The opening of the 83rd Legislature is only a month away — January 8th — and we’re getting a glimmer of what Rick Perry and David Dewhurst will present as their “emergency legislation.” School vouchers, “sanctuary cities” ban and TSA anti-groping legislation. No, I’m not kidding.
Other proposals from the Republicans (which eventually will translate into actual emergencies) include more budget cuts, drug testing for welfare recipients, continued attacks on women’s reproductive rights and further attempts to silence Democrats through redistricting. Same old song.
Most pundits believe Republicans will make school vouchers their No. 1 legislative priority. Sen. Dan Patrick, appointed by Dewhurst to chair the Education Committee, is gung ho about “school choice,” which he has offensively referred to as “the civil rights issue of our time.” He also called it “the photo ID bill of this session” — guess he forgot that the photo ID bill he championed was blocked by the courts because it violates civil rights.
Extreme belt-tightening, even though tax collections are growing about $5 billion ahead of projections and the Rainy Day Fund has swelled to about $8.1 billion, is expected and will further harm public education and basic services. Perry and Dewhurst want the budget to limit spending growth to less than 10 percent — even less than the Legislative Budget Board’s proposed limit of 10.7 percent.
The good news is Texas Democrats picked up seven House seats in the last election, which breaks their suffocating super-majority, and they will be fighting for everyday Texans. We are fortunate in Central Texas to have a progressive delegation that stands up for public education, civil rights, health care and basic services.
Representative Donna Howard fought hard last session for an amendment that would have filled the public education funding cuts ($5.4 billion) with new money from the Rainy Day Fund. She will continue that fight. Maybe, with two-thirds of Texas school districts (including AISD) suing the state for failing to uphold its constitutional duty to fund education, we will see some improvement. We’ll talk more about the session as opening day nears.
On a merrier note, today is our Holiday Party, so I hope you will join the TCDP, the Capital Area Asian American Democrats, Capital Area Progressive Democrats, Circle C Area Democrats, South Austin Democrats and North by Northwest Democrats at 5 p.m. at the AFL-CIO. Remember, the party also includes a charity drive to benefit the homeless, so please bring a gift from the Trinity Center’s wish list:
*Jackets and sweaters (L and XL)
*Warm knit hats, gloves and socks
*Twin-sized blankets and new or gently used sleeping bags
If you don’t have time to shop, just make out a check to Trinity Center (small amounts go a long way) and bring it to the party. See you tonight!
Travis County Democratic Party Chair