Take Action at #txlege: Week of Feb. 18

Contributed by Felicia Miyakawa, Special Education Advocate

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, The House Public Education Committee will hear meet for the first time to discuss proposed bills hear public testimony about those bills. The hearing will start around 11:30 (or whenever the house adjourns) and it’s going to be LONG: there are 12 bills on the schedule! These bills cover a variety of topics: bonds, trustee elections, teacher training, sex trafficking prevention, class size limits, notification about physical fitness assessments, etc. You can find the livestream here.

As a Special Education advocate parent of two young people who receive Special Education services, I will be watching a few of these bills closely. (If you are also watching these bills and have different takes on the meaning of the bills, I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

1. HB 65 is about mandatory reporting of out-of-school suspensions. This bill would require schools to report certain demographic information about students who are suspended, as well as reasons for which the student was suspended.

Why this matters: Students of color and students with disabilities are suspended and otherwise punished with disciplinary actions at rates that are hugely disproportionate, and for issues that have little or nothing to do with the student code of conduct.

2. HB 116 is about teacher training and preparation. This bill would mandate that all K-12 educators-in-training receive instruction in how to help students of ALL abilities access the curriculum.

Why this matters: a vast majority of students who receive Special Education services do so in the General Education environment for at least part of their day. (It’s very important to understand that Special Education is a service, not a place.) Currently, there is no mandated training for general education teachers to learn the specialized approaches that Special Education teachers are supposed to learn. Yet in many cases, those teachers serve the same students. Federal law requires that we educate kids in Special Education with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible, but when General Education teachers don’t have this training, they are unprepared to include our students.

3. HB 165 is about amending the Education Code to allow students who receive Special Education services to receive endorsements in high school, and provides ways for these endorsements to be determined.

Why this matters: an increasing number of kids in special education are college-bound. (More and more colleges and universities are offering tailored programs for students with disabilities to meet the growing demand.) Currently, however, students who need modifications to their curriculum or who struggle to pass standardized tests like STAAR cannot earn endorsements on their transcripts. Allowing these students to earn endorsements helps them with entrance into college.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  1. If any of these issues are important to you personally, consider going to the capitol to give testimony. If you can get to the Capitol but don’t want to give testimony, please know that you can still weigh in. There are computer kiosks located close to the hearing rooms where you can register and indicate whether or not you support a bill and whether or not you want to testify. You can hang out and watch the hearing or leave. This is a great option for folks who don’t enjoy public speaking.
  2. If you would like to submit written testimony and can’t get to the capitol, let me know and I can try to connect you with someone who can help you.
  3. For everyone else, please call or email YOUR representative to discuss your stance on these bills. As a reminder, James Talarico is on the Public Education committee. If you live in HD 52, he will really want to hear from you!

Remember: you can watch a live stream of committee hearings. Bookmark these links:
House committee hearings

Senate committee hearings

Write Your Reps! Say NO to David Whitley for Secretary of State

Say NO to David Whitley, say NO to voter suppression

Take action today and tell your State Senator that voter suppression has no place in Texas, and that they must vote NO on the confirmation of Secretary of State David Whitley.

In January the Texas Secretary of State — who is a nominee and NOT confirmed yet — issued an advisory that drove Ken Paxton, Greg Abbott and even Donald Trump into a froth of voter-fraud-conspiracy theorizing.

To recap: Texas officials flagged 95,000 voters for citizenship reviews. Now their entire case is falling apart. The vast majority of people on the list likely registered to vote after becoming naturalized citizens. But unless the SOS rescinds the advisory, every county in Texas is expected to commit resources to checking the citizenship status of people on the list. Some counties have already sent out letters, while others continue to check the rolls and clean up the mess the Secretary of State made.

In 2018 Texans voted in record numbers for a midterm election, and much of the growth in turnout came from Latino voters. The timing of this attempted voter purge is suspicious, and despite the massive data failures lawmakers are using the purge as the basis for enacting more vote-suppressing legislation this session.

In just his first few months in office, David Whitley has proven his incompetence and that he’s inadequate to the task of managing elections and voter rolls. He has lost the public’s trust and shown a chilling lack of respect for our citizens’ right to vote. We believe a Secretary of State should protect, defend and expand our access to the ballot, not create a climate of fear to suppress the vote.

As of now, three lawsuits regarding the attempted voter purge are pending against Whitley. As of Thursday, February 14, the Senate Nominations committee had yet to vote on his nomination, despite having held two hearings.

We join with our allies who have filed these lawsuits, and the many others who believe David Whitley must not be our Secretary of State.

More background:
Commentary: The GOP doesn’t really care about democracy — only power (by Jolt Texas’s Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez)

TCRP Responds to Secretary of State David Whitley’s Confirmation Hearing (Texas Civil Rights Project)

Where the hunt for voter fraud is worse than the crime itself (Washington Post)

In addition to calling, emails are an effective way to reach your elected representatives. If your reps don’t appear in these campaigns, you can usually find a contact form on their website. Another alternative is ResistBot, which allows you to contact your reps via text message, Twitter, or Facebook—it’s fun!

Take Action at #txlege: Week of Feb. 11

Contributed by Felicia Miyakawa, Special Education Advocate

For those of you trying to keep up with #txlege, here are some action items regarding special education and medically fragile kids/adults.

This week there will be several hearings about funding and appropriations. For those of you who have less familiarity with these issues, please know that we need you to amplify our voices.

1. The Senate Finance Committee will be meeting about education matters in SB 1 on Monday morning at 10. SB 1 is the Senate’s budget bill. You can watch the hearing here once it’s live.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: the current bill does not provide for the $50 million identified as necessary to fix the Special Education plan TEA has already laid out (aka, the Corrective Action Plan), an action that is required because of a Federal Department of Education investigation. Public testimony is allowed at this hearing for a maximum of 3 minutes. Written testimony will be accepted. Please see the hearing notice for details.

2. House Appropriations Article II subcommittee will meet Monday morning at 8 to discuss Health and Human Services. You should be able to watch the hearing here once it’s live.

KEY ISSUES HERE: currently there is a 10+ year waitlist for kids with disabilities who need state resources. We need HHS to fund the “waivers” so we can get these kids off waitlists and get them the support they need. Public testimony will be allowed at this hearing for a maximum of 3 minutes. The hearing notice does not specify anything regarding written testimony.

3. House Appropriations will meet again on Thursday at 8, and one of the topics that day is Early Childhood Intervention. Over the past few sessions we’ve had HUGE cuts to these programs, and many rural providers have stopped providing services. We have huge gaps in service now, to say the least. Public testimony will be heard at this hearing, too. Please see the hearing notice for details. Watch here.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. If any of these issues are important to you personally, consider going to the capitol to give testimony.
2. If you would like to submit written testimony and can’t get to the Capitol, let me know and I can try to connect you with someone who can help you.
3. For everyone else, please call members of the above committees to support these funding needs.

House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee members

Senate Finance Committee members (includes Watson and Campbell from Central Texas districts)

 

Healthcare Issues at the 86th Texas Legislature – VIDEO

On Thursday, January 24, we hosted a briefing with Laura Guerra-Cardus from Children’s Defense Fund-Texas and the Cover Texas Now coalition to hear about a host of healthcare issues at the #txlege. If you want to catch up on these issues, the slides and video of the presentation are available. We’re planning a mid-session catch-up presentation to check in on how our priorities are progressing during session.

Sign up to stay on top of the latest at the Lege with the Indivisible Austin #txlege newsletter

Full Briefing Video

Presentation Slides

 

 

 

Joint statement from Texas Indivisible groups: Dear Members of the 86th Texas Legislature

View PDF

Dear Members of the 86th Legislature:

Two years ago, a grassroots movement known as Indivisible started as local groups who met in living rooms, community centers, and places of worship across the state. We expanded our alliances with the many grassroots organizations who came before us. We joined forces and rallied against dangerous bills and proposals that attempted to gut our social safety nets, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and divide our communities (i.e. SB4, the “show-me-your-papers” bill). We decried discriminatory bathroom bills and attacks on reproductive rights. And we worked tirelessly on voter registration efforts, as well as volunteered and canvassed for political campaigns, to contribute to the huge electoral gains that progressives made in Texas.

That tremendous energy has not dissipated. In fact, we are newly committed to organizing at the state level and holding our Texas Legislators accountable.

Most recently, we noted that a bipartisan group of representatives came out in support of Rep. Bonnen (R-Angleton)’s nomination for Speaker of the House. We understand the need for a Speaker who will do the most good for Texas. And we expect that every lawmaker, including the next Speaker, will be mindful of the seismic shift in the Texas political landscape, powered by people who share a common set of values, and who will continue to vote for a bold, progressive agenda.

We expect our state lawmakers to support:

  • Restoration of faith in our elections and the integrity of our elected officials, as evidenced by a commitment to voting rights, accurate data, fair elections, and real representation at every level of government.
  • High-quality, comprehensive, affordable healthcare to address the fact that Texas has the highest of the number of uninsured children (and residents) in the country. Access to preventative care is vital to addressing the deep health care disparities in our state, including higher rates of maternal mortality and morbidity among African American women.
  • Compassionate immigration policies that do not inflict harm on communities and that respect immigrants’ cultural, social, and economic contributions to the state.
  • High-quality public education and a commitment to meeting the educational needs of all students in public schools while addressing the practices and prejudices that feed the school-to-prison pipeline.
  • Real solutions to reduce the epidemic of gun violence, beyond thoughts and prayers and “hardening” of public spaces.
  • Confronting climate change through the adoption of renewable and sustainable energy resources, in conjunction with innovative infrastructure development.

We believe in a Texas where our best days lie still ahead. And we look forward to continued partnerships that will work towards strengthening our democracy and our great state.

Signed,

Indivisible Austin

Indivisible TX 25 East Austin

TX20 Indivisible

Indivisible Houston

Indivisible FWTX (Fort Worth)

Indivisible TX 21 Austin

Indivisible Senate District 30

Indivisible Grapevine

Indivisible Fort Worth

Indivisible Rosedale Huddle

Texans R United

Indivisible TX 23

Indivisible Bryan/College Station

Indivisible Richardson

Indivisible SATX

Indivisible DFW

Indivisible Dallas

Indivisible Coppell/Valley Ranch

Indivisible TX 24

Indivisible Southlake

Indivisible Wimberley

Indivisible New Braunfels

Indivisible Katy Huddle

Indivisible 121

Indivisible Wilco

Indivisible Liberty & Chambers

Indivisible Denton

Indivisible Healthcare Fort Worth

What’s next

What’s next

Last night we flipped the U.S. House of Representatives, including at least two seats in Texas. This represents a seismic shift in the direction of our country. The incredible wins in the Texas House show that many Texans are ready for change at the #txlege, even if we weren’t able to change statewide leadership. Yet.

Of course we are disappointed, as you are, about Beto O’Rourke’s loss, and about losses in other statewide and US House seats around which we’ve been organizing for the past two years. A major silver lining is in the Texas legislature, where 12 House seats flipped, including four seats in Central Texas races where we endorsed. (Congrats to newly minted reps Zwiener, Goodwin, Talarico, and Bucy!)

Our next steps remain the same. We will continue to defend our most vulnerable community members against the rising tide of global authoritarianism. We will continue to hold our elected officials accountable. And we will begin to focus on the next round of elections.

At the state level, the 2019 Texas Legislative session begins in January. This will be a critical time to stay engaged. There are likely to be bills on gun violence prevention, immigration, health care, public education and other important issues that affect our lives directly.

Click here if you're interested in TXLEGE

At the federal level, in addition to all of the same House seats we’ve grown to love and hate, Senator John Cornyn is up for reelection in 2020. Beto O’Rourke showed us what was possible statewide. We have two years to fire John Cornyn. We invite you to take the pledge to do just that.

(And psst! Check out senatorjohncornyn.com!)

Commit to firing John Cornyn. Pledge Now.

It’s also important to remember that our objectives go beyond electoral politics. Our friends at TX10 Indivisible identified four reasons to celebrate:

  1. We have created a broad network of progressive activists like nothing that ever existed before in Texas.
  2. We have succeeded in changing the conversation in policy areas such as healthcare and immigration.
  3. We have developed tools to make our elected officials more accountable to progressives and we have learned new ways to engage them more effectively.
  4. We have become a more knowledgeable and engaged electorate.

An engaged citizenry is good for democracy. We’re all due for a rest after this wild midterm election cycle. But we’ll soon be back at it, and glad to have you by our side.

 

Texas House and Senate Endorsements

Indivisible Austin is proud to endorse the following #txlege candidates for Texas House and Senate seats.

Indivisible Austin considered all the state House and Senate races that cover the five counties that touch the greater Austin area, resulting in the list of candidates you see here. We did not include races that are uncontested. These candidates are promising to fight on some very important issues next session: public school funding (arguably everyone’s top issue), Medicaid expansion, stronger gun safety laws, resisting legislative power grabs against local control, and civil rights protections. Redistricting is still a few years down the line, but we’re already thinking about that. Until we have more balanced representation in the Texas House, we’ll have no chance at fair maps that give everyone in Texas an equal voice with their vote.

Double-check your Texas House and Senate districts here.

  • HD17 Michelle Ryan
  • HD45 Erin Zwiener
  • HD46 Sheryl Cole
  • HD47 Vikki Goodwin
  • HD49 Gina Hinojosa (incumbent)
  • HD52 James Talarico
  • HD136 John Bucy
  • SD5 Meg Walsh
  • SD14 Kirk Watson (incumbent)
  • SD25 Steve Kling

Be A Texas Voter

Endorsement: Mike Collier for Lt. Governor

Indivisible Austin proudly endorses Mike Collier for Lt. Governon

Mike Collier supports property tax reform, opposes gerrymandering and voter disenfranchisement, and supports policies that would close the income inequality gap. His commitment to affordable health care for Texans, a top priority for Indivisible Austin, was a deciding factor in our endorsement.

Expanding health care for all Texans is an urgent need. Texas has the highest rate and highest number of uninsured people, including children (new data will be released this week—it could get worse). Nearly 17 percent of Texans don’t have health insurance—TWICE the national average of 8.8 percent. Ten percent of children don’t have health insurance.

The state’s current leadership has proven time and again its hostility to solving the state’s health care problems. Why would we expect any solutions if they’re re-elected?

Two things in Texas are inextricably linked: property taxes and school funding. For years the legislature has starved our schools by failing to adequately fund public education from state revenues, while forcing local governments to raise taxes to make up the difference. Mike Collier is the lieutenant governor we need to solve these problems.

After the school shooting in Santa Fe, the Texas Legislature had an opportunity to enact life-saving policy changes—and they blew it. When the incumbent Lt. Governor came out against any solutions to gun violence, the committee studying the issue failed to recommend a “red flag” law. Collier supports common-sense gun legislation including improved background checks and red flag laws.

On immigration, Collier opposes hateful legislation like SB4, and supports “a path to citizenship that is efficiently, fairly, and consistently administered.”

Since our initial primary endorsement, we’ve watched Collier and his campaign gain momentum. The Lt. Governor’s race is absolutely winnable, and extremely important for the future of Texas.

Incumbent Dan Patrick, with his fervent desire to discriminate against immigrants and the LGBTQ community and to restrict the economic security of all Texans, must go, and Collier is our pick to defeat him.

Endorsement: Justin Nelson for Attorney General

Indivisible Austin proudly endorses Justin Nelson for Attorney General

Indivisible Austin is proud to endorse Justin Nelson for Texas Attorney General. Nelson’s campaign has brought serious focus to issues that matter to Texans—and to the serious ethical malpractice committed by the incumbent. In this race, running against indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton, ethics is a serious issue, but not the only one.

As founder and former president of One Nation One Vote, a non-profit dedicated to fighting gerrymandering and overhauling the electoral-college system, Nelson shares our vision of a fair and functional democracy. A lawyer, UT professor, and former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Nelson also brings serious bona fides to an office sorely lacking adult supervision.

Nelson has committed to rescinding Texas’s lawsuit to end DACA on his first day in office. He calls the separation of families on our border a “humanitarian crisis,” and will finally bring the regulatory power of the state of Texas to bear on the actions of ICE, CBP, and their contractors.

As we write this, Texas—led by Ken Paxton—and 19 other states are going to federal court in an effort to end health care protections for millions of people, including the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. The single most popular provision of the ACA, with broad support across the political spectrum, and Ken Paxton wants to take those protections away from us. Justin Nelson is committed to protecting health care for all Texans, fighting for protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, supporting women’s health, and fighting health care discrimination of all types.

Unlike his opponent, who is awash in personal and systemic political corruption, Justin Nelson is committed to combating public corruption, first by shining a light on the money that pervades Texas politics. Nelson has promised to defend the Texas Ethics Commission from several lawsuits intended to weaken its ability to regulate campaign finance. Paxton may refuse to fight these suits brought by his donors, but Justin Nelson believes that the government of the state of Texas should serve the people of Texas, not the highest bidder. He’ll fight to make sure we have a government we can trust.

We are pleased to endorse Justin Nelson. Texans deserve an Attorney General who will put their needs first, instead of protecting corporate interests and political patrons—or facing jail time.

Endorsement: Joi Chevalier for Comptroller

Indivisible Austin proudly endorses Joi Chevalier for Comptroller

For Comptroller, small-business owner Joi Chevalier would bring experience and humanity to the important role of managing the state budget.

Rather than waste our money on bathroom bills, further militarizing our border, and breaking up families, Joi Chevalier will focus on the role the state budget can play in fostering more, not less, opportunity in the state. For example, her commitment to diversifying revenue sources suggests Chevalier will bring new creativity and life into the Comptroller role, an energy that is sorely needed.