Category Archives: Texas Lege

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

CPPP Releases New Family Budget Tool

One of my favorite policy groups, the Center for Public Policy Priorities released a new data tool that finds what a two-income family with two kids must earn to cover basic expenses in various areas of the state, without any kind of family or government assistance.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other public sources, the Center for Public Policy Priorities created the Better Texas Family Budgets, an online public education tool that measures what it really takes to survive and thrive across 26 metropolitan areas for eight different family sizes.

They go on to describe some startling facts.

“The basic budgets we’ve created paint a picture of what it takes for Texas families to cover basic needs and have a safe and healthy lifestyle,” said Frances Deviney, senior research associate at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “Our base budgets don’t account for what it takes to get ahead, such as college savings for their children or emergency savings to protect against unexpected hard times.”

To explore what it takes to get ahead, the Better Texas Family Budgets tool features three new savings categories – emergency, college, and retirement – that the user can opt to add on top of the basic family budget.

“The Better Texas Family Budgets addresses how much income is enough for working Texas families, and clearly, the answer is complex,” Deviney said. “It depends on how big your family is, where you live, and what kind of benefits your job provides, if any at all.”

The Better Texas Family Budgets also calculates how many jobs in each metropolitan area pay enough to cover the needs of different sized families.

“From what this shows us, just having a job is not enough in Texas, and there is gap between what people are earning and how much it costs to live.” said Don Baylor, Jr., senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Nearly 80 percent of low-income Texas families are working full-time and year-round, so clearly many of them are poor not because they don’t work but because their job doesn’t pay enough. In fact, Texas has the third-worst rate across the country of jobs that pay at or below minimum wage.

“Not only do we need jobs that pay and offer good benefits, but also we must reinvest in the safety net to keep families from falling further into poverty when times get tough,” Baylor said.

For all those who complain about assistance for those who need it, well, this tool provides a dose of reality.

This tool highlights what life is really like for Texas families and emphasizes what our policy priorities should be moving forward during the 2013 legislative session. To ensure that all Texans can not only get by, but can actually get ahead, we need to invest in public and higher education to create opportunities for well-paying jobs with benefits. We also need to shore up those work supports for Texans whose jobs don’t pay enough to cover basic expenses by ensuring they do not go hungry (e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and have access to affordable quality health care (e.g., implementation of health reform). These programs provide a critical hand-up to families who are working hard to get ahead.

Accompanying the tool is a video documentary which can be seen here.

Thanks to CPPP for developing this snapshot of reality.

SD-6 More Money Pours In (and Out!)

Well, if the first report did not tell you this was an expensive race, then the 8-day report will knock you out.

In the last few weeks (up until last week), Sylvia Garcia raised another another $177,000 (including recent telegram reports in the run-up to Election Day), and has spent almost $300,000.  Garcia had $228,000 in the bank a week ago. The biggie donation was over $80,000 in-kind from Texas Organizing Project PAC, which endorsed Garcia and is doing a lot of field campaigning (that amount not included in final expense amount). Back to Basics PAC also provided a $10,000 in-kind contribution for research. Expenses include some big outlays for mail pieces and more media (I think I noticed over $150K of all that), but one that I found the most interesting was a January 10th expense to Lake Partners for another poll (wish I knew the results of that!). Otherwise, it’s salaries, field, consultants and other expenses.

For Carol Alvarado, another $199,000 was raised (including telegram reports up till today), with $314,000 spent. And a week ago, she had 109,000 left to spend. Some biggie expenses included a couple of huge media buys totaling  over $200,000; a campaign mailing at almost $30,000; various outlays to what I think are field expenses; then the usual expenses on consultants, staff, and campaign needs.

The contributions that popped out most for both was one each from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Otherwise, it was lawyers, unions, businesses and individuals for both of them; although, it would seem Alvarado has a huge lead with big business PACs.

A DC-tip-of-the-sombrero goes to Joaquin Martinez who reported over $5,000 raised–100% from individuals. Rodolfo “Rudy” Reyes reports over $16,000 in loans for the race, and he had mentioned he was using his own money to run at a recent event. The other candidates didn’t report anything eye-catching.

Early voting finished yesterday with 8,245 cast, including 2,876 ballots by mail. Election Day is Saturday, 7 to 7 at your neighborhood polling location. If you live in SD-6, go to the Harris Votes website, type in your address and find your location and sample ballot.

People are asking for projections. I kind of agree with Kuff.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I’d suggest that between 40 and 50 percent of the vote in this race will be cast early, so on the extremely optimistic assumption that there will be about 9,000 votes total cast early, we’re looking at an over/under of about 20,000 – say between 18,000 and 22,500, to be obnoxious about it. If we’re closer to 8,000 votes cast by tomorrow, lower those endpoints to 15,000 and 20,000.

I didn’t see any major expenses for the usual ballot by mail experts in the latest reports, so, I’m wondering if there will be a final push to contact those other 4,000+ mail ballot holders. Otherwise, let’s hope for a big election day.

Update:  Kuff has money and projections. In fact, he changed up his projections on me!

With four more days for mail ballots to arrive, I’d guess the number will ultimately be about 8,500 when the first results are posted Saturday evening. As such, my official guess for total turnout is between 17,000 and 22,000.

I’ll be a rebel and stay with original projections of between 15,000 and 20,000. PDiddie has more, too.

NARAL: 2012 A Record Year of Anti-Choice Attacks

Catching up with news on women’s reproductive rights, NARAL released a report on the status of a woman’s right to choose as we celebrate 40 years since Roe v Wade.

NARAL also released a Congressional Record on choice–who supports women and who does not in D.C..

Unfortunately, it seems the fight to preserve Roe v Wade will continue.

Since 1995, states have enacted more than 700 anti-choice measures cumulatively. Each of these measures interferes with a woman’s right to make her own private, personal decisions about her reproductive health. And state governments continue to be dominated by anti-choice politicians, which likely means the trend of legislative attacks on reproductive freedom will continue in the year ahead.

NARAL outlined the War on Women in the report.

Anti-Choice Attacks:

  • 25 states enacted 42 anti-choice measures in 2012. (Readers of the book will note that the numbers are slightly different. That’s because in late 2012, two states enacted two additional measures.)
  • Arizona enacted the most anti-choice legislation in 2012, with four measures. Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin each enacted three anti-choice measures.
  • Since 1995, states have enacted 755 anti-choice measures.
  • 24 states earned a “F” on the women’s reproductive rights report card.

Pro-Choice Progress:

  • 6 states enacted 8 pro-choice measures in 2012.
  • Vermont enacted the most pro-choice legislation in 2012, with 3 measures.
  • 2012 marks the eighth year in a row that Colorado has enacted a pro-choice measure.

Keenan also pointed out states like Arizona, Georgia, and Louisiana enacted bans on abortion care after 20 weeks that are clearly unconstitutional and designed as a challenge to Roe v. Wade. And states like Alabama, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin enacted abortion-coverage bans in the states’ health-insurance exchanges.

“This is why elections matter,” Keenan continued. “Women continue to face legislative hostility in states dominated by anti-choice politicians. We may have won some battles but anti-choice politicians attack this right relentlessly – if we allow them. It is incumbent upon us to educate the public on these anti-choice tactics and hold these extreme politicians accountable.”

All I can say is that if you’re running for office (especially as a Democrat) and you are part of the attack or just stay quiet, you are doing a disservice to women.    If you are serious about running for office, any office, then you better be in tune with this issue.

Final Day of Early Voting – SD6

Well, if you live in SD-6 and you are not one of the just over 7,000 who have cast a ballot in the special election, then that means you’re part of the 97% (or so) who are either suffering from election fatigue, don’t like any candidates, or are just plain apathetic and probably won’t even read this post. Or maybe you will come out in droves today and Saturday.

Today is the last day that you can cast a ballot at any early voting location. Come Saturday, you will need to vote in your assigned precinct location.

Hopefully, the Ethics Commission will post the 8-day finance reports to see what kind of money has been spent in the run-up to election day. Waking up to the local news this morning, I did catch at least one-ad each for the well-financed candidates. Whether the ad buys were in the first report or these are new expenses, we shall see.

With close to or over a million dollars being spent by the candidates and over $400K by the county to put on this election, let’s hope for a big jump in participation.

Kuff has numbers and projections.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña: Politics is the Art of Compromise?

by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña

The most overused saying among liberals is that politics is the art of compromise, and it gripes me to no end. Liberals repeat it with such smugness as if they were sages. I find it so pretentious — to the point that I consider it a bunch of toro dung.

It is like saying that politics is the art of the possible, an equally absurd, pretentious and irritating notion. What happened to the impossible dream? Shouldn’t we always strive for something better?

If we have to have a standard wouldn’t a better saying be that politics is the art of principle after all politics is not a game. It involves people, and consequences.

In my own little world, I have seen too many Chicana/o studies programs compromised out of existence with administrators convincing Chicana/o negotiators that it was impossible to give them what they wanted, not enough money. At the same time the president of the institution draws down $300,000 a year, and gets perks such as housing, a per diem, and an automobile. One recently retired university president that I know sits on two corporate boards of directors, and draws down an extra $300,000.

This is academe’s version of one potato two potatoes three potatoes, more.

The game gets ridiculous. Faculties at institutions of higher learning supposedly have shared governance. In fact, every committee is merely advisory to the president who can accept or reject the recommendations.

For the past several years California State University professors have been playing footsies with the administration or better still the chancellor’s office over the budget and pay raises. This is a Catch-22, however. Faculty members also say that they are concerned about the escalating tuition; note that students pay as much as 80 percent of instructional costs. So where is the additional revenue going to come from? Professors love students, but not enough to forgo raises or out of principle go on strike to trim back the number of administrators and the presidents’ salaries.

It really gets ridiculous at times. At Northridge, Chicana/o studies was threatened that if it exceeded its target enrollment that the department would be penalized and its budget cut. Our former chancellor wanted to pressure the state legislature to cough up more money by turning back students. The administration minions at the disparate campuses justified this by repeating the party line that numbers do not count. In fact they laid a guilt trip on us saying that Chicana/o studies professors we were not team players because we were admitting too many students.

As a result, this semester we have a crisis. The institution did not admit enough students; the rationale was if we had fewer students, then we would spend less. But it does not work that way. At state universities even the allocation for paper clips depends on how many students you are taking in. That is why most departments are now being told to beef up their enrollment or lose a portion of their department budget.

Good old compromise got us there as well as the illusion that faculty has power. In fact there were other possibilities. Compromise was not necessarily one of them.

The word compromise is insidious. President Barack Obama has been trying to play Henry Clay and show that he is a great compromiser – forgetting that he is not bargaining for a used car.

President Obama compromised and got his Obama care package. A half a loaf is better than none my Democrat friends repeated, smiled, and nodded. But, according to the New York Times, “Americans continue to spend more on health care than patients anywhere else. In 2009, we spent $7,960 per person, twice as much as France, which is known for providing very good health services.” An appendectomy in Germany costs a quarter of what it costs in the United States; an M.R.I. scan less than a third as much in Canada.

The U.S. devotes far more of its economy to health care than other industrialized countries. It spends two and a half times more than the other countries do for health care; most of it is funneled through giant health corporations. Why do we pay more? Could it be because Obama compromised on the single payer?

I have been to France, Spain and Germany; I can testify that the quality of care is on a par and often better than in the U.S. and the earnings and prestige of doctors is equivalent or better.

Why is this? Could it be that they don’t have giant medical corporations making tremendous profits? Just Blue Cross of California has annual revenue of $9.7 billion. This not for profit corporation made $180 million in excess profits in 2010.

The only conclusion that I can reach is that Obama was suckered into believing compromise was necessary and that politics was the art of the possible instead of sticking to principle.

Let’s be honest for a moment, immigration was put on the back burner until the Democratic party realized that in order to win that Latinos better be invited to the dance.

However, Mexican Americans, Latinos or, whatever we call them, play the same ridiculous game as white people do.

Go to the neighborhoods, ask Central Americans if they are Mexican, and they get insulted. Ask Cuban Americans if they are Mexican, and they get insulted. Many resent the fact or want to ignore that Mexican Americans make up two-thirds to 70 percent of the Latino total.

So, let’s not rock the boat, Mexicans will call any politician with a tenth Mexican blood a Latino and call them compadre. They are happy to be called anything but Mexican.

I don’t know how we are going to get out of this bind when we have to vote for people without principles. Are we going to support a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz because they have Spanish surnames, or George Prescott Bush because his mother was Mexican, and forget that he was once called ”the little brown one.”

It gets ridiculous — like that game played in the Huffington Post’s Latino Voices that features articles asking, do you know that this actor or actress has Latino blood? It is as stupid as the game of compromise or the art of the possible.

It reminds me of my grandfather and uncles who worked on the railroad (Southern Pacific) for fifty years who would say that a certain foreman was simpatico, they just knew he liked Mexicans. Why shouldn’t he? Mexican workers bought his lottery tickets and junk jewelry.

Support should be based on principle. I support Central and Latin Americans not because their numbers swell opportunities for politicos, but because they have suffered European and Euro-American colonialism, and come to this country for a better life. They deserve what every other human being should have.

We are not going to get a thing through compromise. Every time I look at John Boehner, Eric Cantor and their buddy in the Senate who reminds me of the bloodhound Trusty in “Lady and the Tramp”; I am reminded that a fair deal is based on integrity. I would not want any of these jokers to come to dinner – not in my house!

Before we start compromising and calling anyone our amigos remember that Boehner called a 2007 bipartisan immigration bill “a piece of shit.” This is what he thinks about us. I use the generic word Latino because I care about my Latin American family – not because I want to be Italian.

Obama is now at a crossroads. He is going to have to make a decision, and that decision does not only encompass immigration and gun control. It is about whether politics is the art of compromise, the art of the possible, or whether it is about principle.

My advice is to tell his three Republican amigos to take a hike and mint the damn trillion dollar coin. It is better to be right and to be respected than to be liked.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

SD-6 – The Money

Well, the Ethics reports are in and, not surprisingly, there seems to be a lot of money going in and going out in this race, especially through the campaigns of Sylvia Garcia and Carol Alvarado. (I prefer to look at the raw numbers report than go page-by-page).

A look through Garcia’s finds money from unions and lawyers, along with many individuals. A look through Alvarado’s finds money from cops, firemen, and a lot of corporate/business PACs, and of course, individuals. I can’t say I’m a fan of big business/corporate PACs, but they usually do give to sitting State Reps. I couldn’t help but notice a few Republican colleagues giving Alvarad0 some checks, as well as local Republicans like Bob Perry. I guess that’s all part of the game, too, if you like that sort of thing. None of Garcia’s contributions set off my “There’s a Republican in the room!” alarms.

For Garcia, though, beyond what she’s expended, there is a huge $106K in-kind contribution from Texas Organizing Project PAC for the ground work (canvassing and phones) they are doing for the campaign as part of their endorsement. Obviously, this freed some cash to spend on the TV ads, which cost almost $135K.

From the looks of it, they are both running some disciplined campaigns with the usual expenses–consultants, signs, direct mail, printing, staff.

The bigger story is the fact that over $700,000 (and if you include the TOP in-kind, a lot more) has been spent and both are left with over $700,000 with 8 10 days until election day (of course, they could raise some more in the closing days, too). Thus far, and as of Tuesday, a little over 3,400 souls have voted, including 1,776 ballot-by-mail voters. In other words, less than 1,700 have voted in person, thus far.

There are seven more days of early voting left in which SD-6 voters may vote at any of the early voting polling locations.

As far as the rest of the candidates go, other than the big filing fee, not much else has been spent that could even compare to the top-two funded folks. But they have a lot of heart, I’m sure.

Update:

Wednesday Numbers – Today was the best day, thus far, of in-person voting in the SD-6 Early Voting period. One number that stood out was participation at Ripley House, which had 120 votes today after a low of 24 on Tuesday. I wonder if Joaquin Martinez’s Flash Vote helped?

Hopefully, this upward trend will continue.

Update:

Kuff has a more obsessive exhaustive take on the money. And Marc covers everyone who is obsessed with SD-6).

Thompson Files Liquor on Sundays Bill

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) shot up the DosCentavos.net rankings for favorite legislator with her filing of a bill that would allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays.

Texas could potentially gain $7.5 million in new revenue every other year if the Sunday ban were lifted, according to a 2011 Texas Legislative Budget Board analysis.

Texas is looking for all sorts of new revenue without raising taxes and this is one idea that I enjoy. I don’t know how many Sundays I’ve spent thinking, “If only I could go buy a new bottle of Makers Mark today.” Seriously.

Beyond the love of libations, this just makes sense. If anything, I wish Texas was more like New Mexico, where I can walk into any Walgreens to buy a bottle of something. But this is definitely progress.

NHPO Hosts SD-6 Forum

One side of the room.

The National Hispanic Professional Organization is known for a lot of good things, and putting on candidate forums is one of them. At Doneraki’s Gulfgate this morning, almost all of the candidates showed to shake hands, visit, and give a short stump speech, while the folks enjoyed some good food.

Sylvia Garcia, the former commissioner, was an early arrival and visited for a bit with attendees; unfortunately, she had to leave early for a funeral. In her place was surrogate and community activist Robert Gallegos. Gallegos spoke about Garcia’s record of serving East End constituents, especially regarding the METRO rail underpass for which she advocated and recently became a topic promoted in her direct mail campaign. Gallegos stated that Garcia “was the only elected official who responded” when the community stated its position against a proposed bridge.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado spoke on the various issues citing that people are “tired of negative campaigning.” Alvarado is in favor of restoring cuts made by the Republicans to education to the tune of $5.4 billion. She also gave mention to the need for vocational training because of the lack of a skilled workforce to fill Port jobs. Higher Education was also a topic in which she called for controlling tuition. Alvarado called for the Legislature to lower college tuition and ensure grants are available to those who need them. Finally, health care was another topic as Alvarado called for Republicans to vote to expand Medicaid to increase access to health care. One particular issue within health care was the cuts to reimbursement of Medicaid to nursing homes, thus affecting an increasing number of elderly Texans.

Republican Break:  The two Republicans in the mix took turns defending vouchers, Rick Perry, and stayed within the confines of their Republican Party platforms. The Latina Republican, Dorothy Olmos, explained that she became a Republican because of her “Christian values,” which left me wanting to ask, “Are you saying my 82 year-old Chicana mother who has been a Democrat for 64 years, and prays more than most Catholic nuns is not Christian?” Anyway…

Joaquin Martinez agreed with what most have been saying regarding schools, but believes that community’s leadership not changing is one of the problems. Stating there is a sense of complacency, he points to the low voter turnout as an effect, which has given him the drive to get involved and do something. He also pointed to his experience at a local nonprofit in which he has directly affected lives positively. Martinez called for a new conversation with new leadership that will create a support system community-wide.

Martinez’s challenge that the lack of change in leadership is the problem brought a couple of challenges from the audience. One East End resident defended the work of the late State Senator Mario Gallegos and his effectiveness. Martinez stated that he intends to continue the work of the Senator through community conversations, thus, involving the people in the process.

Rodolfo “Rudy” Reyes continued the line of ensuring health care for the elderly,  expanding Medicaid and supporting a return of the $5.4 billion cut to education by the Republicans in the Legislature, as well as the creation of student support programs. Reyes also pointed to community complacency as a cause for low voter turnout which is not helped by the Houston Chronicle’s lack of reporting on all candidates; instead, it only reports on the two major candidates. He pointed to people he has visited in his blockwalks wanting change in their leaders stating that the people were not well-represented. This also brought a challenge from the audience with a defense of the late Senator. Reyes disagreed.

The Green Party’s Maria Selva spent her time promoting alternative and green energy as a means of expanding the energy industry and bringing more jobs to the area. Selva stated that the Transcanada oil pipeline will negatively affect the area, and that big oil’s interest must be curtailed with campaign finance reform; pointing to legislation being promoted by Senator Ellis and Rep. Senfronia Thompson. Selva supports expanding Medicaid. Selva also stated that she boycotted a Transcanada-sponsored debate last week.

Selva was asked what the Green Party represented. Stating that the Democrats have moved to the right, the Green Party has taken up the positions that the “old” Democratic Party used to support.

Also given time to speak to the group were Theresa Gallegos, widow of the Senator, and Lillian Villarreal, sister of Senator Gallegos. Both thanked the organization for hosting the forum, as well as thanked the candidates in the running. Mrs. Gallegos stated her strong support for Carol Alvarado, which is also what her late husband wanted.

There weren’t a lot of fireworks, but what was exhibited was a clear divide between experienced candidates and the new guard of candidates in the running. I have noticed the frustrations from the grassroots campaigns who have been trying to earn some name recognition in this vast district (Over 200,000 registered voters), while the two well-funded candidates have been running your usual disciplined campaigns. It makes sense that mainstream media will gravitate toward the moneyed campaign. That’s just political reality, unfortunately, but not a reason to simply stay out.

NHPO provided a forum for all to speak with equal time and should be commended for doing so. We all have our favorite candidates, me included, but when we have these kinds of forums (live or online), then it is important to be as inclusive as possible. Given my lefty attitude, I’ll sell the lefty side a lot more than anything else. (C’mon, I’m just a Chicano blogger!)

Save the Date: Trapped in the System: Mass Incarceration in Texas, 2/10

Thanks to our friends with the ACLU of Texas for providing us the info.

February 10 at 2:00pm until February 11 at 12:00pm

Register today: www.aclutx.org/lobby

Texas has 94 university campuses and 114 state prisons (not counting jails, federal lockups, and juvenile facilities.

With more buildings to lock people up than to educate people, Texas must change its priorities. Ensuring that our children have a good education is one of the best ways to keep them out of the criminal justice system. Between 1980 and 2000 the ratio of growth in Texas corrections to higher education spending was 7:1.

Join us in Austin Feb 10-11 for Trapped in the System: Mass Incarceration in Texas. We’ll discuss the causes of mass incarceration, how we can reduce it, and how the criminalization of communities in Texas has led to skyrocketing incarceration rates.

Day 1 | Symposium
We’ll discuss the causes of mass incarceration and how we can reduce it. Followed by a social reception.

Sunday, February 10, 2pm-5pm
Radisson Hotel & Suites Austin Downtown
111 East Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78701

Day 2 | Lobby Day
You’ll get a chance to go to the Capitol with us and meet your lawmakers.

Monday, Feb 11 9am-12pm
Meet at Texas AFL-CIO, 1106 Lavaca Street, Austin, TX 78701

Register: www.aclutx.org/lobby