The Texas Legislature should be focused on providing real solutions for all Texans.
When we meet, whether in a regular or special session, our highest priorities should always be our state’s kids, economy, health and communities.
Fortunately, Texas House Democrats have answers to the challenges facing our public schools, new Texas mothers, our criminal justice system, and our lagging economy. Bills filed by Democrats during the regular session, as well as the proposals we will file in the special session, can address each of these issues in a way that helps all Texans and their families.
Unfortunately, however, working with House Democrats to find bipartisan solutions is not high on Gov. Greg Abbott’s list of priorities. Instead, he has called a special session focused largely on needlessly divisive and highly partisan “issues.”
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On his 20-item list, the only must-pass measure is a bill to extend the life of several key state agencies, a measure that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick intentionally torpedoed during the regular session with the goal of forcing the Legislature into overtime.
Abbott’s calls for a commission to study public school finance and to extend the Maternal Mortality Taskforce sound good, but the specifics are little more than window dressing on two huge problems. School finance has been studied to death — we need action, not another excuse to procrastinate. And while House Democrats certainly support the continuation of the Maternal Mortality Taskforce, what we really need to do is implement solutions that would actually reduce the number of mothers dying during or after childbirth.
If we truly want to support public school teachers, fix our school finance system and lower property taxes (which the governor claims to be interested in), we must increase the state’s share of the cost of public education.
That’s the only way to drive down homeowners’ property tax bills, more than half of which go to public education. And the last thing we should do is pass a private school voucher scheme, as Abbott and Patrick advocate.
On the issue of maternal mortality, another report isn’t going to keep Texas mothers alive — only a real commitment to increasing their access to healthcare and coverage will do that. Texas House Democrats will file bills that pursue each of these solutions, but we need the participation of Republican leaders to pass them.
Abbott’s special session agenda does not contain a single item that will strengthen our economy or create jobs. Without action, Texas will continue to fall behind other large states like California when it comes to employment, wage growth, and overall economic strength.
We’re already seeing the impact of our governor’s lack of leadership when it comes to our state’s economic health. According to “Governing Magazine,” the once-strong Texas economy has fallen from No. 3 to No. 21 during Abbott’s tenure. In CNBC’s ranking of the top states for business, released this week, Texas is not in the top two for the first time in the 11-year history of the list.
Unfortunately for Texans, Abbott doesn’t see our economy’s slowdown as important as regulating bathrooms and controlling how cities manage 100-year old trees.
It is evident that Abbott and Patrick have engineered a special session that will be about nothing more than Republican primary politics. Their attention and energy is squarely focused on attacking women’s healthcare options, public schools, teachers, local communities and LGBTQ Texans.
That’s bad enough, but it also comes at the expense of focusing on real solutions for all Texans.
Texas House Democrats are ready with the solutions for the real challenges facing Texas. We’re just waiting for Republican leaders to join us in focusing on what matters.
Until they do, Texans will be left behind, and taxpayers will be on the hook for an expensive and pointless special session.
State Rep. Chris Turner represents Tarrant County’s House District 101, which includes major portions of Arlington and Grand Prairie. Turner currently serves as chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus.