two-Factor Authentication enabled.

5. Enter a name for your Bill List and a brief description. Then click “Create”. You should then be able to Edit your Bill List.

6. Enter the numeric name of the bill you’d like to track in the left field and a brief description for your own reference (Such as, “HB1261” and “We support-would prohibit charter schools from discrimination against students on basis of their discipline history in admission policy”)

7. Once you’ve entered your desired bills, click “Save”, then click “Run”. You may then download your list of bills as a pdf if you’d like.

And that’s it! You’re up and running. Let us know how it goes in the Comments!

As always, be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

How to Testify at a Texas Legislative Committee Hearing

In Texas, mega-wealthy industrial lobbies have bought and paid for most of the GOP candidates at every level of our state government. This is a fact. These lobbies install hard-right extremists who vote the way they are instructed to by the lobby think tank, the shadowy industrialists get their rich friends rewarded, and their political arm–the Texas GOP, which exists only to do the bidding of the rich and powerful–stays in power.

But things are changing. And citizen activists terrify these people. Participation is fundamental in taking Texas back. But we can’t win if we don’t show up.

A huge component of showing up entails physically going to the capitol and testifying at a committee hearing. We’ll be doing this a lot.

However, most people have never provided testimony before a Senate or House Committee. Many of us are conditioned to equate things that are new with things that are uncomfortable or scary. Not to worry!

Donna Howard put together a wonderful infographic with steps on how to testify at a Texas Legislative Committee Hearing, and we thought we’d post on this subject and help demystify what this process is like and what you can expect. You can do it! In fact, you must.

For quick reference, you can quickly find upcoming Committee Hearings page at the Texas Legislature Online, under Committees. The most controversial bills are typically sent to the State Affairs Committee in both the House and the Senate.

Before the Hearing

  1. Know when to testify – Track bills, issue areas & committee hearings by signing up for alerts at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us. We keep track of harmful legislation here, and we’ve got a post that walks you through how to use the Texas Legislature Online here if you’d like to make a list of your own bills to track. You should also follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates about what’s going on with certain bills, and when we’ll be at the capitol to testify, where committee hearings are taking place, etc.
  2. Make sure you can testify – Many committee hearings allow public testimony, but some only allow invited witnesses. Check the hearing notice!
  3. Practice your speech – Testimony is generally limited to 3 minutes. Prepare 2-3 minutes of comments, and run through it a few times.

Getting to the Capitol

  1. Parking near the building – The Capitol’s Visitor Parking Garage is located at 12th & Trinity, but it’s just as easy to park on the street around the capitol. We use an app called ParkX whenever we have to park downtown in Austin–you can just link a debit card to the app and “feed the meter” from your cel phone, without having to go back to your car. There’s metered street parking around the capitol, so you might consider bring quarters. We haven’t had any problem finding a spot on the street lately (even during SXSW), but it’s a good idea to give yourself a good 15 minute cushion before registration begins to find parking.
  2. Getting to the capitol – There are entrances on the north, south, east, and west sides of the capitol. The security checkpoints are there for everyone’s safety; don’t let the state troopers carrying machine guns intimidate you! The troopers are really quite friendly. I mean, it’s Texas y’all.
  3. Find the kiosks – You’ll find electronic kiosks–essentially iPads in a black plastic frame–near each of the committee hearing rooms. This is where you will register to provide testimony. The interface is simple–it’s a web-based form that you enter your name, address, and then you’ll denote whether you’re testifying “On” (neutral), “For”, or “Against” the bill.

    You can even log on to the public Wi-fi and register your position on the bill on your own device, by navigating to http://hwrs.house.state.tx.us/ and just following the instructions on the screen.

  4. You don’t have to give spoken testimony – Remember that the kiosks will give you the option of registering support or opposition without providing testimony. So even if you aren’t planning on staying through the entire Committee hearing, it’s always good to get down to the capitol and register your support for or opposition to a bill.
  5. Get comfortable – Arrive early, but expect to stay late. The sessions are unpredictable. Some hearings are short, but some can be very long.

When It’s Your Turn

  1. How it works – Generally, your name will be called and you’ll be invited to the podium. State your name, who you’re representing, and whether you are for, against, or “on” (neutral) the bill. For example, “My name is Mary Ross, I’m representing myself, and I’m here to testify against the bill.” Simple, we know, but many folks forget this part only to have the committee chair interrupt them.
  2. Be nice – Your testimony can be passionate, but always be respectful.
  3. Be concise – You’ll probably only have 2-3 minutes, so make it count!
  4. Be personal – Tell the Committee how this legislation will impact you, your family, and your friends. Tell your story.
  5. Bring copies – If you’re providing written copies of your testimony (for example, you may have data and supplemental material that backs up the points you’re making in your testimony), the Committee will ask for 20 printed copies. At the beginning of your testimony you can just say “I’ve provided written copies for all the members of the Committee to supplement some of the points I’ll make in my testimony today and I’ll be glad to distribute those” and a page will distribute.
  6. Follow up – Email the committee members to provide additional information. You can find them here: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/Membership.aspx

You did it!

Thanks to Donna Howard and her team for making this excellent infographic! Here’s the original infographic. Let us know how your testimony goes in the comments below.

How To Track Bills in the Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislature only meets for 5 months every 2 years. Due to the condensed time frame, the sheer volume of bills can be dizzying, and covering them and knowing what fresh hell the Texas GOP and the mega-wealthy lobbies behind them are trying to push through can be hard to keep track of.

We’re doing our best to keep the process out in the daylight.

But this is y’all’s movement after all, and knowing how to keep tabs on your State Representatives and Senators is crucial. Here’s how:

1. Navigate your web browser to the Texas Legislature Online:

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/

2. You’ll see an Input Field. Here you can search for a specific bill, follow the status of a bill, search the text of a bill, or do any number of things.

3. To keep things simple, you may wish to create a Bill List – a running list of pieces of legislation you’d like to track this session.

4. On the TLO home page, in the top left corner, you’ll see a Navigation Item called “My TLO.” It’s right next to “Home.”

5. Click on My TLO. Create an account if necessary – it’s simple, just make sure you use a secure password and that the email account you use has Two-Factor Authentication enabled.

6. Once you click on My TLO, your browser will open a page that looks like this:

Texas-Legislature-Online-My-TLO-Page

7. We’ve found that the most useful tools are Bill List, with which you can create a list of bills to track, and Alerts, so that when a bill moves or something’s happening with a bill at the Legislature you’ll get an email update for that bill.

And that’s it! You’re up and running. Simple. Let us know how it goes in the Comments!