August 16, 2017 - End of the Special Session


The session has come to an end (again). Although you might hear from some of our state leaders that this session was a success, quite to the contrary, it was anything but. During this special session, we had the chance to make some real reforms and fell far short.
We had a golden opportunity to restore the cuts made to acute therapy services for children with disabilities in 2015. Since the end of the 84th Legislative Session, we have heard from countless parents of these children on the impact these cuts. Children desperately in need of therapy for things as simple as swallowing food were left without an avenue to receive care. Although the House passed a bill to restore these cuts, it was never added as a debatable subject to the Special Session by Governor Abbott, and the Senate chose not to follow the House's lead. Because this issue wasn't partisan or a headline grabber, Texas' children with disabilities were left out in the cold.
Instead the Senate chose to score cheap political points by prioritizing:
  • More restrictive measures on abortion barring health insurance from covering this medical procedure even in instances of rape and incest,
  • Limiting cities' ability to annex,
  • Regulating which restrooms Texans can use; and
  • Deciding how cities should regulate trees.

Rep. Romero with Rep. Nicole Collier strategizing on the House floor.
Just before the end of Session, we had the opportunity to add about $1.8 billion to our broken Public Education finance system. The House's version of House Bill 21 included:
  • Increased funding for English language learners,
  • Increased funding per student for ALL Texas students,
  • increased funding for Autistic students.
It would have been a huge step in the right direction for public education in Texas - an establishment that has failed our children and our state for far too long.
Unfortunately, once again, the Senate decided to play politics rather than address the real needs of Texans. House Bill 21 came back from the Senate with about $1.5 billion reduced in funding, and they tacked on much-needed money for the Teacher Retirement System healthcare. Essentially, the Senate decided to pit our school children against our retired teachers. The worst part about it is House leadership decided to roll over and agree to the Senate's terms, despite protests from House Democrats along the way.
What I've learned more than anything else over my last two legislative Sessions about a deliberative body is when partisanship rules the debate and decision making, it inevitably ends in poor decisions. This is happening far too often in the Texas Legislature, far too often in Congress, and now, it has reared its ugly head at the Fort Worth City Council. 


My mother,  Maria del Refugio Villavicencio Romero, proudly asking city council to join the lawsuit against SB 4!

To add to my disappointment in the way the Special Session ended, Mayor Price joined four other councilmembers and cast the deciding vote against the city joining the lawsuit over the so-called "Anti-Sanctuary Cities" legislation, SB 4. SB 4 has already begun to push a whole class of residents into the shadows in fear of our own law enforcement. Although Mayor Price continues to claim that Fort Worth is a welcoming city that cares about all its residents, her actions run counter to her rhetoric.
If Fort Worth was truly a welcoming city, it would join every other major city in Texas in this lawsuit against this unjust and soon-to-be-proven unconstitutional law. Fort Worth would stand with some of its most vulnerable residents in saying that every person deserves to feel safe and protected in our community. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and the reasons why are clear as day.
Mayor Price and the four councilmembers that voted against joining the lawsuit only had themselves in mind. They had their own political ambitions in mind. They had the fears of potential political consequences in mind.
And in the end, when faced with what should be an easy moral decision to go against a law that our very own Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald opposes because of its effect on safety in the community, they chose to make the partisan decision. Local elections are non-partisan for a reason, yet our Mayor continues to bring partisanship into decision-making at every turn, to the detriment of our residents.
From my own experience, I can tell you that partisanship stands in the way of good policy making. It stands in the way of effectively and honorably representing our constituents at the local level, and on Tuesday, it stood in the way of Fort Worth standing with its immigrant community.
Partisanship is a top-down mandate from leadership. The time has come for Fort Worth to remember this during our next election and turn to leadership that is geared toward what is best for the residents of our great city - casting aside partisanship in the name of sound and just decision-making. Anything less from our locally elected officials is unacceptable.

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