Tuesday is Texas Muslim Capitol Day

***Please see this post to for details on how to be a peaceful supporter for this event on Tuesday***

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Y’all, I missed a lot of the news yesterday and this morning I was struggling to believe what I was reading.

I don’t know why I was surprised. When an autocrat tells you something, believe him.

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. – Masha Gessen, Autocracy: Rules for Survival

About 10 days ago Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann (R- New Braunfels) sent a letter to Muslim organizations across Texas demanding they fill out a poll about their beliefs. He followed it up with a forum on Thursday at the State Capitol called “Defending Against Radical Islamic Terrorism in Texas,” which featured controversial speakers, some of whom claim that Texas Muslims want to overthrow our government and institute sharia law, and that they have, “a different methodology for the destruction of Western civilization…”

All of this was leading up to Texas Muslim Capitol Day on Tuesday, January 31. It’s a citizen lobby and advocacy day that happens every legislative session, and many religious groups have similar lobby days throughout the session. In recent years the event has drawn nasty and angry protests and reactions from lawmakers.

In 2015, then-Representative Molly White (R- Belton), who was not re-elected, demanded that any Muslims who came to her office recite an oath of loyalty before her staff would speak to them. She also, weirdly, left an Israeli flag on her desk. Participants in the lobby day, including school kids,  were verbally harassed and spat at.

This year’s lobby day is happening in what is probably the most hostile climate for Texas Muslims since 2001. A couple weeks ago the Islamic Center of Lake Travis’ under-construction mosque burned. Last night the Victoria Islamic Center’s mosque burned.

On Tuesday at 9 a.m. there is an opportunity to show up and stand with Texas Muslims who are engaging in participatory democracy. “Peaceful protectors” will gather to create a buffer zone between the event’s participants during their morning program on the Capitol steps, and the counter protesters. Texas Muslim Capitol Day organizers hope to get at least 200 people as Peace Observers. Representatives organized by Rep. Celia Israel and other faith leaders are expected to join in the protective action.

This is a chance to stand, indivisible, with Texans whose rights are under attack.

URGENT #txlege Opportunity for Action on Jan. 31

URGENT! TEXAS SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE HEARING ON HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES, JANUARY 31, 2017!

UPDATE: We just received word that this hearing will recess sometime around 10:30 am, and will likely reconvene some time after NOON. Please plan your day accordingly if you plan to attend to give testimony.

PLEASE RSVP and plan to join us at the Capitol on Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. in room E1.036!

Texans targeted by drastic cuts to the state’s health and human services (HHS) budget (Article 2) need your support on January 31st!

If you think Texas should have a robust Medicaid program, strong supports for children with special needs, provide services to adults with disabilities so they can work and live full lives, and don’t want the Texas legislature to slash funding, SHOW UP.

Come to the Capitol and show your support for resisting the Senate’s proposed budget. We need folks who can:

  • Attend the hearing and keep the room full to show our support for halting cuts to Medicaid
  • Sign up to give oral testimony (more details to come in comments below)
  • Write and turn in written testimony (more details to come in comments below)
  • Speak with the media about how cuts to the state’s Medicaid budget harm them and/or their families.

BACKGROUND:
The committee is taking public testimony on the HHS section of the Senate Budget put forth by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Jane Nelson. The Senate budget includes nearly half a billion dollars in cuts to health and human services, which would devastate medical care and services that Texas children and families rely on. The Senate bill also fails to provide funding to cover Medicaid for the full two years of the next budget.

People who will be harmed by these cuts include:

  • Children who get their health insurance through Medicaid
  • People with disabilities
  • Low-income seniors, and
  • Pregnant women

Your presence and your testimony can make a difference for millions of Texans.

Justice, Safety, Opportunity at the TX Lege

State Senate Offices (for all SB- Senate Bills)

State House Offices (for all HB- House Bills)

Justice, Safety, Opportunity

Austin Justice Coalition and allied groups support the following bills and ask you to vote for them

Police accountability – (HB 854 by Reynolds, HB 158 by Dutton, HB 673 by E. Johnson)

  • Eliminate local conflicts of interest by sending officer involved deaths to an independent prosecutor
  • Increase transparency by providing the public a transcript of the grand jury deliberations that result in a no-bill when police shoot someone
  • Consolidate fragmented information about police shootings to allow for analysis and policy change

Safer traffic stops for all: end arrests for traffic tickets – (HB 567 by White/Coleman/Johnson, HB 574 by Thompson, HB 774 by E. Johnson)  If jail is not a possible punishment for an offense, officers should simply give a ticket and send the driver on their way. Sandra Bland would be alive today if the trooper could not have arrested her for failure to signal a lane change. Drivers do not believe they can be arrested for minor traffic infractions, and their instinct to question or resist increases tensions, making the stop less safe for everyone.

SB 292 — creating a grant program to reduce recidivism, arrest, and incarceration of individuals with mental illness (Nelson, Huffman, Schwertner) Money can be used for a variety of purposes including jail diversion and interdisciplinary teams to reduce police involvement in mental health emergencies.

HB 676 – 17 year olds will be prosecuted as juveniles (Wu) Currently, teens of 17 can be sent to adult prison.

  • Texas is 1 of only 9 states to send all 17-year-olds accused of a crime to adult criminal justice system.
  • Law enforcement is not required to inform parents of a 17 year old of their arrest nor do parents have a right to be involved in the court process
  • Teens held in adult facilities are at greater risk of suicide and sexual assault — 2/3 reported being sexually victimized by other inmates
  • Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) requires 17-year-olds to be separated from adults to ensure their safety in adult correctional facilities, so teens in adult facilities can spend up to 23 hours per day in solitary confinement, which can lead to physical and psychological harm.

End poverty penalty: repeal Driver Responsibility Program – (HB 67 by White, HB 275 by Gonzales, SB 90 by Hall)

  • Unable to pay the surcharges (which are civil fees assessed on top of criminal penalties and court fines), some 1.3 million drivers have lost their licenses for nonpayment. Since a valid driver’s license is required to purchase liability insurance, many may no longer be able to insure their vehicles, likely increasing the number of uninsured motorists on Texas roads.
  • Survey data indicate that low-income drivers are more likely to lose their jobs, are less likely to find a new job, and are less able to afford increased insurance premiums after having their drivers’ licenses suspended for unpaid surcharges.

Deescalate the drug war: reduce penalties for low level pot possession – (HB 81 by Moody, HB 82 by Dutton)

More than 60,000 Texans are arrested and jailed each year for minor pot charges. Bills to eliminate jail for possession of small amounts of marijuana will deescalate many encounters between the public and police, and allow officers and local leaders to focus public safety resources on solving more serious criminal and safety problems.

More information about AJC’s Policy Advocacy efforts.

 

Thanks to Austin Justice Coalition for providing this list.