Tag Archives: Lisa Falkenberg

Final Ballot Language Approved for Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

After months of uncertainty, the ballot language for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.  In a move ordered by the Texas Supreme Court, Houston City Council retooled the measure by a vote of 17 to 0.

Here’s more from Houston Unites

The ballot language is final: On the November ballot, Houstonians will vote “Yes” on Proposition 1 to uphold Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance. 

It’s hard to believe, but in just 68 days, Houston voters will go to the polls to determine the fate of our city’s equal rights ordinance that ensures no one faces discrimination, regardless of race, religion, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Whether or not we win will come down to how many Houstonians turn out to vote—which is why starting now, we have to send the message far and wide that a “Yes” vote on Proposition 1 is a vote to treat everyone fairly under the law.

As discussed previously, the new language is exactly what HERO opponents wanted.  The coalition has already gotten started spreading hate and lies.  But even despite that fact, Houston Unites and supporters of Equality are ready for the fight.

So remember in November…

Vote YES

 

 

And before then, be sure to check out Houston Chronicle journalist Lisa Falkenberg’s epic take down of the Anti-HERO campaign.

 

 

Lisa Falkenberg Receives Houston City Proclamation

Tuesday was a very special day at Houston City Council, as the city’s municipal government took some time to honor the work of one very special Houstonian.  Here’s the story from the Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg was honored by Houston City Council Tuesday after being awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker officially proclaimed June 2, 2015 as Lisa Falkenberg Day in a ceremony in council chambers.

The proclamation, in part, states that the “City of Houston commends and congratulates Lisa Falkenberg for her commitment to exposing problems in local public policies and systems in order to encourage improvements therein and extends best wishes on her future endeavors.”

Lisa’s work is certainly cause for celebration within Houston, as she claimed the first ever Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Houston Chronicle, and the first for Bayou City journalism since Gene Goltz of the Houston Post won 50 years ago.  But above all of the fanfare, Falkenberg’s writing shined important light on the unfairness of how Texas chooses its grand juries.  HB 2150, a bill that would scrap Texas’ current “pick-a-pal” system of Grand Jury Selection, awaits the signature of Governor Abbott before it can become law.  The bill was sponsored by Houston Area Legislators Rep. Harold Dutton and Senator John Whitmire.

So for now, Falkenberg will continue to be Texas news instead of just writing about it.  Congrats, Lisa… can’t wait to see what’s ahead for you!

Feature Photo Credit:  Mayra Beltran of the Houston Chronicle

State Senate: ‘We’re Holding Texas Medicaid For Ransom’

Despite overwhelming cries from across the state, the Texas Senate has once again ignored all common-sense on Medicaid.  Instead of taking critical dollars that Texans are already paying for under the ACA, Austin lawmakers would rather make threats to cut the existing program, unless the Obama Administration meets a plethora of demands.  Here’s the story from Edgar Walters of the Texas Tribune

Leading Texas Republicans on Monday asked the Obama administration for greater flexibility to administer Medicaid — a move that has gotten little traction in the past — while reiterating that they would not participate in an expansion of the program under the Affordable Care Act.

“Any expansion of Medicaid in Texas is simply not worth discussing,” state Sen.Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, said at a press conference.

It’s worth noting that the opposition to ACA Medicaid expansion is coming solely from Republicans in the Senate.  But outside of Austin, the chorus of leaders that support Medicaid Expansion is decidedly bi-partisan.  None of this, however, matters to our “fair” legislature.

The letter Dan Patrick sent to Washington is nothing more than sensational demands that weren’t even granted under a Republican President.  Yet still, this is the conversation that Austin wants to have.  The Houston Chronicle‘s Lisa Falkenberg has more thoughts on that “conversation”…

Far from suggesting ways Texas could expand access to health care, the letter penned by Patrick and Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, suggested only ways to cut services for those currently eligible, 96 percent of whom are children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled.

The letter lamented Texas’ rising Medicaid case loads, without mentioning the state’s soaring population or the fact that children benefit most from the program.

“This trajectory is clearly unsustainable,” the letter says, and then accuses the Medicaid program of continuing to “crowd out” funding for other needs such as education, transportation and water. Last time I checked, it wasn’t poor people or the federal government proposing billions in tax cuts over the adequate funding of education, transportation and water.

In the letter, senators suggest doing away with provisions aimed at covering more babies and children and preventing their coverage from lapsing. It also proposes placing work requirements on able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid, making it seem like there are a large number of layabouts leaching off a government program.

In truth, those able bodies are parents who qualify for Medicaid only because their children do. They make up about 155,000 recipients in a program serving 4 million, according to Anne Dunkelberg, a policy analyst with the nonprofit Center for Public Policy Priorities. Such coverage is temporary and the income requirements are strict. A mother with two children can earn only $4,000 a year – yes, a year – to qualify for Medicaid.

“These aren’t deadbeats. These are moms,” says state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.

As Falkenberg outlines, this letter is far from a request to the Obama Administration.  It’s a ransom note.  Anyone who is hopeful that the Texas legislature is looking to do the right thing by our state would be wrong.  Instead, this week makes clear that Republican lawmakers wish nothing more than to endanger not only our poorest citizens, but state hospitals, and our whole healthcare system.

Let’s hope someone in Austin gets a dose of reality soon, because Texans cannot afford their ignorance much longer.

But don’t hold your breath.

Texoblogosphere: Week of January 26th

Well more than two thirds of the Texas Progressive Alliance thinks this legislative session is off to an inauspicious start as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff reviewed the state of play in the Mayor’s races in Houston and San Antonio.

light seeker at Texas Kaos writes a thought provoking article about how we can create a more inclusive prosperity and save democracy at the same time. The Great Progressivism Debate, Part 2.

The latest developments in the Houston mayoral contest posted by by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had Adrian Garcia dropping hints and Chris Bell throwing his hat in.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is tired of Henry Cuellar acting like a crony capitalist Republican. Why can’t Cuellar represent his constituents?

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The 2/3rds in the Texas Senate is gone…oh well. That’s what happens when 60 percent of 30 percent “govern” our state.

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

Grits for Breakfast interviews Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas.

Texas Vox warns about the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) that Congress recently passed.

Dwight Silverman documents a year of living without cable.

Concerned Citizens contemplates the meaning of the MLK Day march and the #ReclaimMLK movement.

SciGuy has five can’t-miss space events for 2015.

The Lunch Tray concludes that new Ag Commissioner Sid Miller is being deliberately dishonest in his “cupcake amnesty” proclamations.

Minding Houston explains the current state of mental health funding in Texas.

Lisa Falkenberg pens the second-worst poem ever about the end of Rick Perry’s reign as Governor.

 

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(This week’s photo feature is the McFarlane House in Richmond, Texas.  Constructed in the 1880s, the home is now part of the Fort Bend Museum)

Texas Doesn’t Want Everyone To Vote

With the approaching apex of election season, debates over voting rights and procedures are certain to become vigorous.  Last week on Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, I even managed to enter the fray with fellow panelists Russ Capper and Lisa Falkenberg over the issue.  Russ stated that he is clearly in favor of Voter ID, while Lisa questioned the necessity of such laws when in person voter fraud doesn’t seem to be a problem.  You can listen to the segment here if you’d like.

The main point that I attempted on the show was this… If Texas really cared about implementing an effective Voter Law, then they would help people to vote instead of hindering them.

On the issue, I agree more with Lisa’s position.  There simply has not been sufficient evidence to prove that Voter impersonation is a problem. The cases of actual in person voter fraud are so miniscule that we’d have better proof to institute a ‘don’t climb on top of a lightning rod during a thunderstorm’ law to prevent people from getting struck by lightning.  This is a problem that simply doesn’t exist.

Be that as it may, I’m not in total opposition to Voter ID laws in concept.  But Texas’ law is specifically designed to disenfranchise certain groups of voters, while not providing sufficient resources to help them vote or obtain the proper ID.  Alice Speri of Vice News has more on what makes Texas law so restrictive…

The voter ID law is not just discriminatory, Martinez Fischer said — it’s also very short-sighted.

[…]

He called Texas’ voter law the “most stringent, harshest voter identification legislation in the country.”

To put that in perspective, Texas’s voter ID law is seen as being more strict than Alabama’s — the state that successfully challenged part of the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court.

“Alabama is not exactly a hotbed of liberalism, but even their voter ID law is much, much more lenient and permissive than Texas,” Singh said. “In Alabama, you can use a student ID card, or a government card. In Texas, you can’t use a University of Texas ID. A state employee in Texas is not able to use his state government ID card.”

So a student photo ID, or government employee ID cannot be used to vote, but a concealed carry permit can?  That’s nothing more than a veiled attempt to go after what the Republican Party assumes to be their “base voters” while making sure as many non-Republicans as possible get turned away, or are forced to cast a Provisional Ballot.

The only solution that Texas’ stringent law does provide is a new form of ID that can only be used for voting… the Election Identification Certificate, or EIC.  These special IDs are “free” to those that qualify for them, but the birth certificate that you have to purchase before obtaining the EIC is at a cost.  Another problem with the EIC system?  Most people don’t know where to obtain them, and the Secretary of State isn’t helping to change that.  But at least Democrats have noticed and are trying to broach the issue before election day.  Here’s more from the Texas Tribune

More than a week ago, Texas Senate Democrats put Texas Secretary of State Nandita Berry on notice: They wanted her office to get more mobile units on Texas streets to give voters without an acceptable photo ID a chance to get one before November’s election.

One week later, there’s been no movement to do so, says state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

The problem, he says, is that there are not one but two state agencies in charge of putting more mobile units out in the community. The Secretary of State’s office (SOS), which includes voter registration, has to coordinate where the mobile units will go. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) actually owns the mobile units which can issue the new Texas election identification certificates, or EICs.

After trying to get the two entitites to agree on how to do it — and to do it quickly — Watson said late Tuesday that it “appears to me it is a breakdown on both ends.”

Under the state’s voter ID law, residents must present an acceptable form of photo identification for their vote to be counted. Acceptable photo IDs include Texas driver’s licenses or Texas ID cards that have not been expired for more than 60 days at the time of voting, U.S. passports, or military or U.S. citizenship certificates with photos.

Texas Republicans (more like TEApublicans… many don’t deserve to carry the label “Republican” anymore) have led the charge to adopt the nation’s most restrictive Voter ID law.  They do this because they know that having fewer people vote gives them a better chance at maintaining power and codifying their fringe-Right ideology. For those out there that truly consider themselves to be proud ‘Texas Republicans’, the the Voter ID law should give them pause over what their party stands for.

For Texas Democrats, this is all the more reason to prove them wrong in 2014.  If you haven’t volunteered to help get the word out about the changes to voting, please do so.  Try as they may, the Texas GOP cannot hold the state back forever. In 2014, let’s make sure that the TEApublicans get to see what Texas really looks like.

 

 

 

Houston Matters

Last week, I was honored to re-join the folks over at Houston Matters for a particularly deep discussion. We delved into the current developments over Houston’s Non-Discrimination ordinance, the pressures of high-stakes testing for Texas teachers, and transparency accolades for the Texas Comptroller’s office. The segment was hosted by Craig Cohen, and featured myself along with Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle and Russ Capper of the Business Makers radio show.

The show, which is celebrating its 1st anniversary this month, has quickly become a valued news resource for the Bayou City, Greater Houston region, and indeed the state. The young show has made its fair share of news as well, having conducted critical interviews with Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and other influential Texans. I highly encourage you to check it out, and add this program to your daily news fix. Houston Public Media just concluded it’s Spring fundraising campaign last week as well, but it’s certainly not too late to join the cause and support great shows like Houston Matters.