Partisanship Rules the Day

Friend,

The session has come to an end (again). Although you might hear from some of our state leaders that this session was a success, quite to the contrary, it was anything but. During this special session, we had the chance to make some real reforms and fell far short.

We had a golden opportunity to restore the cuts made to acute therapy services for children with disabilities in 2015. Since the end of the 84th Legislative Session, we have heard from countless parents of these children on the impact these cuts.

Children desperately in need of therapy for things as simple as swallowing food were left without an avenue to receive care. Although the House passed a bill to restore these cuts, it was never added as a debatable subject to the Special Session by Governor Abbott, and the Senate chose not to follow the House's lead.

Because this issue wasn't partisan or a headline grabber, Texas' children with disabilities were left out in the cold.Instead the Senate chose to score cheap political points by prioritizing:

  • More restrictive measures on abortion barring health insurance from covering this medical procedure even in instances of rape and incest,
  • Limiting cities' ability to annex,
  • Regulating which restrooms Texans can use; and
  • Deciding how cities should regulate trees.

Just before the end of Session, we had the opportunity to add about $1.8 billion to our broken Public Education finance system. The House's version of House Bill 21 included:

  • Increased funding for English language learners,
  • Increased funding per student for ALL Texas students,
  • increased funding for Autistic students.

It would have been a huge step in the right direction for public education in Texas - an establishment that has failed our children and our state for far too long.

Unfortunately, once again, the Senate decided to play politics rather than address the real needs of Texans. House Bill 21 came back from the Senate with about $1.5 billion reduced in funding, and they tacked on much-needed money for the Teacher Retirement System healthcare. Essentially, the Senate decided to pit our school children against our retired teachers. The worst part about it is House leadership decided to roll over and agree to the Senate's terms, despite protests from House Democrats along the way.

What I've learned more than anything else over my last two legislative Sessions about a deliberative body is when partisanship rules the debate and decision making, it inevitably ends in poor decisions. This is happening far too often in the Texas Legislature, far too often in Congress, and now, it has reared its ugly head at the Fort Worth City Council.

To add to my disappointment in the way the Special Session ended, Mayor Price joined four other councilmembers and cast the deciding vote against the city joining the lawsuit over the so-called "Anti-Sanctuary Cities" legislation, SB 4. SB 4 has already begun to push a whole class of residents into the shadows in fear of our own law enforcement. Although Mayor Price continues to claim that Fort Worth is a welcoming city that cares about all its residents, her actions run counter to her rhetoric.

If Fort Worth was truly a welcoming city, it would join every other major city in Texas in this lawsuit against this unjust and soon-to-be-proven unconstitutional law. Fort Worth would stand with some of its most vulnerable residents in saying that every person deserves to feel safe and protected in our community. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and the reasons why are clear as day.

Mayor Price and the four councilmembers that voted against joining the lawsuit only had themselves in mind. They had their own political ambitions in mind. They had the fears of potential political consequences in mind.

And in the end, when faced with what should be an easy moral decision to go against a law that our very own Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald opposes because of its effect on safety in the community, they chose to make the partisan decision. Local elections are non-partisan for a reason, yet our Mayor continues to bring partisanship into decision-making at every turn, to the detriment of our residents.

From my own experience, I can tell you that partisanship stands in the way of good policy making. It stands in the way of effectively and honorably representing our constituents at the local level, and on Tuesday, it stood in the way of Fort Worth standing with its immigrant community.

Partisanship is a top-down mandate from leadership. The time has come for Fort Worth to remember this during our next election and turn to leadership that is geared toward what is best for the residents of our great city - casting aside partisanship in the name of sound and just decision-making. Anything less from our locally elected officials is unacceptable.

Please subscribe to our weekly newsletters or forward our newsletter to your friends and neighbors to keep them informed. And as always, my office is here for you. Please feel free to contact us at 817-924-6788 (District), 512-463-0740 (Capitol), via email at  Ramon.Romero@house.texas.gov, or by mail at P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768.

 

Sincerely,

Ramon

HD 90 Update

Click here to get the HD 90 Update sent directly to your inbox.

Session is Over!..... for now.

Friend,

The end is finally here. After a long, tough session that covered everything from the so called "anti-sanctuary city" SB 4, to another attempt to ram through Voter ID legislation, to a completely unnecessary and discriminatory bathroom bill, it is all finally done.... for now.

The 85th Legislative Session was unique for me because it was my second session. Two and a half years ago,  I came into the legislature wide-eyed and not sure exactly what to expect - all those feelings were gone this go around. Carrying forward the knowledge and experience of last session, my team and I came in with a solid plan. We had our legislation drafted early, filed early, and with the relationships made last session, I was ready to hit the ground running.

All of the planning in the interim paid off, and the HD90 Legislative Agenda was highly successful. Although the fewest number of total bills passed since 1995, I was able to send seven pieces of legislation I authored to the Governor's desk - over 32% success rate! 

 I am extremely proud of the work our team accomplished, and there are several meaningful bills waiting on Governor Abbott's signature, including:

  • House Bill 53 - Bans the use of gag orders in settlement agreements paid for with taxpayer dollars. If tax dollars are used to settle a court case, it should not and no longer will be used to buy secrecy.
  • House Bill 912 - Allows a parent to designate a person to teach their child home-taught driver education, opening the door for all Texans to get a driver license and become a contributing member of society.
  • House Bill 2818 - Adds the ability for a Marriage and Family Therapist to diagnose and use billing codes to state law.
  • House Bill 2888 - Ensures an inmate knows the classes necessary for their parole, and gives them the opportunity to take those required classes for release as soon as possible.

As you can see from the partial list above, we covered everything from government transparency to mental health access to criminal justice reform. All four of the bills above now sit on the Governor's desk waiting for a signature to become law. 

While the HD90 Legislative Agenda was successful, the overall session was a failure for Texas. Instead of being the number one place to do business and a bastion of sanity in the South, we have decided to toss that aside in favor of extremist legislation to pacify ultra-conservative primary voters. 

When the idea of addressing sanctuary cities came up in 2011, the Texas business community fought hard against the legislation knowing full well that it was a federal problem that could only be addressed by comprehensive immigration reform. Our legislature in 2011 was wise enough to know that Texas' economy and reputation were on the line, and many industries would be harmed by the lack of a ready and able workforce. Fast forward six years, and all that reasoning has gone out the window. Economic consequences be damned, Republican legislators needed to take an anti-immigrant vote for their primary voters, so that's what they did. Now we have one of the strictest anti-immigrant laws in the country, and have undoubtedly harmed relationships with local law enforcement and their communities. This is why local law enforcement from across Texas protested this law throughout the process. The economic and social impact of SB 4 will be abundantly clear for all of us to see in the near future.

Of course, it didn't stop with sanctuary cities. Conservatives in the Texas Legislature decided to create a solution in search of a problem in the "Bathroom bill." You will hear fear mongering of "boys in girls showers," but please point me to one incident of that ever happening in Texas that would justify this legislation. If anything, the marginalized community this bill is aimed at need more legislation protecting them - transgender individuals are nearly twice as likely to be sexually assaulted, over 41% attempt suicide, and nearly 80% report bullying in their formative years. The truth of the matter is we have laws against harassment and assaults in bathrooms, and there is simply no need for further legislation.

Obviously, there were a litany of others bills passed both good and bad. We had a sweeping insurance bill pass that will make it more difficult to sue insurance agencies (bad for consumers), but we also addressed our failing CPS system, increased mental health services, and passed the Sandra Bland Act (great for mental health and criminal justice reform!). 

Unfortunately, since the end of Session last week, we have found out that it's not over after all. Governor Abbott has called the legislature back in a special session on July 18th to address the Texas Medical Board sunset, a piece of needed legislation that will ensure the Texas Medical Board continues to exist past September. But along with the needed Medical Board legislation, Governor Abbott decided to add a heap of conservative red meat items, including:

  • Bathrooms (again); 
  • Property tax reform that doesn't decrease property taxes but instead limits cities' ability to pay for fire departments and local law enforcement;
  • Diminishing local control or cities' ability to regulate at the local level; and 
  • More abortion legislation, to name a few. 

I will be back with my Democratic colleagues fighting to keep Texas a friendly and welcoming state that's good for business. It is my hope that House Republicans and leadership will join with us in making certain that no more damage is done to Texas' reputation in the 30 day special session.

Please subscribe to our weekly newsletters or forward our newsletter to your friends and neighbors to keep them informed. And as always, my office is here for you. Please feel free to contact us at 817-924-6788 (District), 512-463-0740 (Capitol), via email at  Ramon.Romero@house.texas.gov, or by mail at P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768. 

Sincerely,

Ramon

Mother's Day & Deadlines

Friend,

First - I want to say Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!! Today and everyday is the perfect time to tell our mothers how much we love them and they mean to us. I was fortunate enough to get a reprieve from legislative duties for the weekend and head home to spend a couple of days with family.

Of course, during the 140 days of session, the Legislature nevers stops, and we continue our countdown to May 29th. This week was a big week in the Texas House. Thursday at midnight was a big deadline in the Texas House - it was the cutoff time for a House Bill to gain passage through the House. Once the clock strikes midnight, all House Bills that have yet to be voted on in the chamber are dead. As is always the case, the deadline ensures that many bills never get a chance on the Texas House floor, and when the clock struck midnight, hundreds of bills, both good and bad, died a silent death. If the bills did not have a Senate companion, they will have to be tacked onto another bill with the same subject as an amendment, or wait until the 86th Legislative Session to be heard again.

As for my bills, we have passed seven of the 21 filed over to the Texas Senate - a solid increase from the three we passed to the Senate last session.  On average, only about 15-20% of bills pass out of their originating chamber, so we are solidly above average. In fact, one of my bills, HB 1612, has already passed the Senate and is headed to the Governor's desk! It will allow the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to suspend, rather than just fine, a bar for offenses related to controlled substances or drugs. Enforcement agents have seen time and time again that bars involved in this sort of activity are usually engaged in other illegal acts such as serving to minors, prostitution, and even human trafficking in some cases. This bill will give TABC another tool in their toolbelt to fight these unscrupulous bars.

My other six bills all have Senate sponsors who are now championing their passage in the upper chamber. All but one has been referred to a Senate committee, and they now await Senate committee hearings before they get voted upon and head to the Senate floor. With 15 days left, there is still time for this to happen, but without a committee hearing in the next week, the chances of passage will be severely diminished.

In the House, we will now be focusing on Senate Bills that have made it  through the process in the upper chamber, but still need House approval before heading to the Governor. Thursday, May 23rd, is the last day for a Senate bill to be heard in the House, so the next ten days will undoubtedly be a scramble - that just makes this weekend spent with loved ones that much more special before the final push to Sine Die, which means final adjournment of the Texas Legislature for the 85th Legislative Session.

Please subscribe to our weekly newsletters or forward our newsletter to your friends and neighbors to keep them informed. And as always, my office is here for you. Please feel free to contact us at 817-924-6788 (District), 512-463-0740 (Capitol), via email at  Ramon.Romero@house.texas.gov, or by mail at P.O. Box 2910, Austin, TX 78768.

Sincerely,

Ramón