The Texas House has failed to pass legislation to accept the funds for Medicaid expansion in Texas. Spearheaded by the Republican majority and Gov. Abbott, all attempts to expand Medicaid are being actively thwarted. Meanwhile, healthcare costs are out of control and some Texans must make the choice between buying medications or paying rent. We have already paid our taxes for this and yet year after year we leave billions of dollars on the table that would be better spent in improving our health care. Furthermore, access to health care for 1.6 million Texas Veterans is horribly lacking and wait times continue to be a nightmare. Not only is our inaction on health care fiscally irresponsible, it’s morally wrong. As your state representative, I will fight to expand Medicaid so more of Texas’ tax dollars stay in our state.
Women’s Reproductive Rights
It’s time for legislators to recognize that women’s reproductive rights are human rights. Access to safe and affordable reproductive health is the first step to improving our state’s abysmal infant and maternal mortality rate. We need to establish state laws to safeguard and protect guaranteed access to preventative, contraceptive, and reproductive health care, regardless of federal mandates. If we are to move forward with health care reform, we must ensure that these policies are based solely on scientific facts and evidence. As your state representative, I will not compromise on the issue of reproductive rights and access to safe and legal abortions.
The State Legislature passed one of the most comprehensive funding packages for public education in years. The problem? The education reform that Republican legislators allowed to pass is an unfunded mandate after 2022. Worst of all, we are not even at the same level of funding we were when they passed draconian budget cuts almost 10 years ago. Here in the Greater Houston Area, some of the best public schools in the nation are 5 minutes away from the worst-performing schools. We need to do better by focusing on sustainable funding for our entire public school system that pays our teachers their deserving wages and fixes their retirement system (including biennial cost of living adjustments), and guarantee the same benefits to all school employees. We have an opportunity to make Texas a shining example for our nation. We must make meaningful investments in our public schools and strive for publicly funded Universal Pre-K. We also need to be smarter about how we’re teaching our kids. This includes abolishing high-stakes testing and working with educators and local boards to improve school curriculums to include “adulthood prep” courses, such as financial literacy, and other practical life skills.
We still have pending funds allocated to our communities that have yet to be disbursed, even after waiting 2 years. Hurricane Harvey may have been one of the worst environmental disasters to our homes, but the Republican-controlled legislature continues to be a disaster for those who are still recovering. These funds are desperately needed to rebuild and invest in better infrastructure for future natural disasters. Furthermore, we must address the effects and preventative measures for climate change on a statewide level, since our community is one of the most vulnerable to its impact.
Most Americans, including myself, support the 2nd Amendment AND believe it’s time to enact better gun safety measures. The majority of Texans agree with improving the background check system and closing any loopholes that some people may exploit to allow some gun sales without a background check. The majority of Texans agree that we need to do more to prevent tragedies and we can by incentivizing tax-free storage and safety devices and allowing Extreme Risk Protection Orders to prevent those who commit domestic abuse or make terroristic threats from purchasing firearms. It’s absurd that there’s more scrutiny for buying cold medicine than guns and ammunition. We CAN do more to protect ourselves and our children while respecting the constitutional rights of gun owners.
The sad reality in Texas is that real estate costs are getting out of control in the major cities, so much in fact that younger generations are unable to purchase homes. On top of that, property taxes are at an all-time high and are poised to increase if Republicans in Austin continue their playbook from the last 25 years. Something must be done to curb both the unsustainable price and property tax hikes.
So far, they continue to offer terrible solutions, such as raising the sales tax and hamstringing local school districts, instead of confronting the actual issue of the loophole in the Equal and Uniform Statute. Texans lose 5 billion per year in property tax revenue because of this loophole. This is NOT about raising taxes, it’s a simple enforcement of the Texas Constitution and preventing corporations from cheating you out of much-needed revenue. Unless you’re the owner of a $100 million+ dollar skyscraper, you will see a reduction in your property taxes from closing the Equal and Uniform loophole. Furthermore, the state can use this revenue for funding public education and other important state initiatives.
Climate and Energy
Texas’ powerful economy and status as the nation’s leader in energy production is the result of the oil and gas industry. However, it’s time we recognize that the future will be powered by renewable energy and we must end the state’s hostility towards this budding industry. In the most recent session, the Legislature killed federal subsidies for renewables because of the influence of the oil and gas industry. This is wholly unacceptable and worrying, not just from an economic standpoint, but also with consideration to the predictions revolving around the climate crisis. We cannot allow the Legislature to be populated by those who deny the evidence of climate change and are so beholden to corporate interests that they would sacrifice long term gains as well as the health and safety of the next generation in order to win their next reelection. As recently as 2007, even Republicans in the Legislature supported increasing the energy efficiency mandate. However, their partisanship has spiraled out of control while they now bury their heads in the sand.
Current Republicans in the Legislature inexplicably blocked the state’s climatologist from providing reports on climate change to state agencies.HD26 already has over 2,500 clean energy jobs and I want to see this number grow considerably over the coming decades. Additionally, Texas is one of the most vulnerable states in terms of climate change and ranks first in the U.S. in the variety and frequency of natural disasters. Everyone in the Greater Houston Area knows someone who has been impacted by flooding and we have to be prepared to mitigate the damage of future floods through infrastructure spending.
Unfortunately, our current state leadership still has a medieval view on race and LGBT rights. Despite the progress made on the federal level in terms of marriage equality, the Legislature still attempts to pass laws that limit the rights of LGBTQIA+ citizens, such as SB17 which would have made it legal for licensed occupations to deny services to people from these communities. Additionally, the Legislature continues to enact and retain voting laws that disproportionately affect communities of color by hindering their right to vote, such as the useless voter ID law, limiting early voting, proving citizenship to register, and preventing online voter-registration. Environmental racism also continues to be a problem for communities of color, with Black and Latinx being exposed to 56% and 63% (respectively) more pollution than is caused by their consumption, while White Americans experience about 17% LESS air pollution. Furthermore, we must also ensure that the next generation of law enforcement is capable of de-escalating situations rather than reacting with violence through comprehensive training.
We need Legislators who understand that policy can be the difference between life and death.
Establish an independent redistricting commission to end gerrymandering. Under the current system, whichever party is in charge is allowed to determine who their voters will be. No matter your party affiliation, we can all agree that district lines must be drawn without consideration of which party it will benefit. I support the common-sense solution of establishing an independent commission to determine district lines. This commission would also rely on the input of counties and municipalities as well as explore using AI to draw fair and competitive districts.
Online voter registration and same-day registration are two ways of getting the public engaged with our democracy. 37 other states allow their voters to register online, while 17 allow for registering on the day of an election. The data shows beyond all doubt that voter fraud is a non-issue, occurring at a rate of .0003%, so it’s clear that the GOP wields fear and misinformation to engage in voter suppression. The state needs to encourage more voters to participate instead of imposing arbitrary restrictions.
Abolishing the electoral college is a lofty goal requiring dozens of states to participate, which may take decades. In the meantime, the Texas Legislature is well within its rights to amend the state constitution to split our electoral votes proportionally to a candidate’s overall vote total. For example, if Candidate A receives 60% of the vote while Candidate B receives 40% of the votes, Candidate A will receive 23 electoral votes and Candidate B will receive 15 electoral votes. The current winner-take-all system is simply unfair in a state as large and as purple as Texas and splitting electoral votes will allow the voices of millions of Texans to be heard.
The Federal Ethics Commission has set a limit of $2,800 to candidates for federal races. The individual states are responsible for setting reasonable limits on state campaign contributions and Texas is one of 11 states to allow unlimited amounts of money to be donated. Regardless of your party affiliation, we can all agree that allowing an ultra-wealthy individual to write a million-dollar check allows for disproportionate influence over an election’s outcome.
I support eventually ending political contributions entirely and moving to publicly-funded elections, but in the meantime, we must implement reasonable contribution limits. In 2016, the US saw nearly $10 Billion spent on campaigning and this number will continue to grow every cycle. Campaigning should not be a multibillion-dollar industry and the impact of both dark-money and the ultra-wealthy have damaged our democratic process.
A 21st Century Legislature
Currently, the Texas Legislature meets 4 months out of every 2 years. In this short time, the State is supposed to pass a 200 billion dollar budget while considering thousands of pieces of legislation. As I experienced first hand while working as a Policy Aide in the Capitol, many important bills fall to the wayside and other hastily-written bills are passed with unintended consequences, all because of a 19th century time constraint. Additionally, members of the Legislature only earn $600/month, which means the wealthiest among us are at an extreme advantage to run for state office, as is reflected in the current make-up of the Legislature. Many members also take jobs with special interest groups which are willing to be flexible with the Legislative Session’s schedule and, in return, expect support for their agendas. Of the 10 states with 10 million or more residents, only 3 have part-time legislatures, one being Texas. Texas is the 10th largest economy in the world and we cannot afford to have a part-time government.
We need more teachers, plumbers, nurses, and most importantly, young people to run for and serve in office. I recognize that it’s a hard sell to a lot of folks that we need to pay our politicians more, but it’s the best solution to loosen the grip of special interests on our state government.
Accountability and Transparency
We must make our government more responsive and accountable to the people – and that means fundamental reforms to the way we work. Our legislative and governing bodies were designed for 19th-century challenges and are in desperate need of updates. That starts with making sure that they’re accountable to voters. We must work smarter and harder for Texans and we can only do so if every resident knows what we are working on and can provide input along the way. Technology allows us to increase transparency in government.
I support sunshine laws that open the government up to the people and encourage active civic participation because Texas has one of the lowest voter participation rates of any state. All of this is eroding our democracy, contributing to increased partisanship and gerrymandering, and discouraging new voices from entering our political system. I witnessed this downward spiral while working in the legislature. We must restore faith in our legislative bodies and our elected officials.