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One Texas PAC

A matter of priorities

Compare and contrast.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the outspoken voice of the far right in the Senate, said he will be pushing vouchers that parents of school-age children could use for charter schools, online offerings or additional alternatives to the public schools.

“To me, school choice is the photo ID bill of this session,” he said. “Our base has wanted us to pass photo voter ID for years, and we did it. They’ve been wanting us to pass school choice for years. This is the year to do it, in my view. That issue will do more to impact the future of Texas and the quality of education than anything else we could do.”

Patrick envisions a cornucopia of conservative legislation he’s sure will pass, including sanctuary cities restrictions and bills to allow guns on school campuses and outlaw “groping” by Transportation Security Administration personnel.

Conservatives also will push for a law that only allows spending increases if they are based on population and inflation, and Patrick will continue his crusade to change the Senate rule requiring a two-thirds vote to bring up legislation.

Everything they want to do if they have the numbers to do so is an ideological checklist item, which is a continuation of what they did in 2011. Compare that to what the One Texas PAC is talking about – water, electricity, transportation. You know, the things Texas needs to ensure its future. Which issues would you rather see get addressed?

By the way, if Sen. Patrick et al are going to be pushing vouchers – which, let’s be clear, means public money for private (read: “religious”) schools – I wonder if they’ve had a chat with their friends from Louisiana about unintended consequences. I also wonder if, like Louisiana, these private schools will be held to lower accountability standards than the public schools are, if they are held to any standards at all. Perhaps someone should ask Bill Hammond what he thinks about this little scheme. EoW and the Texas AFT Blog have more.

Let’s be clear about something: I disagree with Dan Patrick as much and as often as anyone can, but I truly lament the fact that he has nothing to offer on the real issues that Texas faces. I don’t pretend that my side has all the answers, but right now my side is the only one seeking them. Dan Patrick is a smart guy, and he could be very productive if he cared about something other than perpetuating his own power. I’m sure I wouldn’t like most of whatever solutions he’d have to offer, but I’m also sure there would be something there that could be a starting point for constructive debate. Instead, all we get is time-wasters, distractions, and assaults on those he disdains. I firmly believe it’s behavior like this that will hasten the downfall of his party, but in the meantime Texas’ problems get deeper and more intractable, and that does no one any good.

One Texas PAC

Catching up on something from before last week’s runoffs, there’s a new PAC in town with some big ideas for the future.

State Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Ana Hernandez Luna unveiled the One Texas PAC, with Martinez Fisher pledging to match the first $50,000 in donations.

The PAC will concentrate on supporting Hispanic candidates for the Texas Legislature, engaging Hispanic voters and mobilizing them in districts where they can make a difference in an election’s outcome, Martinez Fischer told The Associated Press. The group’s strategy of directly engaging voters sets it apart from other advocacy groups, he added.

“I want to talk to people because I believe if they understand what we stand for, they will realize there are people fighting for them,” said Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus in the Texas Legislature.

Non-Hispanic whites make up less than half of the state’s population, and Hispanics are the fastest growing group in Texas. Both Democrats and Republicans are trying to recruit more Hispanics into their ranks, but Hispanic voters here go to the polls in small numbers compared to their population’s size and compared to other states. For example, eligible Hispanic voters in Texas turnout at half the rate of Hispanics in California.

Martinez Fisher said the new PAC hopes to get out the Hispanic vote by pointing out the stake they hold in Texas’ future. Demographers expect them to be the majority by 2020.

“Texas is running out of water and energy, our roads are deteriorating, and the next generation of Texans who have to face this reality will be less educated and in poor health,” Fischer said. “Apparently, our alleged pro-business Republicans think it is more important to attend tea-party rallies than confront this reality. One Texas will change that.”

The PAC’s website is here and its Facebook page is here. I had the chance to speak to Reps. Martinez Fischer, Hernandez Luna, and Armando Walle about this, and the main idea I got from them is that this is about addressing the infrastructure needs of a state with a young and growing population whose current leaders aren’t doing a damn thing about them. Martinez Fischer goes into some detail in this Rio Grande Guardian story.

Martinez Fischer is a Democrat from San Antonio who has served six terms in the Texas House. He said he and his colleagues formed One Texas PAC because Texas needs to move on from the politics of mañana that permeates the state Capitol in Austin.

“All of our problems, whether it is water, energy, transportation, education, public health… you get to the floor of the House in Austin, Texas, and the Republicans say, yeah, we will deal with that mañana. Mañana is the busiest day of the week in Austin, Texas. You never get to it. That is why One Texas is around and why we are going to change things,” he explained.

At a news conference held in McAllen on Friday, Martinez Fischer looked ahead to the time One Texas PAC’s goal is achieved.

“When we are one Texas we are not going to have the disparity in education and health care that we have today in our state,” he said.

“When we are one Texas we are going to have an infrastructure that is going to provide adequate water for the families and businesses that depend on it. We are going to be able to turn on the light switch and know we have safe, reliable and diverse power sources fueling our state. And, we also know that when our businesses want to relocate, and when moms and dads want to be able to get to that little league soccer on time, that we are going to have a transportation system that works.”

[…]

Martinez Fischer said the new PAC will use its funds to help tomorrow’s Latino leaders win election to public office. He said the PAC will also put out position papers on issues such as transportation, water, and energy to kick start a public policy conversation that currently does not exist in the highest echelons of state government.

“These are not issues out of the blue. They are ordinary, kitchen table issues that every Latino in the Rio Grande Valley talks about on a daily basis,” Martinez Fischer said. “The problem is they are not priority issues because they are not talked about at Tea Party rallies, they are not priorities because people think government needs to be smaller, because people want to cut spending. We can no longer cut spending. We need leaders who can do three things: make hard decisions, make smart investments and ask Texans to share in the sacrifice.”

Martinez Fischer noted that historically, Latino leaders have focused on civil rights, education and health care. He said new Latino leaders must also tackle transportation, water and energy issues because it is increasingly going to be Latino households that provide the taxes to fund the state’s infrastructure needs.

“We have this looming infrastructure crisis, and what we need to do is start thinking big again,” Martinez Fischer said. “We need responsible leaders, Hispanic leaders that recognize this is becoming a Latino problem. Because, as we become the majority of the population in this state – we are 38 percent of the statewide population today – these problems are either going to be fixed by Latino leaders that are in school and colleges right now, or it is going to be financed by the taxpayers that are going to be largely Latino that have to pay taxes to support these projects.”

What I like about this approach is that it’s not just about trying to win the next election, it’s about looking beyond that at the issues that are important now and will become crises if we don’t start addressing them now. It’s about understanding these issues and supporting leaders who understand them and want to engage the public in trying to solve them. Hey, someone’s got to do it. One Texas PAC has already met its initial goal of raising $100K – they may be policy-oriented but they’re still a PAC, and you have to win elections to affect policy – mostly with the support of incumbent House members. They’re continuing their push, and they’re worth your support. Check ’em out.