This week’s political narrative rehabilitated TX Republicans

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Thanks to two friends at lunch this week who planted the seed for this piece.   

This week, the Texas Legislature gaveled in, now open for official business over the next five months.

The GOP’s principles and priorities are well documented by the state’s major news organizations, ahead of and after a news conference held by the GOP leadership on Wednesday. The narrative coming out of this week was the Republican Party is now going to be productive and not get sidetracked with distractions on social issues, like bathroom bills.

Certainly, in the minority, progressives will be playing defense and hopefully work in tandem with reasonable Republicans to make all Texans’ lives better. But what’s our plan and priorities for the session?

We spent some time – not a lot – Googling around for the Democrats’ legislative priorities. Couldn’t find anything. Either the press isn’t reporting on it, it doesn’t exist, or it’s buried somewhere and you have to dig for it.   

The Center for Public Policy Priorities, the liberal think tank out of Austin, has its own legislative agenda. But we know where to look. Most people don’t. Plus, CPPP’s is a purely policy agenda — not a political one.

After leaving Texas for a number of years and coming back, I have seen the defeatist mood infecting some in the progressive legislative world. It’s understandable after decades of being in the minority.But this is a new day. Politically we’re winning. There’s a lot of momentum from last year to keep going.

The Texas Organizing Project sure is. They tweeted Thursday, ” “Even though Election Day was months ago, Texas Organizing Project is still knocking on doors and making phone calls to low turnout populations, such as low- and middle-income black and Latino citizens in three of Texas’ largest counties. Its members are getting back to people they called on during election season, thanking the unlikely voters for casting a ballot, and inviting them to meetings with policy experts on personally relevant issues such as housing, education, immigration, and criminal justice.”

But this is one organization. There’s no centralized nervous system putting forth a game plan, exciting the grassroots troops or trying to win the political argument.

Here’s a crack at a progressive legislative agenda that is sellable; it’s not a policy paper, in the weeds, on purpose. It uses plain English, not policy speak that’s often in Japanese.

Health care: Texas should pass its own health care bill protecting pre-existing conditions. No one should be denied health insurance for a pre-existing condition like cancer or asthma in a state that has the highest uninsured number of people in the nation.

Criminal Justice Reform: The TX justice system is royally screwed up. It’s racially biased and throws people in jail for everything, including low-level non-violent offenses and certain drug offenses. Smart reform is doable, beginning with decriminalizing a small amount of weed.

Education: The quality of public education got worse on Republicans’ watch. It’s time the state invest more dollars in public education and provide incentives for the nation’s top teachers to move to Texas. We should have the best public school teachers in the U.S.

Stop discrimination: The Tea Party loves to cook up bills to attack and marginalize various groups of people who aren’t white, straight, and male. We will stop those efforts.

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