TLCQ 2014: Laura Nicol

In the First installment of the 2014 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Laura Nicol, candidate for the Texas State Representative, District 133.  She is a Democrat.

Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot? 

LN:  Laura Nicol

TL:  Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)? 

LN:  No

TL:  As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important? 

LN:  Government’s job is the protection and empowerment of ordinary people and their communities. Protection from natural disasters, accidents, and predators (animals, people, and businesses). Empowerment via infrastructure, institutions, and programs that anyone can use to achieve success.

Workers need a living wage, humane working conditions, and affordable housing near public transportation. Families need wholesome food, health care, and social services within their community. Neighborhood schools need full funding and the freedom to teach. Immigrants need legal options and an efficient path to citizenship.

TL:  If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for 2015 legislative session.  Describe how you plan to accomplish them. 

LN:  As State Representative for Texas House District 133, I will fight for full restoration of funding for neighborhood schools, and distribution of resources according to need, not test scores.  I will champion legislation to require every job to provide a living wage, decent working conditions, and regularly scheduled days off.  I will fight to protect communities from endangerment and exploitative business practices by enforcing regulations, requiring independent inspections, and imposing crippling penalties for repeat infractions.  If necessary, I will push for a state income tax to fund these measures.

TL:  A 2013 survey found that 54 percent of Texas voters support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  Expansion is also supported by the Texas Hospital Association.  Without Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution, Texas Hospitals are having to provide over $5 billion dollars annually in uncompensated care to patients who lack insurance.  This leaves Texas taxpayers paying not only for the uncompensated care of our residents, but also paying for expanded healthcare benefits in other states. If elected, would you support Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution for the state of Texas, so we can bring our tax dollars back where they belong?  If not, please explain why.  If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure

 LN:  Yes. If there is suitable existing legislation, I will vote for it.  If not, I will submit a bill.  In addition, I will join other advocates in publicizing the benefits and debunking the feared consequences of Medicaid expansion.

TL:  In the coming years, the state of Texas is projected to have a population boom of historic proportions.  But with more people and more opportunities comes an ever-increasing strain on Texas roads and infrastructure.  Describe your thoughts on what needs to be done to improve Texas infrastructure now so we can plan for a bright future for the state.

LN:  Infrastructure is what individual prosperity is built upon.  But infrastructure rests upon the foundation of environmental health. Water, air, and soil are our most fundamental and essential assets.  Environmental protection regulations must be enforced and continually updated to include new data. Natural resources must be managed for the good of all, not the profit of a few. Once the foundation of environmental health is secure, civilization’s infrastructure can be addressed:  education, health care, housing, transportation, etc.  All must be addressed with the intent to provide the most good for the most people in the long run.  There are fact and evidence based solutions already working out in the rest of the world; we should not let profiteers call the shots.

TL:  What makes you the best candidate for this office? 

LN:  The incumbent is a business man, not a public servant.  He is wealth oriented, stuck in the profit paradigm where money matters most.  He brags about how many private schools are in his district, and voted to both reduce and divert public education dollars, starving our neighborhood schools for the benefit of exclusionary institutions.

I am committed to the health and well-being of all Texas residents; I believe every neighborhood needs good public schools, affordable housing, accessible health care & social services, reliable public transit, and a variety of small businesses providing goods, services, and living wages.  We all do better when we ALL do better.

TL:  When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?  

LN:  Although I no longer sing in a choir, I still lead hymns at my UU church every Sunday.  I read a couple of hours a day.  The exception is when my children coax me into trying out a new video game, which I will play for a couple of months before losing interest.  Several times a year I like to spend a day in the garden, focusing on plants and dirt; it puts everything else into perspective for me.

Thanks to Ms. Nicol for her participation.

Greg Abbott Ordered Armed POLICE RAID of Houston Voter Group

Many across the nation were shocked to see the heavy-handed techniques employed by the police department in Ferguson, Missouri.  In a series of protests, American citizens were routinely threatened by the very officers that were sworn to protect them. No matter what one’s opinion of the case, any time a situation degrades to that level in the United States, it is something that must be investigated to the full extent of the law.

But similar excessive uses of force have been enacted in Texans too, and in their case, they weren’t protesting or putting anyone else’s life in danger.  At the direction of Attorney General Greg Abbott, Houstonians were subjected to a frightening armed police raid, all because they were trying to register voters.  Here’s the exclusive story, as reported by James Drew of the Dallas Morning News

On an overcast Monday afternoon, officers in bulletproof vests swept into a house on Houston’s north side. The armed deputies and agents served a search warrant. They carted away computers, hard drives and documents.

The raid targeted a voter registration group called Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. It was initiated by investigators for Attorney General Greg Abbott. His aides say he is duty-bound to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.

His critics, however, say that what Abbott has really sought to preserve is the power of the Republican Party in Texas. They accuse him of political partisanship, targeting key Democratic voting blocs, especially minorities and the poor, in ways that make it harder for them to vote, or for their votes to count.

A close examination of the Houston Votes case reveals the consequences when an elected official pursues hotly contested allegations of election fraud.

The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.

And the dramatic, heavily armed raid never was necessary, according to Fred Lewis, president of Texans Together, the nonprofit parent group of Houston Votes. “They could have used a subpoena,” he said. “They could have called us and asked for the records. They didn’t need guns.”

To be innocent citizens subjected to a police raid, only to have the charges of any illegal activity dropped is nothing short of persecution.  And to make matters our, the would-be Suppressor-In-Chief doesn’t seem to regret the turmoil endured by Texans working with Houston Votes.  Just recently in the Dallas Morning News, Greg Abbott actually defended the police raid directed from his office…

Attorney General Greg Abbott said Tuesday that his office’s investigation of a Houston voter registration group that netted no prosecutions but left the organization in tatters was justified.

The 2010 investigation, which included an aggressive raid, targeted a group called Houston Votes, which was accused of voter fraud.

“We have a division that focuses on issues like this, and they operate very professional,” he said. “They undertook an investigation of allegations that were made.”

Even those that support Abbott should be taking pause from this. If Greg Abbott’s idea of an “investigation” always means armed cops forcing their way into a home via warrant, there is much to fear for the future of Texas if he gets elected.

The whole situation doesn’t bode well for Abbott’s stated political philosophy either.  There was nothing “Conservative” about the Attorney General’s actions here.  In a city where real criminals roam the streets waiting for their next victim, who could ever conceive that sending an armed law enforcement team to go after a few voter registration forms as an appropriate use of Texas tax dollars?

Before Texans go to the polls this November, they must stop and ask… if Greg Abbott is capable of raiding Texas voting groups, what else is he capable of??  Let’s hope it doesn’t take an armed police raid to find out.

For more, see Brains and Eggs, Nonsequiteuse, Texpatriate and Off the Kuff.

Abbott Suppressor In Chief

University of Houston Receives Accolades for LGBTQ Inclusion

For those that attend, college can be a pivotal time in young adulthood.  During those years, people work to formulate their identity for the first time away from the shadow of their parents, and many of the ideas they may have known as “truth” may be challenged.  In the case of LGBTQ students, college can often be the time when they not only learn who they are, but learn that it is ok to be who they are.  Studies at a supportive, LGBTQ-inclusive university can make all the difference in the world to someone taking this life journey.

Luckily the city of Houston has a pioneer institution when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion, and they have been nationally recognized as such. The University of Houston was recently named one of ‘7 Brave LGBT Campuses in the South’ by The Advocate magazine.  Here’s more from The Advocate on why they chose to highlight UH…

This past year the University of Houston student senate passed the Josephine Tittsworth Act. The student bill is an attempt to address the safety concerns of transgender people on campus. The bill allows transgender students to use their proper name, title, and gender when completing official university documents.

Today the university boasts a full-service LGBT Resource Center with a program director, student staff, a large selection of annual programming, and an LGBT studies program. As stated, the mission of the center is “to launch the next generation of healthy, proud, academically successful LGBTQ citizens, leaders and advocates.” Some of the center’s key programs include a Peer Mentoring Program to help assist newly LGBTQ-identifying students, a speakers bureau, and a brown bag social lunch to help foster relationships between students and faculty. Programs for faculty and staff include the Cougar Ally Training on LGBTQ issues as well as multiple Cougar Ally Lunch ‘N’ Learns, which provide discussions on select LGBTQ issues.

When informed of the news, UH Student Senator James Mateo Lee had this comment…

I’m happy that the work of the University of Houston Student Government Association has been recognized and I think it really shows the impact a small group of students can have. Many of the reasons UH has become more inclusive and welcoming of the LGBT community have been because of small groups of students who have pushed for action from our leaders. It’s a clear indication that even in the South, we can make change happen.

Furthermore, I think this really shows the type of impact student government can have if we work hard and act professionally. This is what student government should aim to do, we shouldn’t be starting public fights with our allies in the Texas Senate like the current SGA president has done.

Lee, along with other University of Houston student leaders and alumni, also played an integral role in the recent passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by giving testimony at Houston City Council, lobbying Council Members before the vote, and organizing support within the community.

In 2008, UH became the first university in Texas to offer an LGBT studies minor, and the program has remained popular ever since.  With support from all levels of the campus community, students can definitely find a place to belong at UH.

Sam Houston Challenges ‘Invisible’ GOP Opponent To Debate

In most statewide election cycles, the typical focus is going to be on some key races… the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and state legislature.  The first two because they are the highest elected officials in the state, and the legislature because they are the ones who represent constituents at capitol, and those who make the laws.

But in Texas, there is another race that sometimes matters more than any of these others, especially for citizens that have to deal with a court of law.  Once elected, the Attorney General set important and far-ranging legal procedures that have a huge effect across the state.  It’s an Attorney General that chooses how and to what extent that punishment for law breakers (or convicted of being a law breaker) will be pursued.  Will the person caught with an ounce of hash have to pay a fine not unlike that associated with a traffic ticket, or will that ounce mean that they have to lose their job, their home, and completely change the trajectory of their life after serving a prison sentence?  More often than not, these life-altering decisions are made by attorneys, and the Attorney General is the most powerful amongst that group.

For all of those listed reasons, it is imperative that Texans know their candidates for the state’s highest legal official.  But as Democratic candidate for Attorney General Sam Houston points out, it’s been quite difficult to locate his Republican opponent Ken Paxton in 2014. Here’s more from Lauren McGaughy of the Houston Chronicle

Democratic candidate for attorney general Sam Houston wants his opponent, state Sen. Ken Paxton, to agree to a debate ahead of the November general election.

Houston is expected to issue the challenge Wednesday at a news conference in Austin, demanding his Republican opponent “quit hiding from the media and the voters,” spokeswoman Sue Davis confirmed.

“To me, this is fair. He’s either going to debate me or explain to somebody why he hasn’t,” Houston said Friday. “How is this guy going to be attorney general if he won’t even address the issues?”

Houston contends his opponent hasn’t made a public appearance in months, ever since Paxton admitted to repeatedly soliciting investment clients over the last decade – a service for which he pocketed up to a 30 percent in commission – without being properly registered with the state as an investment adviser representative.

Paxton’s campaign called Houston’s demand for a debate “desperate”.  But what is so desperate about wanting Texans to know your views on particular issues?  Just like Greg Abbott last week, Ken Paxton’s excuse to avoid a debate sounds like it’s motivated purely out of fear that if Texans learn the truth about him and his views, they won’t agree.

The art of debate and argument is critical to being a lawyer.  If Ken Paxton can’t agree to one debate, then he doesn’t deserve to be the state’s top lawyer. Let’s hope the Sam Houston campaign and Texas Democrats keep up the pressure.


Texoblogosphere: Week of September 1st

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone had a good Labor Day as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Like many people, Off the Kuff was cheered by the ruling in the school finance lawsuit.

The TXGOP had a really lousy week, and it only got worse for Greg Abbott as the Labor Day holiday weekend began. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs doesn’t wonder why the attorney general is running away from debating Wendy Davis, because he can’t say ‘no comment’ when asked about his many scandals in a debate.

Libby Shaw now posting at Daily Kos notes that this week has not been particularly good for Republican lawmakers. The bad includes Texas Attorney General and 2014 Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Not a good week for Republicans, including Greg Abbott.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The economy in Texas has never been miraculous. Bleeding the people dry while stockpiling cash is no miracle, Neglect and Greed.

Make no mistake, Republicans are waging a war against public education. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad that the Texas constitution is standing in their way.

Texas Leftist applauds the Leticia Van de Putte campaign for catching Dan Patrick in a bold-faced lie. He cannot hide from the 2011 education cuts. Plus, we reveal the true reasoning behind Greg Abbott’s ‘Debate and Switch’.

Neil at Blog About Our Failing Money-Owned American Political System asked why Texas Democratic Lt. Governor Leticia Van de Putte would look the other way at vocal supporters of her campaign who voted for the state-mandated rape of the forced sonogram law.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Beyond Bones has everything you need to know about sharks but were afraid to ask.

Nancy Sims examines the feminism of Beyonce.

Newsdesk introduces us to the widely discredited “expert” who coached the state’s witnesses in the HB2 lawsuit.

Ben Sargent solves the GOP’s Latino outreach problem.

The Lunch Tray asks if using junk food tactics to sell vegetables to kids is a good idea or not.

TransGriot has good wishes for the new school year.

Better Texas Blog analyzes the school finance decision.

Nonsequiteuse reacts to the story of Greg Abbott’s partisan witch hunt against Houston Votes.

And finally, the TPA congratulates The Great God Pan Is Dead for its fifth blog anniversary.