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April 8th, 2013:

At the Battleground Texas kickoff meeting

I attended the Battleground Texas kickoff meeting for Houston on Saturday. Houston was one of the last stops on their statewide introduction tour. I estimated about 300 people in attendance; BGTX gives it as 350, which is probably the more accurate number since they have the sign-in sheets. Numerous elected officials were also in attendance, including most prominently Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Gene Green, Sen. Sylvia Garcia, and Rep. Gene Wu. I took the picture embedded in this post from the back of the room; I couldn’t quite fit the whole crowd in, but you get the idea.

If one of their goals was to get people excited about their mission, they succeeded in spades – you could feel the energy in the room. Battleground Texas has done an excellent job spreading the word about themselves, aided in part by a national media that’s fascinated by the idea of former Obama campaign people coming to Texas (“of all places”, they don’t quite say but which you can detect anyway) to work the same magic here as they did in Ohio and Florida. Last week there were stories in the Wall Street Journal and the Economist; BGTX Executive Director Jenn Brown, who led the meeting, said that a reporter from Bloomberg News was also in the state. That doesn’t necessarily mean that local media will follow – I see nothing in the Chronicle, and a search of Google news says that only KTRK, which also had a preview/analysis story by Dr. Richard Murray, provided any reports. Well, we did identify scarcity of media coverage as an obstacle in the breakout session I was in.

The BGTX message is simple: The best way to get someone to vote is for a neighbor or someone they know to talk to them about voting and ask them to vote. Connect what’s important to them to the campaign issues and what the candidates stand for, and help them see that their vote really does matter. Easier said than done, of course, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before that in registering voters and identifying those who will likely by receptive to your message, but that’s what it comes down to, and it’s what was done with so much success elsewhere. We know the potential for this exists in Texas – one of the things that BGTX people like Jeremy Bird have been saying all along is that one of the reasons why they came here to do this work is that there had been so much done in Texas and by Texans in 2012 to help with efforts in other states, and so much desire on the part of these people to be able to do that here. Jenn Brown gave the statistic that 400,000 phone calls had been made in Texas to Florida during the 2012 campaign. The people power is here, it just needs to be tapped.

But again, it’s the personal touch that matters. We went to a party at the home of a couple we’ve been friends with for several years last night. I was telling one of the hosts about the BGTX meeting at the party. He had actually traveled to Ohio (where he’s from) for the week leading up to Election Day last year, working with the Obama campaign on GOTV efforts. But he hadn’t heard about Battleground Texas. I promised to email him information about it. I took that as a reminder of the importance of telling people about BGTX as the first step. Not everyone gets the same information you do, so don’t assume everyone has heard about the same things as you. Start spreading the news now, because it most definitely isn’t too early.

Fort Bend County Commissioners Court supports Medicaid expansion

Fort Bend County, y’all.

RESOLUTION OF THE FORT BEND COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT IN SUPPORT OF EXPANSION OF MEDICAIL) COVERAGE

WHEREAS, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured [24%) and underinsured in the United States and 23% of the residents of Fort Bend County are uninsured, and

WHEREAS, Expanding Medicaid would ensure 1.5 million more Texans get the medical care they need, and

WHEREAS, Medicaid already helps over 2.5 million Texas children, but Medicaid covers only about 225,000 of their parents, and

WHEREAS, Expanding Medicaid would be an economic windfall as every $1 Texas spent Would generate $1.29 in state revenue, increase local government tax
collections by another 51 cents, and save local governments $1.21, and

WHEREAS, Texas hospitals provide over $5 billion a year in uncompensated care, and local county taxes help pay for much of this care; insuring more Texans through Medicaid expansion will lower county costs for this care, and

WHEREAS, Opting out of expanding coverage won’t reduce Texans’ federal tax burden as federal funding for the Medicaid expansion program will simply be
redirected from Texas to other participating states, and

WHEREAS, The federal government will cover the entire cost of expanding Medicaid for participating states during the first three years and will pay no less than 90% of the total cost thereafter. During the period 2014-2017, expansion will bring $27.2 billion in federal revenue to Texas for just $3.1 billion in state investment, and

WHEREAS, Covering the uninsured means better insurance Value for all Texans with private health insurance, and

WHEREAS, Getting parents health coverage is one of the best things we can do to ensure the economic stability and future of Texas families, and

WHEREAS, this Resolution is found to serve a public purpose.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT:

Fort Bend County supports and endorses the full expansion of Medicaid coverage to all Texas U.S. citizen adults living at or below 133% of the Federal Poverty Level, in accordance with the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

This happened last Tuesday. Fort Bend County Commissioners Court has two Republicans, two Democrats, and a Republican County Judge. The resolution passed unanimously. The Central Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce also passed a resolution. We know that Rick Perry isn’t listening to what the people are saying, but as with the protesters on Monday I’m pretty sure he has to be hearing it.

Meanwhile, a reminder that the Affordable Care Act is already helping many Texans, and that Rick Perry isn’t being honest when he says that “only three in ten Texas physicians accept Medicaid”. That’s not quite as egregious as saying that Medicaid would be bad for people who currently have no health care, but it all comes from the same place. Either you want people to have access to health care or you don’t. Expanding Medicaid isn’t the only way to do it, but if you’ve had twelve years in office to find other ways to do it and have failed to do so, you don’t get to claim there are other, better alternatives out there.

Going after human traffickers

This is a great story about Ann Johnson, the Democratic candidate in HD134 last year, who is now back with the District Attorney’s office fighting against pimps and traffickers who prey on kids.

Ann Johnson

Johnson, a 39-year-old juvenile law attorney, is fluent in the language of the street, rattling off facts about Houston’s tracks, where pimps take prostitutes to pick up “tricks” or dates with johns.

She talks about “gorilla pimps” who control prostitutes with violence and “mack pimps” who use flattery, safety and the promise of love to lure prostitutes.

After cementing the relationship with sex, the mack asks the prostitute to help the “family” by selling sex.

That fluency means she can talk to minors about what they’re going through. And she can also explain that world to a jury.

“It’s such a foreign world, a hidden world and Ann knows about it,” said Jen Falk, a prosecutor who helped put Kentish in prison. “She brings such a unique background, especially in talking to victims who typically just get lost in the system.”

[…]

Although domestic child prostitution is not typically considered human trafficking, prosecuting those cases is a top priority and part of a three-pronged attack for newly elected District Attorney Mike Anderson.

“Houston is one of the top five cities in the world for human trafficking,” Anderson said. “We’re going to be busting the people who see this as their business and the mid-management, which are the pimps, and the johns as well.”

Anderson said he expects to see more cases filed against Houston’s cantinas and massage parlors where men and women are brought to Houston from all over the world to work as sex slaves.

“Just as sad, there are runaways here that are recruited with promises of a job or safety and they’re made to be prostitutes,” Anderson said.

After he decided to make trafficking one of his administration’s top priorities, Anderson set out to recruit Johnson. He hired her at a typical chief’s salary of $110,000 a year and said she may soon be creating an entire new trafficking division at the office.

“She’s extremely well respected in that area, she’s passionate about it, and she’s very good at what she does,” Anderson said. “She has a reputation at the courthouse.”

She is also well-known after an unsuccessful campaign last year to unseat incumbent Republican Sarah Davis for House District 134. A Democrat, Johnson lost the race but was widely supported by courthouse insiders, including Chris Tritico, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.

“Every dealing I’ve had with her, when she was a prosecutor before and as a private practitioner has been very positive,” Tritico said. “I think the world of her.”

I had the pleasure of getting to know Ann during her candidacy in HD134, and she is indeed a fine person. I have no doubt that she will do a lot of good in this role. Kudos to Mike Anderson for hiring her, and best of luck to her and everyone in her division for the work they do.

“One person, one vote” upheld

More accurately, a challenge to the constitutional doctrine of “one person, one vote” was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has rejected a conservative challenge to the common practice of counting everyone, not just U.S. citizens, when adjusting the size of voting districts across the nation.

Without comment, the justices let stand a redistricting rule that benefits urban areas like Los Angeles and Chicago that have a higher percentage of noncitizens as residents.

Since the 1960s, the court has said that election districts should be equal in size under the so-called one person, one vote rule. Under this rule, U.S. representatives, state legislators, city council members and county board members usually represent about the same number of people.

But the court had not ruled directly on whether these districts should be counted based on the number of persons who live there or on the number of citizens who are eligible to vote.

A conservative group called the Project on Fair Representation has led the challenge to the Voting Rights Act in a case from Alabama. Its lawyers filed a separate appeal in a Texas case that urged the justices to revisit the one person, one vote rule and say that only eligible voters should be counted.

Their lawyers argued that because of “changing immigration patterns,” the standard method of counting all residents shifts political power “away from rural communities to urban centers with high concentrations of residents who are ineligible to vote.”

The case arose from an appeal by the city of Irving to a federal court ruling ordering them to use single-member Council districts, which would include the creation of a Latino opportunity district. The usual suspects got involved from there to assist the city in its appeal, but they lost every step of the way. As Texas Redistricting and the Constitutional Accountability Center wrote before SCOTUS announced its decision to not hear the appeal, no court has ever accepted the Project on Fair Representation’s argument, as the wording of the 14th Amendment – “equal representation for equal numbers of people” – is quite plain and has always been understood to include people who can’t vote, which at the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment included women. SCOTUSBlog has more.