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A starter agenda for when we have a Democratic state government

I’ve been pondering the recent legislative session, which as we have discussed wasn’t great but also wasn’t nearly as bad as some other recent sessions have been. The qualification for all this is that the key defining factor for our legislative sessions is defense. How well did we do preventing bad bills from becoming law? Oh, there are occasional good bills, on things like criminal justice reform and medical marijuana and the injection of money into public education this session, which should be good until the lack of a funding mechanism becomes an issue. But actually moving the ball forward, on a whole host of items, is a non-starter.

That’s not a surprise, with Republicans in control of all aspects of state government. But Dems picked up 12 seats in the House and two in the Senate, and came close in several statewide races in 2018. There’s a decent chance that Dems can win the House in 2020, and I have to believe we’ll have a stronger candidate for Governor in 2022. The Senate remains a challenge, but after the 2021 redistricting happens, who knows what the landscape may look like. Dems need to aim for the House in 2020, and have a goal of winning statewide in 2022. It won’t be easy, and the national landscape is a huge variable, but we know we’re moving in the right direction, and if not now then when?

And if these are our goals, and we believe we have a reasonable chance at achieving them, then we need to talk about what we want to accomplish with them. It’s a cliche that our legislature is designed to kill bills and not to pass them, but having a unified, overarching agenda – which, let’s not forget, can get a boost by being declared “emergency items” by the Governor – can help overcome that.

So towards that end, I hereby propose a starting point for such an agenda. Moving the ball forward is the ultimate aim, but I believe we have to first move the ball back to where it was before Republicans assumed full control of the government in 2003 in order to really do that. That’s the idea behind this list, which I want to stress is a starting point and very much open to discussion. There are a lot of things a Democratic government will need to do, from health care to voting rights to equality to the environment to climate change and so much more, but we can’t overlook fixing the bad things first.

My list, therefore, covers bills passed since 2003 when Republicans took over. I am skipping over constitutional amendments like the 2003 tort “reform” item, because they will require a supermajority to pass, which we surely will not have. I’m aiming for simplicity, in that these are easy to understand and rally around, and for impact. So without further ado, here are my ideas:

1. Repeal voter ID.
2. Repeal “sanctuary cities”.
3. Repeal anti-Planned Parenthood legislation, from prohibitions on PP receiving Medicaid to this session’s ban on cities partnering with PP on anything, and restore the previously used Women’s Health Program.

Like I said, simple and straightforward, with a lot of impact. The first two are obvious and should have unanimous Democratic support. The third is more of a challenge because even with a Democratic majority in the Senate, we won’t necessarily have a pro-choice majority. Eddie Lucio, and to a somewhat lesser degree Judith Zaffirini, are both opponents of reproductive rights, though Zaffirini is more nuanced than Lucio and ought to be gettable on this kind of bill via an appeal to health care access.

As I said, this is a starting point. There are things I have deliberately left off this list, though I am not by any means discounting or overlooking them. The “Save Chick-fil-A” bill from this session, whose real life effect is not yet known, needs to go but might be better handled as part of a statewide non-discrimination law. (Also, too, there’s the Eddie Lucio problem in the Senate.) Campus carry and open carry are terrible laws, but might be better handled via comprehensive gun control legislation. Tuition deregulation, a big cause of skyrocketing college costs at public universities, which was passed in 2003 as one of many cut-the-budget effort over the years, will be a more complex issue that may require time to study before a consensus solution can be brought forward. All these things and more need to be on the agenda, but some things are more involved than others.

Again, this is a starting point. I make no claim that this is a be-all or end-all. Hell, I make no claim that I’m not forgetting anything equally simple and substantive. I welcome all constructive feedback. Ultimately, what I want out of this is for Dems to recognize the need to decide what our priorities are before we get handed the power to affect them, and to make it part of the case we will be making to the voters to give us that power. I believe having some uniformity to our message will help us. Now it’s up to us to figure out what that message needs to be.

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7 Comments

  1. Adrian Ozuna says:

    Local control cannot be stressed enough.

  2. Ross says:

    Voter id is actually still required. There is no evidence that requiring ID prevents people from voting. I would also eliminate vote by mail, where the highest risk exists for voter impersonation. In general, it is too easy to register to vote, which means uninformed people are voting based on popularity rather than policy.

    The current sanctuary city law is overly broad. If the Feds want someone held, they can send a warrant to the entity holding the suspect. A phone call is not enough to hold someone.

    What’s wrong with open carry and campus carry? Democrats have a long history of irrational fear of firearms and try to assuage that fear with prohibition. The same specious arguments were raised about CHL laws, but the predicted blood in the streets hasn’t happened, and CHL holders are far more law abiding than the rest of the population.

    A policy mix somewhere between the current Texas Republican platform and the national Democrat platform would be a good place to start.

  3. Jason Hochman says:

    Ross, Democrats have a long history of irrational fear of segregation. Wasn’t Governor Wallace a Democrat?

  4. blank says:

    Medicaid expansion seems like the most straightforward proposal to me.

    After that I’d focus on small d/good government stuff. The simplest way to start would be along the lines of Texas version of HR 1 in Congress, like automatic voter registration and non-partisian/bi-partisan redistricting. (Yeah, I know that the devil is in the details, but the current bloodsport needs to be addressed.) The double bank shots would be ranked-choice voting or the national popular vote interstate compact. Texas has reasons to like both of these ideas. No more 39% governors, and a popular vote would force ALL presidential candidates to court Texas voters.

    As much as I think it’s time to raise the minimum wage, I agree with Adrian Ozuna about local control, so for now, protect local control and let the municipalities handle the minimum wage.

  5. Manny says:

    Since I was not sure if Ross was referring to Texas or the United States;

    In Texas there were this many gun deaths in 2018; https://www.txgunsense.org/articles/texas-gun-violence-facts

    If one is a parent or relative of the person who died by a gun, then the streets are running with blood.

  6. Ross says:

    Manny, so your solution would be what, take firearms away from everyone? How many of those deaths were at the hands of carry license holders? Do you think taking firearms away from law abiding folks will reduce gun crime? What would you tell rural residents who carry to protect themselves from feral hogs to do? Or, are you a “guns are bad, period” type of guy?

  7. Claude Foster says:

    Add repeal of SB 267, passed in 2015 by 15 Republicans. The bill makes housing discrimination against low income Texas who use a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) legal.