Discrimination

Last week, SB 4, the “show me your papers” bill was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. It’s surreal. It’s disgusting. 

The result of this misguided law: local law enforcement and college campus police will now serve as de facto immigration officers, driving many members of our community deeper into the shadows. This law, which was billed as a pro-public safety measure, will make our neighborhoods less safe. Don’t just take my word for it, here is what Arlington Chief of Police Will Johnson wrote about the measure in a recent editorial:

“This will lead to distrust of police, less cooperation from members of the community and the belief that they cannot seek assistance from police for fear of being subjected to an immigration status investigation.

“Distrust and fear of contacting or assisting police has already become evident among immigrants here legally as well.”

This was the concern shared by many in law enforcement before the addition of a Tea Party Republican amendment, which turned an already-bad bill into something much, much worse. As a result, Texas has now become a “show me your papers” state, the consequences of which will be felt in our neighborhoods, in our schools and colleges and reflected in our state’s economy.

Since day one, this bill has had one goal — to discriminate against a specific group of people for purely political gains.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this, as our state’s Republican leaders have a long history of passing measures found to have discriminatory intent. In just the past two months, three federal court rulings have highlighted how the Texas Legislature has systematically discriminated against minorities: 

  • March 10th ruling: Texas Congressional districts drawn in 2011 were drawn with discriminatory intent
  • April 10th ruling: Photo voter ID law was passed with a discriminatory purpose
  • April 20th ruling: 2011 Texas House district map — “map drawers were motivated in part by an intent to dilute minority voting strength”

So what’s the Republican response to these rulings?  It’s to pass measures like SB 4, further harming minorities and dividing our communities.

Chris

Photo credit: Texas AFL-CIO

Halt Investments in Russia

Today, I filed HCR 128, urging Congress to halt investments in Russia until federal investigations into election tampering and related interference have been completed.

Regardless of political party, we should all be outraged that the Russian government meddled in our presidential election. It’s time for Congress to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and his allies that playing games with our elections comes with a price.

Since last summer, evidence has been mounting regarding Russia’s involvement in the 2016 United States presidential election.  Instances of interference include hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computer network, attacks on state voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois, and sharing data with the controversial website, WikiLeaks.

In his March 20, 2017 testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that his agency is investigating Russia’s actions. At the hearing, Comey stated that the Russians were successful in injecting “chaos and discord” into the 2016 presidential election and that our country should expect future attempts by the Kremlin to meddle in our elections. During his testimony, Comey also indicated that his agency is investigating coordination between the Russians and the Trump Campaign.

Click here to read the full text of HCR 128. 

Voter ID Ruling

Rep. Chris Turner Statement on Voter ID Ruling
Today, for the fifth time since 2011, a federal court has ruled that the Republican leadership in Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters.  It’s shameful that GOP leaders have been found to have intentionally discriminated at all – let alone more than in any other state in the country this decade.
It is past time that Republicans drop their defense of discriminatory photo ID laws and redistricting maps, both in the courts and in the Legislature.

Budget Recap: Democrats Succeed

Budget Recap: House Democrats Successfully Fought to Put Texas Kids and Families First

House Democrats succeeded in making the House version of the budget better.  Led by Rep. Sergio Muñoz and Rep. Ina Minjarez, House Democrats successfully added more money to Child Protective Services and foster care and Rep. Muñoz added an additional $21.5 million towards reversing the cuts made to acute therapy services for kids. Rep. Garnet Coleman secured vital funding for mental health crisis services.

Additionally, Rep. Abel Herrero led the successful passage of an anti-voucher amendment, sending a clear message to Governor Abbott and the Texas Senate that we want more funding for our local public schools, and that voucher schemes are going nowhere in the Texas House. This was on top of the already important efforts of Democrats on the Appropriations Committee who worked tirelessly to increase funding for student financial aid.

As with every state budget, with the good also comes the bad. At the end of the debate, after Democrats successfully killed an attempt to gut the Texas Dream Act, House Republicans succeeded in passing one of several anti-women’s health measures they had proposed. Sadly, this was no surprise, as Republicans have conducted an all-out assault on women’s health for years.

Democrats brought forth several amendments to increase funding for family planning services and to stop wasting money on ineffective, so-called crisis pregnancy centers. It’s low-income, rural and minority women who are paying the ultimate price for these tactics. House Democrats will continue to fight for access to needed health care for all Texans.

Lake Arlington Injection Well Hearing Request

This week, I requested the Texas Railroad Commission hold a hearing in Arlington regarding an application for a proposed fluid injection well adjacent to Lake Arlington. In response to the request, I released the following statement:

“I have heard from many members of the community who oppose the proposed injection well – for fear that its proximity to Lake Arlington could harm Arlington’s municipal and industrial water supply. Injection wells have been linked to seismic activity, which is also a concern. The people I represent deserve a chance to air their concerns at a public hearing – and not have to travel to Austin to do so. If the Railroad Commission wants to make decisions about what happens in our backyard, they should travel to our backyard and listen to the people who will be most impacted.”

If permitted, the well would inject oil and gas waste into a porous formation less than 100 feet from the edge of Lake Arlington and near the Arlington dam. Concern has been expressed that if seismic activity were to occur, and the dam breaches, flooding could have devastating effects on parts of North Texas.

To read the letter, click here: http://votechristurner.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/CTurner_RRC_HearingRequest_3.13.17.pdf

House Files School Finance Bill

This week, I stood with members of both parties to support HB 21, which would address our broken public school finance system and increase funding for our schools by $1.6 billion. I am honored that Chairman Huberty, who heads the Public Education Committee in the House, asked me to be a joint author on this important piece of legislation.

Turner urges Paxton to stop fighting foster care suit

Citing sex-trafficking series, Texas Dem urges Paxton to stop fighting foster care suit

BY EDGAR WALTERS AND NEENA SATIJA
FEB. 22, 2017 1:37 PM

After a Texas Tribune series exposed the connections between the state’s embattled child welfare system and child sex trafficking, the chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus has asked state Attorney General Ken Paxton to stop fighting a federal judge’s mandate to overhaul the agency charged with protecting vulnerable kids.

“If there was ever a call to action for state officials to get serious about reforming foster care, this was it,” state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, wrote in the letter to Paxton on Wednesday.

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit filed against Texas’ child welfare system was a victim of sex trafficking. Turner’s letter cited The Texas Tribune’s reporting in the “Sold Out” series, which found there could be tens of thousands of child sex-trafficking victims in Texas today — and that many of them have had some contact with the child welfare system.

“Those stunning facts should outrage every single one of us,” Turner wrote.

Since a federal judge ruled in late 2015 that the long-term foster care system had violated children’s constitutional rights by placing them at undue risk of harm, Paxton has objected to or worked to delay various court-ordered reforms.

The judge’s scathing opinion held that Texas had violated the constitutional rights of some 12,000 children in permanent managing conservatorship, the state’s designation for children who cannot find lasting homes with relatives or adoptive parents and are unable to be reunited with their biological families. U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled that children “often age out of care more damaged than when they entered.”

“Since the ruling, you and your office have inexplicably spent an inordinate amount of time, energy and money on pointless and unsuccessful appeals and objections,” the letter said. Paxton’s most recent objection, which the court rejected last week, is the latest example of “legal foot-dragging,” Turner wrote.

Paxton and other top Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have argued the class-action lawsuit against the state a waste of money, that the federal judge overstated foster care’s deficiencies and that the state can make its own decisions about reforms. Paxton’s office has called the ruling a “misguided federal takeover of the Texas foster-care system.”

Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. In previous comments about the lawsuit, Paxton has said he is obligated to defend the state, not make policy.


Link to letter to Attorney General Paxton: 2.22.17_CTurner_LettertoAGPaxton_CPS.FosterCare

Statement on Trump Deportation Plan

Rep. Chris Turner, Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, released the following statement regarding President Trump’s plan to use the National Guard as a deportation force: 

“President Trump’s draft plan to use the National Guard as a deportation force is dangerous and un-American.  As Commander-in-Chief of Texas Military Forces, Governor Abbott needs to speak up immediately and let the President know that Texas will play no part whatsoever in this operation.

“Two years ago, Governor Abbott insulted United States military special forces when he expressed angst about Operation Jade Helm, a routine training exercise.  Given the Governor’s past concerns about federal overreach, I’m confident he will swiftly and categorically reject and condemn this dangerous plan from the Trump Administration.”

 

Photo credit: Darren Hauck / Getty Images

Honored to Serve

It’s only Thursday and it’s already been a busy week.

On Monday, my colleagues chose me to serve as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. I am honored and humbled that my fellow House Democrats have put their confidence in me.

As Caucus Chair, I look forward to working with all of my Democratic colleagues as we focus on strengthening our public schools, creating more economic opportunity for Texas families and standing up to the misguided policies coming from the Trump Administration.

The House Democratic Caucus has a lot of work to get done this legislative session, but by working together, I am confident we will protect the best interests of Texas families.

It didn’t take long before House Democrats were put to work.

On Tuesday, Governor Abbott gave his State of the State address and laid out his priorities for the legislative session.  With so many critical issues impacting our state, it was my hope that Governor Abbott would focus on those issues and largely avoid partisan rhetoric.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. In his speech, there was far too muchHDC Presser focus on right-wing red meat issues and too little on the crisis impacting CPS and foster care or the need for more public school funding. There was no mention of the 60,000 children who may lose access to their speech, occupational or physical therapy due to last session’s draconian budget cuts or the need to spend time and money on expanding mental health services across our communities and state.

Following the speech, more than 30 House Democrats and several of our Senate colleagues held a press conference to respond to the governor’s remarks. If you missed what we had to say, click here.

In reaction to the speech, I also released the following statement:

Governor Abbott’s State of the State address was one of missed opportunities and misplaced priorities. Texas Democrats have one priority – giving all Texans a fair shot at achieving the American Dream. That means investing in our schools, making college more affordable, protecting vulnerable children and making sure Texans can earn fair pay.

Governor Abbott spent his speech largely on partisan and divisive issues that will hurt, not help, the people of Texas. New barriers to women’s health care, attacks on local elected officials, telling Texans how they can and cannot spend their paycheck and denying homeowners the right to hold their insurance company accountable do nothing to move our state forward.

In contrast, House Democrats are ready to focus on our communities’ priorities and to address the real needs of our state, not focus on partisan rhetoric. We want every Texan to have a fair shot at getting a good education, finding a well-paying job and feeling safe in their community.

House Democrats have a lot of work ahead of us and we will fight day and night for our communities and the children of this state, and against the divisive hate-filled rhetoric that is plaguing our political system in Washington and here at home.

Chris

Hate has no home here

Yesterday, several Republican members of the Texas House held a public “briefing” to spread misinformation about members of the Islamic faith in Texas. As a member of the Legislature who proudly represents a community with a large Muslim population, I am disgusted by today’s event.

It’s obvious to me that there is an incredible lack of understanding about and experience with the Muslim community. I invite any of my colleagues to come to Tarrant County and join me for Friday prayer at one of our local mosques. I think it would help open their eyes and minds – maybe even their hearts.

Displayed prominently in my office is a sign which reads, “Hate Has No Home Here.” It never will.

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