Too little, Too late

As you may have heard, the Trump Administration finally changed their policy of separating parents and children at the US-Mexico border after a massive public outcry. But this is too little too late. The damage has already been done for so many children and families!

The new executive order is still extremely limited, and it isn’t clear at all how children already separated from their parents will be reunited. It also does nothing to reverse the “no tolerance” policy that caused so many families to get separated in the first place.

I can’t imagine the pain and trauma this policy has created for these families. The images of children being taken from their parents, the audio of cries for help, and the talk of “cages” and “tender age shelters” — it’s enough to bring any parent to tears.

Since day one, the Trump administration tried to spin this story. They wanted to shift blame on Democrats and use children as a bargaining tool for their policy agenda — and Governor Abbott remained complicit and silent, except to repeat the false Trump talking points.

Now, Trump only backed down on family separation because of a public backlash that even he couldn’t ignore. It is proof that our voices do matter — so let’s use them to remain vocal, keep up the pressure, and force an end to his anti-immigrant agenda for good.

We must do better.

Woof! Happy Father’s Day

I’m Cora (left), and I’m Cassie (right). And we’re just two dogs on a mission to make sure everyone has a wonderful Father’s Day today.

We know there are lots of dads out there who deserve a big thanks for everything they do, but we want to give a special thanks to our pops — State Representative Chris Turner. Woof! Woof!

Our dad rescued us from the Fort Worth Humane Society, but that’s not the only thing that he’s done to help people (or pooches) like us.

As the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Chris goes to work every day to unite people behind shared values and support policies that help others get ahead. He isn’t afraid to stand up when things aren’t right, and he treats people with respect. (Wait, did someone say treats?!)

Sometimes we miss him when he’s gone doing the people’s work in Austin, but it’s all worth it: Because we know he is changing lives, just like he did by rescuing us!

Thank you for everything, dad. We can’t wait for what the future has in store!

Alone and in pain for 17 hours

The Dallas Morning News recently published a five-part investigative series highlighting the failures of our state’s Medicaid managed care system for the most vulnerable in our state. For Democrats in the Texas House, this is absolutely unacceptable.

Entitled “Pain & Profit,” the reports show some of the most egregious cases of mismanaged care in our state, all in the name of profit for private healthcare companies. In one situation, a woman paralyzed from the neck down faced cuts to how long her aides could help her through each day. This left her alone, unable to move, and in pain for more than 17 hours a day.

Unfortunately, the pain is all too real for 8,000+ Texans who, like the woman above, have medical needs that simply aren’t being met. And complaints are growing — up more than 26 percent — from patients who say private healthcare companies are refusing them services.

This is a failure of leadership, plain and simple. And my Democratic colleagues and I won’t stop fighting to make certain this never happens again.

 

The Ultimate Sacrifice

This Memorial Day, my family and I reflect upon and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation’s freedom.

We can never repay the debt our nation owes to the great men and women who gave their lives, nor can we repay the loved ones who are forever impacted by their selfless acts of courage.

In their memory, we must commit ourselves to making a difference in the lives of others, supporting American ideals, and shaping the future of our state and nation for the better. That’s how we can show our gratitude to the servicemembers we owe for defending us and for giving what President Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”

It is because of their courage and valor that our nation remains the greatest in the world.

God bless Santa Fe

I can’t stop thinking of the students, families, educators, administrators, and first responders affected by the senseless act of gun violence at Santa Fe High School a week ago today. My heart breaks for the victims, survivors, and the inconceivable pain the entire community is feeling in the aftermath of the deadliest school shooting in Texas since 1966.

Schools and churches are sacred places, and we must do more to protect our children. That’s why I welcome the round-table discussions happening around Texas; serious conversations are needed, now more than ever, to effectively address this gun violence epidemic.

But I want to be very clear: the State Legislature has a responsibility to act. We must work immediately to prevent more gun deaths, to stop the loss of life, and to protect our kids.

We can and should start by passing life-saving solutions like universal background checks, reporting requirements for stolen guns and the institution of a safe gun storage campaign.

As a Texan, I am deeply committed to helping our neighbors and communities, especially when tragedy strikes. As a legislator and state leader, I know we need to do so much more to prevent this kind of situation from ever happening again.

Turner Celebrates Opening of the 360 Tollway/Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway

Today, state Representative Chris Turner joined transportation officials and other area elected leaders to celebrate the opening of the much anticipated 360 Tollway and to unveil a plaque honoring civil rights icon Rosa Parks. This project has been a priority for Turner since his first election to the Texas House of Representatives in 2008. Slightly more than half of the ten mile project is located within House District 101.

“With so much growth in southeast Tarrant County and House District 101, this is a critical project for our community and I am honored to have played a role in making the expansion a reality,” said Turner. “I take great pride in seeing Rosa Parks’ name on a major portion of the highway. Naming the highway after such an important figure in our American history not only honors her contribution to the Civil Rights movement, but also celebrates the rich diversity of our community.”

“When I first took office in 2009, one of the first things I heard about in my earliest town hall meetings in Arlington and Mansfield was the 360 corridor.  People would ask how can we get this road built.  The traffic is only getting worse,” said Turner. “That was nearly a decade ago, and when we think about how many more people live in Southeast Tarrant County today and how many more are coming our way, thank goodness this day has finally come.”

BACKGROUND

In 2009, after hearing from constituents about the need to address SH 360, Turner organized the SH 360 Working Group. The group included city and county leaders, representatives from the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA), Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), and the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG). The group met through 2010 and made much needed progress; so much so that the then-NTTA executive director wrote in a letter to Turner that “(the) SH 360 Working Group has been essential to the progress that has been achieved up to this point…”.

After formal agreements between NTTA and TxDOT were signed in 2013, Turner worked to ensure that project funding remained available. During the 2015 legislative session, an amendment aimed at blocking funding for these types of projects was added to a transportation bill. Upon learning that this measure could derail the project, Turner met with the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and other stakeholders, including agency officials, to get an iron-clad assurance that funding would not be impacted and that the project would move forward as planned.

During the 2017 legislative session, Turner authored and passed the measure to name the HD 101 portion of the 360 Tollway the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway. During today’s opening ceremony, Turner unveiled a plaque replicating the marker that has been placed alongside the highway.

The Legislature had granted NTTA primacy – the exclusive right to construct the road – more than a decade ago. Existing service roads will remain non-tolled and have been improved. The new main lanes will mean less traffic and better flow and safety on the non-tolled service roads.

Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway

Today, I joined community leaders to celebrate the opening of the much-anticipated SH 360 South expansion and to dedicate the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway.

This road has been a long time coming and I am honored to have been a part of the effort for several years.  

When I first took office in 2009, I held several town hall meetings where I heard from constituents about the need to extend the main lanes of the highway south of Sublett/Camp Wisdom to keep up with southeast Tarrant County’s growth. Soon after, I put together a working group focused on SH 360 that included city and county leaders, representatives from the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA), Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), and the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG).

The group met through 2010 and we were able to make much-needed progress; so much so that the-then executive director of NTTA wrote, “(the) SH360 Working Group has been essential to the progress that has been achieved up to this point…”.

By 2013, with the groundwork laid and with broad support from the community, NTTA and TxDOT signed a memorandum of understanding with a formal agreement to follow the next year.

There were some hiccups along the way, including a scare in the 2015 legislative session that the House had passed a measure that would have inadvertently prohibited TxDOT from participating in the 360 project, thereby killing the project.  But after a number of late night phone calls, I got an iron-clad assurance from the Chairman of the Transportation Commission that 360 would be built, and we’ve never looked back since.

Last year, I authored and passed the measure to name the portion of SH 360 in House District 101 the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway.  Tomorrow, we will unveil a plaque that reads:

The Texas Legislature has designated this important Southeast Tarrant County road the Rosa Parks Memorial Parkway, in honor of an American hero whose courage helped to change our nation for the better. As a black woman in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, Ms. Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. This act of courage inspired the Civil Rights Movement, which aimed to eliminate racial discrimination and make the American Dream possible for all people. Ms. Parks’ fight for equality and fairness spanned her entire life, as she continued to tackle issues such as affordable housing and public education until her death in 2005.

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free…so other people would also be free.” -Rosa Parks

After years of anticipation and a lot of hard work, 360 South will (finally) open on Friday. It’s going to be a good day for District 101.

Trump’s Favorites

In the early 1990s, after it was apparent that the Superconducting Super Collider wasn’t going anywhere and the federal government was not inclined to reimburse Texas for our initial $150 million+ investment in the project, then-Governor Ann Richards traveled to the White House to pay President Bill Clinton a visit.

Richards confidant Shelton Smith, an attorney the governor had dispatched to Washington to oversee all things related to the Super Collider, recounted this story in Jan Reid’s book, Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards.

Richards and Smith met with the President in the Oval Office.  The discussion became increasingly intense and ended with Richards giving Clinton an ultimatum: “I want you to understand something, pal. You owe me a lot of money, and if you don’t pay it back, I’m gonna sue you.” After some heated back and forth, Clinton relented, saying, “Well, Governor, I guess we’d better get you your money.”

Ann Richards and Bill Clinton were Democrats and political allies. However, as illustrated by this exchange, Richards’ role as the Governor of Texas was more important than politics – that’s why she didn’t hesitate to take on a president from her own party to do the right thing for Texas.

Fast-forward to 2018.  If you’re looking for that kind of principled leadership in Texas today, you’ll be disappointed. As President Donald Trump routinely takes aim at Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick either praise him or shrink from the scene, too timid to utter a word of criticism or pushback.  For example:

  • On Fox Business last week, the anchor suggested to Abbott that he is Trump’s favorite governor. In response, Abbott “beamed” said that he and Trump, “work well together” and then went on to praise Trump for his actions, including inciting a near-trade war with China.
  • As the 2016 Texas Chair of Trump’s campaign, Patrick is no doubt also a favorite. Patrick has called Trump one of the two greatest presidents of all time and said, “He is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met in politics, period. That comes from his business background, his media savvy. Everything that I’m hearing about this guy, I’ve never seen. He’s very impressive.”

All this adulation, while…

  • Trump is adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census for the first time in 70 years. As a result, Texas’ population will be undercounted even more than before (we already rank #2 behind California in the number of people in “Hard-to-Count” populations), which will likely cost the state billions (more) in federal funds for about 300 programs, including Medicaid. For perspective, as a result of the last census, each uncounted person ultimately will cost Texas taxpayers $10,000. From 2011 to 2017, that’s equaled $45 billion. Money aside, the Trump Census plan could also result in fewer seats in Congress.
  • In response to Trump’s tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, China acted in kind, announcing tariffs on 106 commodities, including sorghum, which is grown here in Texas. As we move closer to a Trump trade-war with China, many fear that beef, cotton and soybeans will be next. This could have a devastating impact on our Texas’ farmers and ranchers.
  • Trump is sending over a thousand Texas National Guard troops to the Texas/Mexico border, even though arrests for illegal crossings are at a 46-year low and border leaders have denounced the move. Abbott and Patrick have both praised Trump for this needless and costly political stunt.

I wish Abbott and Patrick would take a page from Ann Richards’ playbook and fight for what’s best for our state, instead of just blindly following a president who is hurting Texas.

Apparently, being on Trump’s team is far more important to them.

P.S. This election year, I am focused on electing more Democrats to the Texas Legislature who will fight Trump’s assault on Texas.  If you agree it’s important we push back on the dangerous Trump agenda, join me in this effort by clicking here

The Census

Last week, the Trump Administration announced it will add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a question that has been absent from the survey for 70 years.

The census, mandated by the Constitution to occur every ten years, determines the number of congressional seats each state gets. The information also guides federal spending based on population and need. If immigrants – and family members of immigrants – feel threatened and don’t participate in the Census, already under-represented communities will suffer even more.

And states with large immigrant populations, such as Texas, will lose out on representation and federal funding.  With 5 million immigrants, more than half of whom are not citizens, Texas will pay a very heavy price.

In a very pointed opinion piece published Monday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Editorial Board spelled it out:

“The census is a deciding factor in distributing hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending for Medicaid, food assistance, housing and other services. Any undercount of our population robs Texas of its fair share of federal funding for these critical programs.

“An undercount may also steal from Texas’ considerable political clout as the state gets ready for political redistricting, a process called reapportionment. Currently, Texas’s Washington delegation numbers 36. Whether we gain additional seats in Congress will be based on an accurate count.”

I would add that for every potential new congressional seat we don’t get, we also lose an electoral vote, reducing our impact in presidential elections.

So, what are our state’s Republican leaders doing about this unprecedented assault on our state?

Senator Ted Cruz celebrated the decision, even though it will hurt the very people he is supposed to represent.

Attorney General Ken Paxton actually advocated for this change before it was announced.

And Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick?  They are both quiet as mice – no doubt afraid to anger the Trump base by doing the right thing for their state.  And remember, Abbott’s the guy who used to brag about how many times he sued the Obama Administration.

As the Star-Telegram said, “It’s a bad idea for the nation. It’s especially bad for states like Texas.”

It used to be that when something was bad for Texas, our elected leaders would speak up, stand up and fight – regardless of party affiliation.  With this group of Republicans leading our state, those days seem like a distant memory.

Texas’ Credit Rating

Last week, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar raised concerns about the future of our state’s AAA-credit rating to members of the Senate’s budget writing committee.

During the hearing, Hegar said“I am actually very concerned…that in the very near future, if we don’t find creative ways to address these very real pressure issues, Texas can be downgraded. I want to make sure we avoid that because that is a black eye on Texas.”

What will a change to our credit rating mean for Texas? It will cost our state more to borrow money and sends a message that we have a fiscally irresponsible government.

The concerns stem from mounting liabilities — expenses that the Legislature has pushed off by using accounting tricks such as postponing payments and low-balling budget projections. Our credit rating is at risk because we have obligations that the Legislature is ignoring, including healthcare, education and transportation. Last session:

  • The Legislature postponed a constitutionally-mandated transfer of $1.58 billion in sales tax revenue to the Texas Department of Transportation
  • Thanks to Dan Patrick, the Legislature continues to under-fund our public education system and didn’t fully address the Teachers Retirement System’s funding shortfall, estimated at $700 million
  • The Legislature intentionally low-balled the Medicaid caseload projection, resulting in a likely $2.5 billion budget shortfall next year
  • The Legislature did nothing to address the Texas Tomorrow Fund shortage of $240 million 

These accounting tricks and gimmicks are not sustainable.  The Legislature is digging a fiscal hole that is increasingly difficult to climb out of.   According to the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, we will begin the next session about $7.9 billion in the hole, and that’s before we spend a dime to help the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Harvey. To top all that off, the Comptroller projects that we’ll have a lot less money to start with than in past years.

Despite all this, there is continued resistance by the state Republican leadership to use the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, — projected to be $12 billion next year — to help address critical health, transportation and education needs. By the way, that’s your money the state’s Republican leadership is hoarding for political reasons.

This isn’t fiscally conservative budgeting; it’s smoke and mirrors. It’s time our state’s leaders start being honest with the people of Texas.

P.S. If you have questions about our state’s budget or the Rainy Day Fund, join me on Saturday, April 14th from 10:00 to 11:30 am at the Arlington Municipal Airport for our Town Hall. Click here to RSVP

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