Category Archives: Texas Lege

The 84th Lege is Over!

Well, this time around, I didn’t get to blog much about Lege happenings. My compadres in the blogosphere did a lot of good writing and that was good enough for me.

The main bills I kept an eye on were targeted ones, like legalized racial profiling (sanctuary cities), a ban on in-state tuition for undocs, and, because I have family members who work in higher education, guns on college campuses. If Abbott signs the campus carry bill despite the amendment which allows University and college presidents to designate gun-free zones, then I’ll have gone two out of three. Not that that’s a good thing, considering the danger of allowing concealed guns on campus.

There were other victories that came in the form of dead bills–bills that either didn’t make the cut or were chubbed by Democrats, especially anti-LGBT bills. Of course, some of our favorite reps and senators passed bills that affected or impacted their respective districts. I’m sure the press releases will start trickling in.

One huge pile of waste is the almost one billion dollars that will go to Greg Abbott’s brand of border security through the use of an overburdened DPS. It’s already been proven a waste, but in order for gringo Republicans to feel the warm and fuzzies, I guess this needs to be done, right? It certainly doesn’t make Texas safer.

So, while this session is over, I’m sure we’re in for more during the 85th, including a whole new fight over sanctuary cities and in-state tuition, and anything else the bigots come up with in the name of “sovereignty” and “border security.”

Anyway, Happy Sine Die!

Crucial Deadline Passes on In-State Tuition Ban, Racial Profiling Law

Our friends at KeepHB1403.com remind us that the Texas Senate missed a deadline on Saturday to pass SB1819, a bill to ban in-state tuition rates for undocumented students who meet local residency and other requirements.

According to the group, if the Senate had passed the bill by the deadline, it also needed to have gone to a Texas House committee for consideration prior to a vote by the full House. Since none of these occurred, it becomes a lot more difficult to pass a ban, but not necessarily impossible if it is attached as an amendment.

Also, SB185, which would allow immigrant status checks by local law enforcement (a racial profiling law) seems to have experienced the same situation after it was “not placed again on intent calendar” on Saturday. Could it be added as and amendment? Well, you never know. With a few days left in the Texas Lege, all eyes are on a lot of legislative battles over amendments and bills that made the deadline.

Obviously, Abbott could call a special session for any of these things, and if he doesn’t, they’ll come up again in a couple of years.

We’ll keep an eye and ear open.

Update:  The DMN reports on this, too, as does the Amarillo paper. The AGN had some surprising GOP quotes, too. In fact, even Charles Perry, the senator who wrote SB185, says it is dead.

State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, gave stronger reasons for opposing SB 185 and Senate Bill 1819, the in-state tuition bill filed by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

“Let me just say that there are three problems with (SB) 185,” Estes, said. “It is absolutely important to realize that it’s the federal government’s job to enforce our immigration laws, and I worry about the burden that it puts on our local police.

“Point No. 2 is this: I feel that the bill lacks the protections for American citizens being stopped at random. American citizens, no matter what their ethnic origin, have the right to go about their daily business and not be stopped and be questioned. … Let me say this: The phrase ‘Show me your papers’ is more like Nazi Germany than it is about the U.S.A.

“The third reason is a political reason. … For the Grand Old Party, the Republican Party to be viable in the future, we have to compete for the American Hispanic vote. And nothing could alienate Hispanic Americans more than being stopped at random arbitrarily and asked their status because of the color of their skin.”

Well, OK, then!

More Border Surge Realities

ef6ca-shrp2Lisa Falkenberg at the Chron offered up even more strong evidence regarding the lack of a need for Rick Perry’s Border Surge. Long story short:  The image provided by Rick Perry and other politicians about violence on the border doesn’t match up to crime stats.

The statistics also inject hard numbers into a debate that has been raging since a spike in unaccompanied children crossing the border captivated public attention last spring. The spike started subsiding before the surge and continued to trend downward, leading Republicans and Democrats to argue about the role the extra troops played.

Republicans also have said the surge was needed to combat crime brought by foreign gangs and drugs, while Democrats have questioned the value of the more than $100 million price tag for a region they described as safe.

State officials have largely used anecdotes to illustrate how the surge has succeeded in combating organized crime. A classified report to lawmakers obtained by the Chronicle in February listed examples of encounters with cartel members, immigrant “stash houses” and more, but it lacked detailed data.

The numbers DPS has released have mixed state efforts with federal and local law enforcement and concerned illegal immigrant apprehensions, drug seizures and interactions with gang members, which do not speak to overall crime rates.

Surely, the waste of tax dollars at the hands of Republicans should speak volumes as to future political implications, whether they affect Rick Perry’s presidential bid, or the future of Abbott, Patrick, and the rest of these alarmist Republicans who will blame immigrants for just about any problem caused by Republicans. Unfortunately, when top-of-the-ballot Democrats attempt (miserably) to co-opt the issue for their own political gain, it’s hard to participate in the usual point-and-blame game Dems usually play against Republicans.

Of course, there are those Dems who seem to do it correctly.

“DPS has been unwilling to release this information, and now we know why,” said state Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston. “These numbers show that what our Republican leaders have been telling us has not been true.”

Of course, we need solutions; in this case, to stop the waste of our tax dollars on political war games that make for great campaign photo ops. Unfortunately, that takes ejecting the current people in positions of power. It is said that voting matters, but it takes strong, progressive-minded politicians who are willing to fight for what is right to earn those votes.

Former Trustee Debra Kerner Responds to Chron Editorial on HCDE

Some of you may have seen a scathing editorial in Sunday’s Chron in which various complaints were listed against the Harris County Department of Education. HCDE has been under attack by Republicans for a long time and there is a current movement by Paul Bettencourt of the Texas Senate to get rid of it.

According to former HCDE Trustee Debra Kerner, the editorial contains a lot of misinformation that she wanted to clear up. Here is her own letter-to-the-editor which, hopefully, the Chronicle will also run.

Dear Houston Chronicle Editorial Page Editor,

Regarding “HCDE draws sharp look” (Sunday, May 24, 2015, pg.1), I served as a countywide elected Trustee for the Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) from January 2009 to January 2015. During that time, I held various Board positions including Vice President. I read the article, “HCDE Draws Sharp Look” from Sunday, May 24, 2015 with intense interest and felt that as a private citizen and former board member, I had to respond.  I would ask that the public consider these clarifying facts.

1) HCDE serves students, educators and school districts.  Their services are provided at the request of Harris County school districts.  They seek to enhance and innovate and provide services to the school districts and the residents of Harris County.  All 25 of the school districts in Harris County choose to use at least some of the services from HCDE.  HCDE provides even more services than are listed in the article, including Safe and Secure Schools.  As told to me by the head of Region 4, all of these services cannot be duplicated by the Education Service Center (Region 4).  Who would provide these services, if HCDE had to close?

2) During my tenure, HCDE underwent several audits and a Texas legislative study.  These studies determined that HCDE’s education services saved taxpayer dollars and that it would cost school districts significantly more to replicate. While areas for improvement were identified, none of the studies recommended closure.  The Board had always taken steps to improve the department and continues to do so.

3) One example that was noted in the article was the policy on hiring political consultants.  The Board did not have the chance to vote on the Eversole contract.  Once the board learned about these hirings, the policy was changed to bring more transparency to the process of hiring political consultants. While I understand, the concern about using tax dollars for this purpose, I believe it would be unfair to the students and educators served by HCDE to not give them a voice regarding the educational resources that are so valuable to them. Many school districts also hire lobbyists and political consultants to help educate legislators and others about their needs.  In addition, HCDE has a group consistently seeking its abolishment.  Three year olds and other students with severe disabilities cannot go to Austin to indicate the true value of HCDE, so HCDE does it for them.  HCDE is a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

4) Ms. Vera and the Houston Chronicle have initiated countless open records request.  HCDE has been compliant and constantly sought to increase transparency.  Responding to these requests has been costly; however, none of these requests have yielded information that rises to the level of criminal activity. Any issues that were found, the Board had already initiated steps to improve the situation. At the same time, HCDE has continued to educate students, train teachers and provide valuable wraparound services.

5) We should focus on what HCDE is doing now. HCDE has hired a new superintendent, James Colbert, who is moving forward. The Board has made changes to address policies and procedures to ensure that things are done correctly and transparently.   HCDE continues to respond to the needs of partner districts. I participated in the hiring of Mr. James Colbert and from what I’ve seen thus far, he is a true leader who is very responsive to the educational needs in Harris County.  The reason HCDE has fought against additional studies regarding abolishment is that it is hard to plan for the future when the threat of closure hangs over their heads.

I was honored to serve with Trustees who truly cared about enhancing education in our county in a fiscally responsible way.  It is a shame that the voices of a few are taken as fact when thousands of students and the 25 Harris County school districts find value in HCDE every single day.

Thank-you,

Debra Kerner

Former Trustee, Harris County Department of Education

Senator Garcia Votes Against State Budget Proposal; It Fails to Address Needs

This just in to the inbox:

AUSTIN – Today, Senator Sylvia Garcia voted against the Senate’s State Budget proposal. The Senate Budget failed to address billions of dollars in identified needs such as:  education,  facilities, healthcare, pre-k, and transportation.

“Texas should not be conducting corporate tax giveaways at the expense of kids and families – it should be providing the services that taxpayers have paid for, such as schools and highways. We made a promise to invest in Texas schools after the 2011 cuts, but instead we face a looming school finance lawsuit,” Senator Garcia stated.

“We were elected to wisely invest Texans’ hard-earned money and grow the Texas dream, but this budget does neither. When the state underfunds schools and roads, it penalizes the hardworking taxpayers that rely on the state to meet these fundamental needs. The budget fails to adequately fund healthcare, pre-k, and other priorities of working families in Texas.”

“In an unprecedented move, Department of Public Safety’s budget is nearly tripled to $811 million in an alleged response to border security threats in South Texas. Meanwhile, crime rates are increasing across Houston and other areas of the state. I cannot honestly tell my constituents that we’re representing their best interests by putting $811 million into policing the border, when they feel unsafe in their own communities hundreds of miles away.”

TexasCJC: Harris County’s Racially Targeted Policies

The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition has released a study on the impact of Harris County’s racially targeted policies, specifically its trace amounts policy and its anti-immigrant policies. From the study, though, one gets a sense that perhaps a bond between the African American and Hispanic communities can work together to effect meaningful criminal justice policies that benefit the entire community.

The study found that Harris County focuses its resources on drug crimes, especially felony drug possession; in fact, it has been the number one felony charge in the county for 20 years. Worse, although blacks and whites have similar drug-use rates, it is African Americans who are targeted most for arrest, prosecution, and conviction.

While blacks make up about 19 percent of Harris County residents, they made up almost 50 percent of those arrested for felony drug possession between October 2011 and September 2012, and they comprise 65.8 percent of those being incarcerated by Harris County in state prisons or jails for felony drug possession.

The County’s policies seem to apply to the Hispanic community, particularly its over-commitment to immigration enforcement. As DosCentavos has found in its own research, and now backed up by this study, the vast majority of those booked and then found to be unauthorized immigrants and reported to ICE have not been convicted of a crime or have been convicted of petty, usually undeportable crimes. Moreover, many of these detentions are more than likely based on racial and ethnic stereotypes, not much different from the African Americans targeted for drug arrests.

The report especially calls out the immigration policies for the stereotype that it creates–that all immigrants are criminals or likely to commit crimes. In fact, foreign-born detainees go to prison at lesser rates than U.S. citizens arrested for crimes.

Ultimately, this is all about safety. The contention that arresting people for trace drug amounts stops property crimes is far-fetched. Likewise, is the contention that somehow keeping working immigrants in deportation limbo in an ICE facility is somehow a crime-fighting tactic. All this does is cause a sense of distrust between the community and the police. Especially within immigrant communities, the effect of this distrust is a lower likelihood that crimes will be reported for fear of law enforcement.

Obviously, the new Republican DA is not helping by re-instituting its trace policy, and our Democratic Sheriff does not help by continuing the Secure Communities and 287g programs. But this opens up and opportunity for communities to work together to demand accountability and better services from a taxing entity, such as Harris County.

Read the entire report here.

SOTS: The Power of Words (or Lack of Them)

by Fidencio Leija-Chavez, Jr.

I am not a certified English teacher, and I must confess that English is my second language. However, after several years in the U.S. Navy, my community college experience and now pursuing a master’s degree, I recognize the power of words.

Today (Jan. 29) we had the opportunity to hear our Texas Governor present his State of the State address to all Texans. Following his 3,720-word discourse, the power of words resulted in a lack of words and marginal effort.

Governor Perry opened with recognizing his family, past legislators (i.e. Houston’s Sen. Gallegos) and growth of private-sector jobs. He continued by praising CEO’s, companies and state-of-the-art packing plants. While jobs, business, and the economy of Texas occupied the majority of his speech, the Latino community awaited for Governor Perry to unveil his concern and plan for issues that affect Hispanic children, college students and families throughout the state.

We’ll give him partial credit for utilizing the word education ten times, but he never once covered the hot button issues of vouchers and standardized tests. These two will more than likely push the Governor to keep legislators past their 140 days in Austin.

Before we get to social issues that concern the Latino community (and in my opinion – all Texans), he also failed to mention women and veterans. Even more, what about women that are veterans? His speech just dropped another letter grade.

Women are filling our classrooms, leading in small business, and continuously graduating in higher numbers in college. How could they have been left out? Now, our military men and women should be alarmed that our Texas Governor overlooked them when our soldiers are returning with some of the highest rates of PTSD ever witnessed. There are no excuses for forgetting those who have served this country.

Our community inspired four new congressional seats and holds the largest percentage of children in K-12 in the State and our Governor only mentions the word Hispanic twice. Both of those instances were related to the participation of Hispanic students taking the SAT and ACT.

Which leads our community to wonder – why did he not mention comprehensive immigration reform, sanctuary cities, Dreamers, or social issues that affect everyday Hispanic communities?

Governor Perry gave us a one sided State of the State address. He applauded his supporters and defended conservative ideology while failing to recognize issues that matter to the state’s largest constituency & voting base – women, veterans, Latinos and new American citizens. These groups are engaged, united and voting in greater numbers each year, so do not be alarmed as you see them closing the gap and shifting our state to purple as our Governor and Legislative officials fail to recognize them when it matters. Words do matter!

There were 3,720 words used in the State of the State speech by Governor Rick Perry. Below is a breakdown of keywords that were used in present, past and future tense. In addition, the words could have been used in singular, plural, and in conjunction with other words.

Veterans = 0
Women = 0
Community Colleges = 1
Minority = 1
Hispanic = 2
Economic = 5
Private = 5
Business = 6
Education = 10
Fund = 13
Jobs = 16
 

Joining DosCentavos.net as a bloguero is Fidencio “Orale” Leija-Chavez, Jr. Fidencio is a Co-Founder of Latinos. Engaged. United. Voting., a US Navy Vet, a Texas State University Bobcat studying Geographic Information Systems, a graduate of Houston’s National Hispanic Professional Organization Leadership Institute, and a local political pro.

Moyers Full-Segment: New Face of Reproductive Rights

Thanks, again, to Moyers Media.

Run-Off in SD-6

Looks like the Special Election to replace the late, great Senator Mario Gallegos turned out to be all about Sylvia Garcia and Carol Alvarado.

Garcia started out with a slightly stronger show in ballots by mail and even better in the in-person early vote to get her close to 50%. But it was Alvarado whose campaign made sure the Election Day vote was close, thus ensuring the run-off. In other words, no knock-out punch for Garcia in Round 1.

All in all, 5.64% of the 292,000 voters in SD-6 showed, which was slightly higher than I had predicted. Now, folks can start guessing whether there will be an increase in interest given that there are now only two, or if the usual thing will happen–even less voters will show up in Round 2.

I won’t go into any analysis because there’s not much to put under the microscope. I wake up on this Sunday morning just too damn cynical because when you look really look at things, the only winners were the the political and media consultants.

Oh yeah, and Joaquin Martinez, who I hear had an excellent celebration, along with mariachis!

Maybe Kuff has a less cynical view of things.

SD-6 – ELECTION DAY – SATURDAY

Well, it’s Saturday, January 26, and according to Rick Perry, today is the day you get to vote in the Senate District 6 Special Election. You missed early voting, but you get one final shot at picking your next State Senator, but you need to vote in your neighborhood polling location.

Need to find your polling location? HarrisVotes has a cool tool where you just punch in your address and voila!, you get your location and a sample ballot! Click on the image below to get there. Polls are open from 7am to 7pm. Do your duty!

FindPoll