Texas Democrats believe democratic government exists to achieve as a community, state, and nation what we cannot achieve as individuals; and that it must serve all its citizens.
We believe every Texan has inalienable rights that even a majority may not take away:
Texas Democrats strongly support the Texas Constitution’s recognition that a free, quality public education is “essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people.” Texas Democrats believe a world class education system is a moral imperative and an economic necessity that requires parents, educators and community leaders to work together to provide our children the skills needed to compete and succeed in a global economy.
Texas Democrats believe all children should have access to an exemplary educational program that values and encourages critical thinking and creativity, not the “drill and kill” teach-to-the- test policy Republicans have forced on students and teachers. To fulfill this commitment, Texas Democrats must fight to improve student achievement, lower dropout rates, and attract and retain well-qualified teachers, and must redouble our efforts against those waging an ideological war to privatize and destroy public education.
Democrats also believe it is essential that all Texans have access to affordable, quality higher education and career education programs, with a renewed emphasis on the importance of a full four year college education, and particular attention to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDING
Education must be a budget priority – to assure the promise that “where you start out does not determine how far you can go.” Texas Democrats believe:
Democrats, led by Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte and the House Democrats, fought those cuts and then worked to reverse some of the cuts in 2013, but per pupil funding in Texas schools still ranks 46th in the nation, some $2,600 below the national average and almost $500 per pupil less than it was in the 2008-9 school year. Yet the Republicans call for further education cuts while adding additional unfunded mandates and working to siphon off limited public education funds for inequitable, unaccountable voucher and privatization schemes. Texas Democrats believe these attempts to destroy our public schools must be stopped.
GREAT SCHOOLS, GREAT TEXAS
"Texas needs to ensure that all Texans have the skills and education to be competitive in the increasingly international economy. The future of Texas will be increasingly determined by minority populations, particularly Hispanics, and how well they do, in educational and economic terms, is how well Texas will do.” - Steve Murdock
Texas Democrats believe every child should be provided the opportunity to succeed - not just a select few. The changing demographics of the current and future Texas student population poses new challenges that must be met to keep the Texas economy strong and our communities prosperous. Texas Democratic leaders and candidates have worked with the skilled educators and studied years of respected, peer-reviewed research to develop a platform that will provide
every student that opportunity and meet the challenges facing us today with the same optimism Texans have always shown to meet the challenges of their times.
Great Start: Expand Pre-K and Early Childhood Education
Learning foundations are best established during early childhood. An early education helps to ensure that students from all backgrounds begin to cultivate the skills that will last the rest of their lives. We believe:
Too many young teachers become discouraged and half of new teachers leave the profession within five years, leaving far too many students taught by teachers who are not certified to teach the subjects they are teaching. There are many reasons for this teacher shortage. Texas teachers’ pay averages $7,000 to $8,000 below the national average and 20 percent below private-sector pay for comparable jobs within the state. Under Republican rule, over the past decade teachers and all school employees also have seen their share of health-care costs rise dramatically, while benefits have deteriorated. Surveys indicate that 44% of our teachers must take second jobs during the school year. Budget cuts force Texas teachers to spend $700 a year of their own money – on average – to provide classroom supplies for their students. Democrats believe we must work to attract the best teachers and keep them in our classrooms instead of driving them out of the profession, and we have a plan to help recruit, train, and retain high quality Texas teachers:
Crowded classrooms and an overreliance on high stakes standardized tests leave little time for teachers to teach and students to learn. Three decades of research have consistently shown that smaller class sizes improve student performance. Despite the recent reduction in high school end-of-course exams, high stakes testing in the early grades creates an environment that is an impediment to learning. Recent actions by the Texas Education Agency could raise the testing stakes even higher despite parental and teacher opposition, if TEA is allowed to use compliance with a federal waiver to impose a statewide test-based “Value Added Measure” as a teacher evaluation requirement, despite research that demonstrates such measures are not valid. Texas Democrats believe there is a better way to create an excellent classroom learning environment to help students think critically, be creative and succeed:
Parental and community involvement in neighborhood schools has long been the hallmark of successful public schools. That model offers a blueprint for restoring excellence in public education and provides real local control and accountability that detached, corporate-run schools simply cannot match. The forces of privatization see public education as a profit-making venture and have a three-step plan to take over our schools: cut funding, declare failure, and privatize.
Texas Democrats see public education as a fundamental cornerstone of democracy, where the community educates our children to keep our communities and our country strong. Texas should:
Standardized testing fails to improve education, in large part because we do not have standardized students. Many children who enter school with unique needs have extraordinary potential, if we simply address their needs and provide them an opportunity to succeed. Texas should:
Most retired teachers worked for years with inadequate pay and have no Social Security. Texas Democrats support:
The Republican extremists steering the State Board of Education have made a laughingstock of our state’s process for approving curriculum standards and textbooks that guide what our public school students learn. The damage they have done is no laughing matter. Even a conservative think tank, the Fordham Institute, calls the board’s current social studies curriculum standards a “politicized distortion of history.” Board members regularly dismiss the sound advice of professional educators and insult teachers who dare to speak out on how best to prepare students to succeed in a 21st-century Texas. They also try to censor and distort what students learn about topics such as the contributions of American heroes like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, the struggles for civil and equal rights, and the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting evolution and warnings about climate change. Politicizing our children’s education is unlikely to encourage a company to relocate and bring jobs to Texas. Moreover, Republicans on the board have tried to use the Permanent School Fund to promote pet causes such as charter schooling, while failing in their duty to carefully scrutinize charter-school applicants.
Texas Democrats put the interests of our schoolchildren ahead of politics and ideology. We will realign curriculum and our children’s textbooks with objective reality and the facts of history and science, insist on the exercise of sober fiduciary responsibility for the Permanent School Fund, expose and prohibit conflicts of interest, and insist on due diligence in the screening of charter applicants. We believe fair consideration should be given to small businesses as part of the textbook adoption process.
Texas Democrats believe the State Board of education should listen to subject matter experts, not partisan extremists, in developing curriculum and requirements for textbook content.
MAKING OUR SCHOOLS SAFE FOR LEARNING
Texas Democrats believe students, teachers and other school personnel should be safe from acts of violence and must be protected from bullying. School campuses and functions must be weapon-free and drug-free. We support swift and fair enforcement of disciplinary standards.
Teachers deserve support when they exercise their statutory right to remove a disruptive student from class as guaranteed in the Texas Education Code. We support the Dignity for All Students Act to guarantee safety for all students.
We also support implementation of systematic programs, such as research based anonymous surveys that allow parents, students and all employees to identify specific instances of bullying and school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports, to improve discipline management, which will prevent violence, disruption, bullying, and harassment, and will improve educational outcomes for all students. School must be a place for early interventions that block the cradle-to-prison pipeline—not a place where children who cause trouble are shunted into the criminal-justice system or the juvenile-justice system when behavior interventions have not even been tried.
Texas Democrats have taken the lead in passing legislation to eliminate disparities in discipline based on race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or any other improper grounds. Texas Democrats also have enacted measures to stop indiscriminate use of misdemeanor ticketing for minor infractions on campus, and we have curbed indiscriminate expulsion or placement of students in disciplinary alternative education programs for trivial misconduct. Additionally, Texas Democrats oppose criminalization of school related disciplinary issues particularly truancy. The Texas Education Agency should be charged with investigating any patterns of apparent discriminatory enforcement or non-enforcement of discipline standards, including standards for out-of-school suspension, and corrective action must be required.
Students who are referred to disciplinary alternative education programs should continue to receive strong academic instruction. When a student's misconduct is serious enough to warrant disciplinary placement, the state should make sure that the disciplinary setting – whether a school district's own disciplinary alternative program or a county's juvenile-justice alternative education program – offers a full array of educational and social/behavioral services to help that student get back on track.
Texas Democrats believe all Texans should have the opportunity and be encouraged to pursue affordable higher education at public universities, community colleges, and technical schools. Republican tuition and financial aid policies threaten our ability to meet state “Closing the Gaps” goals essential to our economic future.
Republicans have cut general revenue funding for colleges and universities cumulatively by almost $800 million since 2009 from the 2008-9 school year level of funding, despite dramatic growth in the number of students. Worse still, they substantially cut financial aid at the depth of the Bush Recession—precisely the time when the growth in students was greatest and their financial resources were lowest. Though Democratic lawmakers in 2013 restored funds that had been cut from TEXAS Grants, the Republican budget’s overall funding for financial aid is still
$134 million less than the appropriation for 2010-2011.
Republican “tuition deregulation”—insidiously named to imply an easing of burdens—has dramatically increased the financial burden and forced many students from middle income families to take on substantial debt to avoid being priced out of college. This policy has also placed our higher education institutions in the untenable position of either raising tuition or laying off public employees and reducing the quality of education.
To offer affordable access to higher education, we support:
In addition to funding cuts, Republicans have tried to undermine higher education programs by shifting funding from the cost of offering those programs to “performance funding” schemes that would reward the advantaged for their advantages and have sought to impose ideological interference into higher education curricula. Yet despite destructive Republican policies, colleges and universities throughout the state thus far have managed to maintain a reputation for academic excellence. A key element in quality higher education is academic freedom for the teaching faculty and a tenure system that protect faculty from losing their jobs without just cause. In addition, faculty pay should reflect the pay that attracts and encourages teachers to stay in the teaching profession. Texas Democrats:
Texas Democrats recognize and support the essential role of Texas community colleges, where almost 60% of Texas’ post-secondary students are enrolled. By combining affordability, high quality and responsiveness to community needs, these institutions provide an education to those who would be otherwise excluded.
Republicans have drastically reduced funding for community colleges and that burden has been shifted onto students, their families and property taxpayers. Although community college enrollment has increased by 200,000 students since 2007 – a 35% increase – Republicans have not provided funding for that increase. In addition, they drastically reduced funding for community college employee benefits, shifting that burden onto tuition and local property taxes. The result is a 31.5% decrease in funding per enrolled student. In the last legislative session, Republicans further reduced formula funding for community colleges by 10% to fund their “performance funding” scheme, which is like saying you have to win the race before we’ll pay for the gas.
At a time when so many Texans need to expand their job skills to become or stay employed, this is destructive to our economy. To maintain community colleges’ role in providing lifelong education, we endorse:
requiring that any “incentive” funding be on top of formula funding rather than funded at the expense of the actual cost of operations;
Texas Democrats support innovative approaches to ensure diversity in every Texas institution of higher education. We condemn intolerance on Texas campuses and encourage universities to develop and offer culturally competent and culturally diverse curricula, student activities, and student recruitment policies that promote understanding, respect and acceptance. Democrats are committed to the fundamental principles of academic freedom, equality of opportunity, and human dignity. We strongly oppose discrimination or harassment in any Texas institution of higher education against any person on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, or military status.
GOOD JOBS BUILD STRONG COMMUNITIES
Hard-working Texans have a right to good jobs to support their families and invest in their future. Texas Democrats understand that we must make the economy work for all Texans, not just the wealthy. Hard-working families struggle to make ends meet while big corporations, and the wealthy who run them, continue to receive tax breaks and inordinate compensation levels while moving jobs overseas. Eliminating subsidies for corporations moving jobs overseas is
necessary to put Texas back to work in good jobs. Texas Republicans’ reckless reductions in state funding for our colleges and universities have left Texas college students with massive debt upon graduation. This debt limits their opportunities and damages our economy by delaying home buying, automobile ownership and other major purchases for years. As the cost of education rises, working families are increasingly unable to send their children to college, preventing promising students from getting a higher education. Texas Democrats know that we must reduce the burden of college debt while providing for good jobs that strengthen communities.
We support the Democratic Statewide Business Commission for legislative study and assistance to the Texas Legislature. By such, the Democrats intend to make our Platform clear in favor of legislation that levels the playing field in support of Small Businesses and the common good of Texas jobs and the Texas economy. The Commission intends to eliminate the Republican approach to economic award package programs, as the Republican approach has almost exclusively favored big business.
The Texas Democratic Party is the partner of working families in the struggle to provide good jobs to strengthen our communities by:
To Strengthen Small Business, we believe state policy should foster the independent initiative of small businesses. The Republican "margins tax," which is effectively a small business income tax, burdens small businesses unfairly at the very time the Republican economic crisis has left many struggling to survive. We believe the tax policies of the current Republican regime in Austin that unfairly favor big business at the expense of small businesses must be reversed. We also believe that the franchise tax has left deep holes within the state budget. As such, Texas Democrats demand sound and effective oversight to prevent large corporations from being off the tax rolls permanently. We believe this will help fill the holes left in the state budget while also allowing small business the opportunity to use abatements to help grow their own local business; thus providing better jobs in the communities they serve.
The Information-Based Economy provides Texans an opportunity to prosper, and Democrats believe developing information technology should be a state priority. Democrats support educational opportunities to provide more Texans the skills needed to pursue careers in information technology and emerging technology development.
The Transition of the Energy Sector toward safe and sustainable power production creates another huge opportunity for economic growth. Democrats believe the state can build on an already-strong energy industrial base to accelerate this trend and create many new jobs.
Unemployment Benefits could have been made available to more Texas workers, but Republican Governor Rick Perry vowed to veto any expansion of benefits funded with half a billion federal stimulus dollars, despite the relief it offered to businesses in the form of lower unemployment insurance taxes. In a time of economic crisis, Perry turned down funds that would have helped hard-working Texans who lost their jobs, and his political gambit has forced thousands of small businesses to pay higher taxes.
We believe eligibility for unemployment compensation must be extended so individuals laid off by the recession who are honestly seeking work do not lose their homes, their health care, or their dignity because they cannot find jobs. The economy gets a needed boost as well when the unemployed spend those benefits.
To Improve Wages and Working Conditions, we believe the minimum wage must be raised, enforced, and applied meaningfully across-the-board to restore lost purchasing power for all workers. It must be indexed to keep it from eroding again. All employees, including restaurant workers, farm workers, domestic workers and home health care workers, should be paid a living wage with provisions for decent health care and retirement benefits. As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in 1938 after signing the first minimum wage bill, “No business which depends for existence on paying less than a living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” As long as we let big corporations under-pay their employees, our tax dollars subsidize their profits through welfare and Medicaid benefits to those employees.
We also believe:
To rebuild our American infrastructure, Texas Democrats support a requirement that public funds and contracts be awarded to American companies that use American workers who have a vested interest in the security and prosperity of our nation. For a generation, America has neglected its public infrastructure: roads, bridges, railroads, ports, water and sewer systems, schools, parks and libraries. We support a federal initiative to foster a sustained increase in public capital investment. We must not only increase funding to maintain aging infrastructure, but also to build new and more reliable public works. We support the immediate development of American built and operated spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the space station.
To keep jobs here at home, state government should “Buy Texas” and “Buy American” by making it a priority to award contracts and purchase products from Texas and American companies. For too long, Republicans in state government have awarded contracts to foreign companies, including a Spanish toll road operator and an offshore call center that grossly mismanaged CHIP enrollment. Texas Democrats believe it is “good business” for state government to contract with Texas and American companies to the extent possible. The Texas Democratic Party overwhelmingly endorses the re-introduction of the “Buy Texas/Buy American Bill” during the next legislative session and every session until passed and signed by the governor.
To address the high cost of food and energy, we call on the Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department to investigate speculative manipulation of the food, fuel and metals markets. We call on the federal government to reconstruct price-stabilizing food stockpiles, especially in parts of the world where commodity price speculation has led to famine.
To foster fair global trade, we must end "cheap labor Republican" policies that out-source jobs and encourage offshore tax shelters. Trade policy must combat child and slave labor, sweatshops, environmental degradation and other practices that turn global trade into a race to the bottom. We recognize the value of trade with our neighbor Mexico and the world. A reformed trade policy should "level up" wages and working conditions by ensuring that foreign workers share in their country's economic gains and become customers for American goods.
In this regard, the Texas Democratic Party, in the interest of protecting democracy and promoting trade policy that benefits workers and the communities where they live, oppose Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority. Further, The Texas Democratic Party demands that the text
of the Trans-Pacific Partnership be made available to the public and that the United States Trade Representative seek meaningful, binding input from civil society, including labor, environmental groups, family farmers, public health and consumer protection organizations.
STATE FISCAL POLICY
Texas Democrats believe responsible, accountable and progressive state budget policy is necessary to restore trust between taxpayers and elected officials in Austin. Earning that trust requires leaders who will engage in an honest debate and evaluation of the challenges facing Texans today and in the future.
The need for government services such as higher education and health care increases in bad economic times, precisely the time when government revenues fall. Democratic Texas legislators created the Economic Stabilization Fund – known popularly as the “Rainy Day Fund” — both to maintain essential services like education and meet that increased need. Yet despite having nearly $10 billion in that fund, the Republicans controlling our state government refused to use any of that fund to avoid drastic cuts to education, health care, and other vital needs during the last two legislative sessions. We believe the fund should be used for its intended purpose to avoid unnecessary cuts in essential state services and to restore the cuts that have been unnecessarily made.
Furthermore, the budget policies adopted by Governor Perry and the Republican majority have intentionally created a “structural deficit” that exceeds $10 billion for each two year budget cycle, the result of a 2006 Perry “margins tax” on business that has fallen over $5 billion a year short of replacing local school property tax cuts. That budget hole must be plugged.
For the past decade, the burden of out-of-balance Republican state fiscal policy has fallen squarely on the backs of hard working Texans.
Texas can do better. State government must invest wisely and efficiently to meet the needs of our rapidly growing population and develop the human resources that are the key to our economic future. Texas must reform state fiscal policy and develop reliable revenue sources that grow with the economy to provide essential state services for a growing population. We oppose Republican policy that provides tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the vast majority of working Americans; we affirm our support for a progressive tax system based on the principle that all taxpayers should pay based on their ability to pay. Texas Democrats support policies to restore responsible state fiscal policy, including:
HEALTH CARE FOR ALL
Texas Democrats believe health care is a right, not a privilege reserved for those able to pay for it. Texas Democrats oppose efforts by Republican politicians to repeal health insurance reform and return America to the disastrous system that has failed small businesses, working families and drained state and family budgets. Every family deserves health care they can count on and a system that ensures stability, security, and access to care.
Texas Democrats realize important work remains to correctly implement health care changes at the state level. Democrats oppose efforts by Republicans to go back to a system that allowed insurance companies to discriminate against Americans with illnesses, shove them off their plans, place lifetime limits on health care, and prevent them from getting care when they need it most. Democrats support effective implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the state level to protect Americans’ new, hard-fought health care rights.
The previous health care system failed the American people, most especially Texans. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured among all 50 states, and more uninsured children than any other state. Even those fortunate enough to have good insurance spend too much for it. The result: Americans pay more for health care than citizens of any other industrialized country. Fewer Texans are receiving health insurance through their employers, and those who do have employer-provided health plans are paying higher out-of-pocket expenses for health care.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will have a positive impact on our state, greatly improving Texans’ existing health insurance policies and bringing millions of uninsured Texas citizens into coverage. It reflects a change in the way we approach healthcare – shifting from a focus on treatment and disease and toward preventive approaches that ensure the health and long and productive life of all Americans.
Texas Democrats challenge the Legislature to mandate the Texas Department of State Health Service and Attorney General to require tax-exempt, private, not-for-profit hospitals and health care delivery organizations that are charged to monitor for charity care to earn their tax-exempt status by providing their community with free health screening clinics. They should be required, under the auspices of that charity care, to organize local health care providers and promote and offer at minimum one annual, county-wide, temporary free screening clinic. Given that at present 25% of Texas citizens are provided no healthcare, we call for these free clinics to be offered in counties in which 15% of residents are documented as having no health insurance or eligibility for either Medicare or Medicaid.
In order to address critical health care needs, Texas Democrats:
Medicaid plays an essential role in the health of millions of Texans, and Texas Democrats oppose misguided attempts by Republicans to dismantle and disrupt the delivery of services to needy Texans. We support working to eliminate any gap of Medicaid coverage that can occur when an individual transitions from community-based Medicaid to long term care Medicaid. We support meaningful funding allocations for population and caseload growth, appropriate reimbursement rates for providers, and re-establishing local and state partnerships to maximize funds for Medicaid programs that assure coverage to low-income Texans.
Texas Democrats believe that accepting the billions of federal dollars for the state’s Medicaid program can provide coverage to those working Texans that fall between the cracks and are denied or can’t afford private coverage. It would keep those working Texans out of the emergency room where they often can’t afford to pay their bills and would stop those costs from being passed on to Texans through higher insurance premiums and property taxes. Accepting the Medicaid dollars will keep the federal tax dollars of Texans in Texas instead of going to other states and it will create jobs and spur economic development in our communities.
By accepting the federal dollars, Texas would be able to provide coverage to more than 1 million estimated working families, veterans, women, and individuals with chronic or catastrophic illness like mental illness and cancer. Texans already make federal tax payments that finance these improvements in other states but have not been able to see any benefit at home.
Texas hospitals currently spend more than $5 billion a year for uncompensated care, much of which comes from local property tax dollars. Texas Democrats believe the state should accept the federal Medicaid dollars to provide relief for hospitals and taxpayers.
Texas Democrats further support the continued work and future renewal of the Texas 1115 Transformation Waiver from the federal government that allows the state to fund hospitals, provide incentive payments for health care improvements and focus more resources to hospitals that serve uninsured patients.
Texas Democrats support the underlying philosophy of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: to move our country forward to a preventive based system where a priority is placed on the health and wellness of all Americans. Democrats support the legislation’s elimination of co-payments for preventive services, as well as plans to expand community health centers and the number of primary care physicians and health care practitioners. Democrats support efforts in Texas to increase the number of primary care physicians and nurses, as well efforts to encourage healthy living. Texas Democrats support the education and promotion of vaccinations and immunizations.
Democrats support the security for seniors that the Medicare programs has delivered for decades. Democrats support the Medicare provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that provide improved quality of care, increase services to rural areas, crack down on waste and abuse and ensure more money goes to benefits and not insurance providers.
Democrats support the Medicare reforms passed by the Democratic Congress that close the costly prescription drug “donut hole” that burdened seniors.
CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE
Texas Democrats proposed, fought for, and passed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that provided health coverage to over 500,000 Texas children in working families until the Republicans gained control of the Legislature in 2003. Although CHIP is a compassionate program that is also sound fiscal policy, an alternative to welfare and a bargain for taxpayers, Republican budget cuts slashed the number of children receiving CHIP benefits by more than 213,000 before Democrats increased their numbers in the State House and forced partial restoration of CHIP coverage in 2007. In the meantime, Texas lost over a billion dollars in federal funds to states that covered more of their children while Texas, under the Republicans, passed laws and developed policies that make CHIP enrollment more difficult.
As with the Medicaid funds, Democrats support full utilization of all federal funds that have been set aside specifically to improve the health of Texas children, and we oppose the redistribution of those funds to other states. Unless all punitive Republican policies are reversed and private contractors are held accountable, many Texas children who qualify for
CHIP coverage will go uninsured and the federal dollars reserved for Texas children will continue to be spent in other states. We support full restoration of the original CHIP program and policies, reinstatement of the simplified application process, aggressive outreach to enroll all eligible children, and a 12 month period of continuous health coverage.
MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE SERVICES
Democrats support efforts to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and drug dependent individuals. Recognizing that untreated mental illness and substance abuse are widespread, Democrats support ways to increase access to mental health and substance abuse services by increasing the number of facilities offering such care while assuring their financial viability and maximizing utilization of the state’s public mental health system. We support the new coverage now allowed for by the Affordable Care Act for mental health and substance abuse services.
We support Medicare policies for psychiatric care that increase session times in place of inadequate follow-up sessions currently allowed. We also support recent initiatives by the federal government to increase Medicaid funding for substance abuse treatment (medication assisted treatment and counseling) which will allow more individuals to have access to outpatient treatment where appropriate to help increase the likelihood that an individual will become a productive member of society while in treatment. Such intensive outpatient treatment would also be more cost effective. More “reality-based” substance abuse education at the primary school level should be encouraged. The Court system must be encouraged to allow treatment as the first option for drug offenders when appropriate, rather than incarceration that may often lead to a pattern of criminal behavior. Outpatient treatment that includes counseling and medication management, if needed, would also be a less costly alternative than incarceration. We support community-based mental health services for children and adults.
Untreated mental illness is now turning into a leading cause of mass violence throughout our nation.
We support the increase in funds for mental health in the state’s budget but also recognize that the quickest, most efficient way to deliver quality mental health coverage to over one million Texans would be to accept the federal Medicaid dollars and deliver coverage to those Texans living in the coverage gap that have been denied coverage by Republican leaders.
We support the qualitative evaluation of all treatment modalities, interventions, agency and individual providers, so that proven, efficacious treatments - administered by the most qualified providers - are utilized to improve significantly the lives of service recipients. We also support sufficient private non-profit, state and federal funding for evaluation research and provider training to rank Texas number 1 in mental and behavioral health and substance abuse services in the nation.
EDUCATION AND SERVICES TO PREVENT AND TREAT COMMUNICABLE INFECTIONS
Texas Democrats support increased education initiatives and services to address the massive increases in cases of Hepatitis C. Services for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases should also be maintained along with increased access to treatment and therapy that improves quality of life and encourages return to the workforce. Funding for treatment and therapy through Community Health Centers should be encouraged. City and County health officials should be encouraged to provide adequate budgets for the operation of programs proven to prevent communicable infections. State officials shall work with federal officials toward a goal of removing all obstacles currently prohibiting the use of generic drugs for the treatment of HIV and AIDS.
ELIMINATING HEALTH DISPARITIES
Health studies have long indicated disease and mortality do not uniformly impact everyone in our state. Millions of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and LGBTQ Americans disadvantaged by income, gender, region, immigration status, and discrimination continue to live sicker and die younger than others. The Texas Democratic Party recognizes health disparities are avoidable and unjust.
We support the inclusion of gender reassignment surgery in Medicaid.
Eliminating health disparities will require educating the community on early detection and prevention, providing culturally appropriate services, improving access to health care, and addressing the physician and health professionals shortage in our state.
Obesity is a causal risk factor for diabetes and is directly linked to lifestyle behaviors, such as limited physical activity and poor eating habits. The State Demographer projects that by 2040,
14.7 million Texans will be obese and nearly 8 million Texas will suffer from diabetes. Therefore, we support efforts and programs focused on educating the community through early detection, highlighting the benefits of an active lifestyle and a healthy diet, and encouraging the practice of undergoing routine medical checkups to increase the likelihood of early detection.
Significant health disparities can be found among minority women in the area of reproductive health, such as cervical cancer among Hispanic women and sexually transmitted diseases and breast cancer among African American women. All of these diseases are largely preventable with early detection and proper protection. Therefore, we support efforts to ensure women are educated and have proper access to the best medicines, state-of-the-art prevention and detection techniques, as well as nutrition and exercise programs. Furthermore, we oppose any politicization of providers of reproductive health services and closures that further limit health care access to women.
Cultural and language barriers remain a challenge for large subsets of the Texas population, with 16.3% being foreign born individuals and over a third speaking a language other than English in their homes. For these reasons, we support efforts to make the body of physicians representative
of Texas demographics, such as offering pathways for minority students to enter the STEM fields. Additionally, we support efforts that focus on health professionals undergoing cultural and language training that enables them to better understand the communities they treat.
Access to health care is one of the leading causes of these disparities. Health care access is a serious statewide problem, with Texas leading all states in the number of uninsured, but this problem is compounded for Texas Hispanics and African Americans, who are 2.3 and 1.4 times more likely to be uninsured, respectively. For these reasons, we oppose any efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and support the acceptance of federal Medicaid dollars to ensure health insurance coverage for Texas families.
While the bulk of Texas resides in urban cores, there are millions of Texans living in rural counties. Over 70% of Texas counties have 1 physician or fewer per 1,000 people. Counties with physician shortages are disproportionately located in rural areas of the state. However, sub- sections of many urban counties face the same shortages. For these reasons, we support the innovative use of technology, including telemedicine, and medical intern assignments and incentives that improve access to essential medical services to medically underserved areas and populations by making more primary care, emergency, and other physician services available and more equitably distributed.
We support research, policy, and legislation that work to eliminate health disparities among racial, ethnic, geographic, socioeconomic, and other groups in order to enable all Texans to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.
CHOICE AND FAMILY PLANNING
Texas Democrats believe in the fundamental American values of freedom, privacy and personal responsibility. We believe in the right to make sound, responsible personal healthcare choices for ourselves and our families. Texas Democrats:
Stem cell research should not be held hostage to politics that limit the potential for conquering many debilitating and deadly illnesses. Texas has world-class research facilities that cannot attract world-class talent and funding until we take stem cell research out of political debates and put it into the labs where research could lead to life-saving therapies. Texas Democrats strongly and unconditionally support research into stem cell therapies and state funding for research into stem cell therapies at our state’s public universities. Curing disease is the right thing to do, and stem cell therapies should be expanded without increasing or encouraging any high-risk procedures.
The Texas Democratic Party stands for the complete inclusion of Texas women in our state’s affairs and respect the preservation of their autonomy and their rights. Equality and justice for all Texas women, in every part of our state, in every circumstance, in every condition, is a core value of our party.
Over the past 14 years, the Republican Party of Texas has maintained a targeted attack on the rights and autonomy of Texas women. The value of Texas women as equal participants in our democracy has been undermined in the name of “family values.” The Texas Democratic Party is committed to ending the damaging policies and laws that threaten Texas women’s economic and physical health.
The Texas Democratic Party demonstrates its commitment to Texas women through women’s leadership at all levels of party activity and by working for policies, laws and elected officials that share our commitment to women’s full, equal, and essential role in Texas’ future success.
The Texas Democratic Party recognizes Texas women are strong, independent and powerful. The Texas Democratic Party seeks to address persistent inequities that make women’s economic, physical and legal well-being subject to circumstance, prejudice, sexism and antiquated views of women’s role in society. As the Party that truly values Texas women and their families, the Texas Democratic Party:
Just as we support responsible efforts to secure our country from those who would do us harm, Texas Democrats support initiatives to ensure the security of our families. More than one-third of working families in Texas are defined as “low income,” and nearly half of Texas children live in these households. Every parent should be able to provide housing, nutrition, clothing, and health care for his or her family. No child should go hungry or without health care. It is therefore appropriate to raise the minimum wage so that those working a full time job can adequately care for their families. Requiring that employers pay a living wage will prevent our tax dollars from being used to subsidize corporate profits by providing healthcare, food and housing assistance to the employees of those corporations.
We believe government should make sure appropriate supports are in place and accessible to families in need. Reducing hunger and poverty is a priority of Texas Democrats. Rick Perry and the Republican controlled legislature have failed to serve Texans by choosing not to expand Medicaid as offered by the Affordable Care Act. This failure denies life protecting medical care to over one million Texans according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Additionally failing to expand Medicaid burdens county hospitals with more uncompensated care since the Affordable Care Act reduces funding to those hospitals on the basis that it wouldn’t be needed with more Texans covered by Medicaid and private insurance. We must expand Medicaid to address the needs of those currently in the gap between making too much to qualify for Medicaid under current rules and not enough to qualify for subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act.
Texas Democrats strongly believe that we must work to protect our elderly, disabled adults and children from abuse and exploitation and take strong and aggressive steps to combat all crimes against these vulnerable citizens of our state.
PRIVATIZATION OF SOCIAL SERVICES
Under Republican rule, Texas entered into an $899 million health and human services contract with a Bermuda-based private contractor, Accenture. This privatization experiment disrupted the lives of vulnerable residents while padding the pockets of private contractors at taxpayer expense, dismantling the state social services infrastructure and failing miserably to save tax dollars or provide services more efficiently.
Low-income children, as well as elderly and disabled Texans, are going without proper nutrition because of delays in processing of food stamp applications due to the lack of a sufficient number of eligibility workers. Low-to-moderate income children and families continue to experience difficulty accessing or maintaining health coverage through the CHIP or Medicaid programs since the system was privatized. Texas Democrats support hiring state workers at adequate levels to ensure timely and accurate processing of applications rather than wasting money on private contracts. We believe privatization of social services has proven to be a poor use of tax dollars, with little or no accountability to voters and taxpayers.
CHILD PROTECTION AND FOSTER CARE
We support a Children’s Bill of Rights. Texas children who have been removed from their homes due to alleged abuse or neglect and placed in the state foster care system should not be subjected to abuse or another privatization experiment.
Rick Perry and his appointees have allowed gross mismanagement in State Supported Living Centers and residential treatment centers that has resulted in children and vulnerable adults experiencing abuse while in state care. We support greater oversight of facilities and institutions serving children and vulnerable adults.
We oppose discrimination in the state foster care system. We support child protection programs that provide safe, secure environments for children. We support funding Child Protective Services to reduce caseloads and to ensure compliance with federal requirements for caseworker meetings with clients. Texas Democrats oppose the privatization of the child protection system, including intake services.
Due to the number of children harmed or that have died while in Texas foster care custody, we support a broad-spectrum, across the board overhaul and restructuring of the Texas HHC- Department of Family and Protective Services with emphasis on the foster care system.
We support adoption of children by loving qualified parents regardless of marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, and the rights of families created by those adoptions.
CHILD SUPPORT AND CHILD CARE THAT STRENGTHENS TEXAS FAMILIES
The economic security of many Texas families depends on strong child support enforcement coupled with available and affordable quality child care that is good for parents, good for children and vital for the Texas economy. Texas Democrats support paid parental leave for mothers as well as fathers and without regard to marital status or sexual orientation.
LONG TERM SERVICES AND SUPPORTS
A recent study indicated Texas ranks 47th in the quality of long term care and care for persons with disabilities. Texas Democrats believe elderly and disabled Texans of all ages should have access to long-term services and supports that promote independent living in the most-integrated setting possible. A robust continuum of long-term services and supports includes state supported living centers, home and community-based services, in-home health care, adult daycare, and hospice care. We believe the state must comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and strongly oppose the Republican claim to “sovereign immunity” that would exempt Texas from the ADA. We support:
Texas Democrats believe we must keep the promise of Social Security strong and certain for those who have worked and contributed to the system. We believe all Americans should have access to the Social Security system, including public employees. Private savings accounts and other pension programs should be additions to the guaranteed Social Security benefit, not a substitute for any portion of it.
Texas Democrats urge the removal of the cap on contributions in order to strengthen the program. Because seniors purchase different products and services, and those differences aren’t taken into account using the standard consumer price index, the CPI-E should be used for calculating cost of living adjustments to Social Security.
We oppose privatization of the Social Security program as fiscally irresponsible. We oppose all Republican federal budget plans to spend down and undermine the Social Security Trust Fund. We also oppose the closing of small town Social Security offices, which would force many beneficiaries to travel as far as 200 to 250 miles for a face-to-face meeting.
Millions of workers have invested in public or private pensions to secure their retirement income. We believe a lifetime of honest work should be rewarded with adequate retirement income. We support measures to make corporate governance accountable to all stakeholders in the private pension system. We support providing strong and effective legal protections to secure the investments of workers in public or private pensions. We believe:
Texas Democrats support the strict enforcement of policies requiring insurance companies to roll back their rates to provide Texas homeowners, renters and drivers fair and affordable insurance. Governor Perry and his fellow Republicans have done nothing to reduce insurance costs that place an excessive financial burden on both individuals and businesses. Texans continue to pay some of the highest homeowner insurance rates in the nation, despite the fact that the American insurance industry makes billions in profits every year. We support providing the Insurance Commissioner the authority to deny or approve rates.
Democrats support measures to reduce and eliminate unfair underwriting and rate setting practices, such as the use of credit scoring, redlining and other discriminatory practices. We support the enforcement of penalties when such practices are used. Texans must have access to affordable insurance to protect our homes and businesses from flood and windstorm damage. We also support more thorough oversight and regulation of homeowner’s insurance through
greater consumer representation in the form of an official advisory committee or requirements that the Insurance Commission include consumer representatives.
Texans have seen their utility bills become some of the highest in the nation since the passage of a deregulation scheme that has failed to provide competition to drive down rates as promised.
Texas Democrats support responsible regulation of utilities to provide a level playing field for regulated industry, through reasonable policy to prevent predatory pricing including the misuse of fees. Texans should not be expected to become experts on all the factors that determine energy costs in order to pay lower, reasonable prices for utility services.
Texas Democrats believe government has a responsibility to protect the people from dangerous products and fraudulent, unfair and discriminatory business practices. In the information age, vigorous efforts are necessary to protect the privacy of everything from financial records to DNA. Consumers should have a high degree of certainty and an understanding of their rights and protections under laws that are strongly and uniformly enforced. Texas Democrats believe we must protect Texans from:
Texas Democrats believe all Texans have a right to housing that is safe, affordable, accessible, integrated, and available without discrimination. Such availability to housing, whether rented or owned, is essential to a strong sense of community, self-respect, and dignity. Texas Democrats are committed to making the dream of home ownership and clean, safe rental housing a reality for more Texas families by:
Developing effective solutions to the problems related to homelessness requires a strong commitment to public-private partnerships and coordinated state, federal, and local efforts. In addition to the acute problem of homelessness among the mentally ill and their families, runaways, veterans and other populations, the impact of Republican economic policies has left many families just one rent check or mortgage payment away from homelessness. Texas Democrats are committed to ending homelessness by removing barriers and increasing access to services that support progress toward self-sufficiency in rural and urban communities.
ENERGY AND CONSERVATION
Texas has long been a world energy leader, and Texas can continue that dynamic leadership in a transition to diverse, clean, abundant energy as we tap our wealth of alternative energy sources – solar, wind and geothermal resources. Potential for solar power cannot be ignored, the potential for geothermal energy must be explored, and the enormous strides made in wind power urge us
forward in developing a diverse energy portfolio. As the wind capital of the country, Texas has shown that we can cultivate cutting-edge scientific innovation, real local jobs, and solutions to energy independence.
Democrats want what most Texans want for their energy future: a safe, secure, and sustainable supply of clean, affordable energy. We support increased development of renewable energy technologies that spur the economy, protect the environment, create high paying jobs, and reduce reliance and dependence on oil from unstable sources.
We respect the consensus among the vast majority of climate scientists and other specialists who agree that we are seeing unprecedented weather events and changes to the climate which are likely due to human activity. On May 24, 2014, a team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60- member Federal Advisory Committee produced the National Climate Assessment, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including U.S. federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. The Assessment made clear that our climate has already changed, and that droughts, wildfires, and superstorms are the result of runaway climate disruption. When crops fail, when towns get flooded, and when heatwaves send kids and seniors to the emergency room, it is clear that all of us are already paying the price for climate disruption. We feel that human-induced climate change requires urgent action.
The pursuits of technology, science, and industrial processing and ingenuity are integral to our ability to interact with the world in a sustainable manner for this and future generations. Water must be clean, the air must be healthy, and we must find a way to transition towards more renewable energy and waste reduction.
As droughts become more frequent and more persistent, we must prioritize a multi-faceted strategy of dealing with our water resources: prioritizing water conservation, recognizing the nexus of energy and water use to find less water-intensive energy generation, helping agriculture find solutions to their water needs, and ensuring that there's enough water not just for people but for the environment as well.
It is vital that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) look out for the health and welfare of Texans through environmental stewardship. It is essential to build the political will to use and preserve the earth’s resources wisely for both current and future generations, just as it is essential to elect office holders who hold these values and have the vision and will to act.
CLEAN AND AVAILABLE WATER
Texas Democrats understand that global climate change has accelerated and recognize that natural and man-made droughts and floods and changes in emerging energy policy must be addressed as part of a comprehensive federal and state approach to water conservation and control.
Clean Water from publicly managed resources is critical to our future and our health. We support:
Environmental protection, regulation, and enforcement is essential to preserve the health of our people, the quality of life, and to secure long-term economic growth. It is vital that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) look out for the health and welfare of Texans through environmental stewardship. It is essential to build the political will to use and preserve the Earth’s resources wisely for both current and future generations, just as it is essential to elect office holders who hold these values and have the vision and will to act.
We believe Texans have the right to know whether hazardous chemicals and materials are being stored in their communities, and that state elected officials should recognize that right and act accordingly.
Gov. Perry’s TCEQ has failed to enforce the law and as a result, the state is ceding its responsibility to protect Texans’ health. We believe that Texas should work more closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and end the current hostile litigious relationship.
Environmental protection should be a model of cooperative federalism and not the arena for political gamesmanship and anti-scientific agendas. We believe:
Reducing the use of natural resources is the best option, followed by reuse and then recycling. Texas Democrats support:
RURAL TEXAS AND AGRICULTURE
Texas Democrats understand the obstacles faced in rural Texas and we are committed to providing our rural communities with the tools necessary to maintain their quality of life and create enhanced opportunities for future generations of rural Texans. All areas of Texas need access to natural and economic resources to grow and thrive, yet rural communities’ resources are under increased pressure from forces beyond their control. We support rural communities in their efforts to protect the resources necessary for their economic livelihood.
Access to clean water is vital to life. We believe it is essential that Texas meet the water needs of our population, communities and industries with an absolute minimum of environmental disruption. The ongoing drought in many parts of our state has made this a particularly urgent issue. We support the enhancement of water conservation programs, wetlands preservation
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actions, ground water recharge, desalination (with appropriate energy sources and proper disposal concentrate), and storm water runoff controls. We recognize that the needs of water for agricultural production must be balanced with the needs for drinking water, but we encourage the use of drought-tolerant and water-conserving outdoor landscaping by urban and suburban residents. We specifically call on the Texas Legislature to strictly regulate the amount of fresh water supplies and encourage water recycling for hydraulic fracturing and other high volume and industrial uses. We further call on the Legislature to fund and enhance emergency programs to assist communities whose local water supplies are disrupted by drought conditions. Further, we urge the State Legislature and the federal government to provide substantial grant funding to assist rural communities in the construction of Reverse Osmosis (R/O) facilities to recycle waste water into potable water and pursue other recycling and reuse options.
We urge the creation and expansion of food producing gardens and farmers markets in inner city and urban area where access to quality food products are less available.
Texans need to breathe clean air. While we recognize the economic importance of utilizing chemicals to improve production on Texas farms and ranches, we support effective guidelines and enforcement relating to the proper use of pesticides and herbicides to protect the health of all individuals exposed to such chemicals as well as to present unintended collateral damage to the environment. We also oppose attempts to “cure” pollution with a pencil by restructuring EPA regions to pull less-polluted rural air quality points into more polluted urban areas simply to improve urban pollution numbers.
We believe access to affordable quality health care is particularly important in rural areas. We support incentives to recruit and retain physicians and other health care providers in rural areas, including grants and zero interest loans for public hospitals; programs that bring enhanced medical technology to rural areas; equalizing Medicare reimbursements to rural hospitals; improved emergency care systems; enhanced medical transport systems; and better utilizing nurse practitioners and physician assistants in underserved areas. Additionally, we support the expansion of Medicaid as called for in the Affordable Care Act. At a minimum of state expense, this expansion would supply preventive medical care to an uncovered population, ease tension on emergency rooms, supply desperately needed revenues to rural hospitals, help reduce the cost of insurance premiums, help lower property taxes, create more good paying jobs and boost the state’s economy. We firmly believe that the failure of our Republican officeholders to embrace this opportunity for purely political reasons is beyond irresponsible.
While our Party’s position on public education is fully outlined elsewhere in this Platform, it is not possible to create a section on rural Texas without noting the essential relationship between rural areas and the availability of high quality public education. No part of our state depends more on public schools and none has been more adversely impacted by our leadership’s failure to adequately fund education. Cutting funding for rural schools results in teacher layoffs, overcrowded classrooms, a reduction in educational quality, higher property taxes and some forced consolidations in a part of our state where closing a school can often mean closing a community. We call on our Legislature to quit undercutting our children’s future, halt the voucher/charter funding schemes and recommit to fully funding our public schools and our community colleges. It honestly is the least you can do.
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We believe access to the most up to date technology is essential to the economic well being of all areas of Texas. We support assistance programs designed to deliver state of the art technological resources to our less populated regions.
We believe Texas agriculture must maintain a position of world leadership that has been tainted for the last 24 years by a Texas Department of Agriculture that has failed to support the family farmers and ranchers who are the backbone of the industry. We support:
Texas Democrats strongly support private property rights, which are protected by our Constitution. We oppose the use of eminent domain and takings to deprive any property owner of the possession, use, or the ability to control their property for private gain. We believe eminent domain should be used only for a compelling public purpose, and the law should not be abused for the sole purpose of benefitting a private business. We recognize that the condemnation deck is currently stacked against the individual property owner and that significant reforms are needed. We believe that property owners faced with condemnation by a pipeline company should be given the right through a transparent process to challenge an entity who seeks to obtain a T-4 pipeline permit from the Railroad Commission. We believe that property owners should be provided a hearing before an independent hearing officer in the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), with the right to appeal a SOAH finding of condemnation to a local district judge.
We oppose backdoor efforts by Rick Perry and Republicans to keep the development of the Trans-Texas Corridor alive, and other foreign toll ways. As proposed by the Governor, the TTC was an attempt to transfer ownership of millions of acres of Texas land to a foreign corporation
with close ties to him; the plan would have devastated many rural areas, property owners and communities. We support property rights protections that would prevent uncontrolled development along all public and toll road corridors.
All Texans are entitled to be safe, secure, and free from fear of violence. The guilty must be justly punished for crimes they commit, the innocent must be protected, the rights of victims must be ensured, the citizen accused must be provided due process under law, and public safety officers must be strongly supported. Law enforcement must be provided necessary training to perform their duties. It is the duty of the state to provide for the safety of the public while also preserving individual liberty.
Texas has more people in prison and a higher incarceration rate than any other state. Texas also has more private prisons than any other state. The inadequacies in our criminal justice system disproportionately impact the poor and people of color. District attorney offices across the state often reward performance by the number of convictions, not necessarily the administration of justice. These forces, coupled with racial profiling, and draconian budget cuts to education, create an environment where profit trumps the public interest. Texas must be smart in dealing with crime and punishment.
Democrats believe democracy is for all and that the more productive citizens we have participating in the American Dream the better we are as a nation. Yet our current state of justice instead creates both public cost and a private financial reward for government failing in the areas of education, public safety, health and due process. Hyper-prosecution and over-incarceration have now developed into a fiscal crisis. Texas Democrats believe in policies which use our tax dollars wisely and in the interest of the public rather than in the interest of private prison profits.
Texas Democrats believe protection from crime is a primary responsibility of government that is essential to the quality of life in our communities. Government must provide the necessary training and equipment law enforcement personnel need to do their jobs effectively, and we support higher wages for peace officers commensurate with the daily risks associated with the profession.
The mantra “to serve and protect” must be applied equally to all communities. Democrats believe a community-based approach to crime fighting makes our streets and neighborhoods safer. Public trust in the police department ultimately increases safety. Partnerships should be formed with community groups to assist officers on the streets. Citizen oversight boards should be in place to address conflicts between the police and the community.
The state’s ability to restrict individual liberty must be subject to due process. Democrats believe each citizen is innocent until proven guilty. Texas Democrats call for the end of racial profiling and police brutality. The frenzied, videotaped, mob beating of Chad Holley in Harris County revealed one of the worst cases of police brutality since Rodney King. Such practices are an
embarrassment to conscientious law enforcement officials and unacceptable to all Texans. When police misconduct is alleged, we support the implementation of civilian review boards with proper subpoena power.
To continue the fight against crime, and to make our streets and homes safer, Texas Democrats support just and smart policies, including:
Sexual assault and family and domestic violence are violent crimes that occur in all types of families and disproportionately harm women and children; crimes that often involve a cyclical, generational pattern, thus affecting entire communities as long as such crimes continue to be perpetrated. We support:
Texas Democrats believe in the efficient, fiscally responsible and moral administration of justice through regulations that promote:
Our current penal marijuana laws give power, control, and illicit funding to violent Drug Cartels. The laws destroy young lives with a criminal record and possible prison incarceration. Such harsh laws serve no useful purpose. Such prohibition promotes disrespect for the law and reinforces ethnic and generational divides between the public and law enforcement.
Every year hundreds of thousands of Americans are arrested for marijuana possession violations - far more than all those arrested for violent crimes in America. Societal costs dealing with the war on drugs concerning marijuana exceeds 12 billion dollars annually. Since the war on drugs began, 85% of the arrests for marijuana have been for possession only.
Marijuana is no more dangerous than tobacco or alcohol. Recent polls show over 60% of Americans believe marijuana should be decriminalized. While arrests for marijuana since 1965 have included over 20 million citizens, marijuana is more prevalent than ever before.
There is no evidence that marijuana is a “gateway” drug leading to use of other more lethal drugs. 75% of citizens arrested for marijuana are under 30. Persons of color account for a majority of those arrested for marijuana. Criminal conviction permanently scars a young person for life.
Texas Democrats urges the President, the Attorney General, Congress as well as the Texas Legislature, to support the passage of legislation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and regulate its use, production, and sale as is done with tobacco and alcohol.
Colorado and Washington have successfully implemented laws to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana and regulate its use and sale and taxing of marijuana. The Governor in his budget for Colorado projects 134 million dollars in tax revenue in the current fiscal year. We urge the immediate decriminalization of possession and use of medical marijuana. We support the Texas Legislature to study the laws and systems in Colorado and Washington as a first step in implementing a similar system in Texas.
Juveniles are presumed to be less culpable for their crimes than adults and therefore have a constitutional right to be treated differently. Prison-style incarceration often does young offenders more harm than good. The use of tasers and pepper-spray at Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) facilities should be banned, unless it is necessary to prevent loss of life or serious bodily injury. Community-based juvenile justice prevention and intervention programs can ultimately reduce adult crime, Texas’ high incarceration rate and the need for prison construction.
Texas Democrats encourage reviewing capital life sentences for juvenile offenders. Democrats oppose practices of “hyper-prosecution” which overlook juvenile status. A landmark case brought before the Texas Supreme Court forced the state to reconcile charges of prostitution leveled against a minor without the legal ability to grant consent. Texas Democrats believe the primary goal of juvenile justice is to rehabilitate youth; not to create a feeder system for privatized, for-profit, adult prison facilities.
Texas Democrats support the guiding principles of the Texas Youth Commission’s Blue Ribbon Task Force Report, which recommend a TJJD environment that facilitates the appropriate educational and moral development of youth who would spend the least amount of time possible in the TJJD system; staffing capacity commensurate with the size and needs of the population; and a child-focused, family-centered, non-violent TJJD. These principles would be best realized in a regionalized, community-based system that admits youth to TJJD using research-based risk assessment and classification and provides specialized treatment for youth and families.
Texas Democrats support programs which decrease recidivism by providing ex-offenders a pathway back to productive participation in society. Democrats support policies that:
Despite DNA exonerations in Texas in the last 9 years, Rick Perry says he never loses sleep over executing the innocent. Perry has overseen over 240 executions in Texas. Detailed research shows that the Texas death penalty system cannot insure that innocent and undeserving defendants are not sentenced to death. Death penalty exonerations have already revealed deep flaws in our State’s criminal justice system.
Evidence, including scientific evidence, extensive studies by Innocence Project, major newspaper and university research, strongly suggests that Texas has already executed innocent defendants including Carlos DeLuna, Ruben Cantu, and Cameron Todd Willingham. Former Governor Mark White has stated we must take every step to ensure there is never another innocent man executed.
The application of the death penalty in Texas is disproportionately applied to the poor and persons of color. The system has previously allowed the execution of juveniles, the mentally ill and poor defendants who had such inadequate counsel that their lawyers literally slept through their trials. Other states are increasingly rejecting the death penalty as evidenced by the legislatures in New Jersey (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2011), and Connecticut (2012) repealing the death penalty.
In order to promote public confidence and fairness in the Texas Criminal Justice system, Texas Democrats call for the passage of legislation that would abolish the death penalty in Texas and replace it with the punishment of life in prison without parole.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE
Democrats believe our legal system is the bedrock that protects and guarantees our rights and freedoms. Democrats believe that instead of taking the law into their own hands, all people must have full access to the courts and equal treatment before the law, with confidence that their grievances will be fairly adjudicated. We support:
Free and fair elections are the fundamental element of a healthy democracy. The right of we the people to fairly elect our representatives, and thereby influence our local, state and federal governmental policies, is the indispensable foundation of a well functioning democracy. A healthy democracy cannot tolerate burdensome impediments on either the right to register to vote or the equal right to freely cast ballots, for any citizen. A free and healthy democracy must reject election laws and practices imposed by any political group or party on other political groups or parties for the purpose of gaining political advantage at the ballot box.
VOTING RIGHTS PROTECTION
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is “an act to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was created to ensure that, “No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in its Shelby County v. Holder majority opinion struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The majority opinion was predicated on the premise that institutional racism and systemic discrimination in voting rights have abated in Texas and other states covered by Section 4. With Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act invalidated, Texas and other Section 4 states were freed to enforce election laws previously blocked because they have the intent or effect of abridging the right of citizens to vote.
Texas Democrats call on:
Texas Democrats believe voters should show identification to vote, as they have for more than 20 years. While many Texans can easily reach into their wallet and produce a Texas driver’s license, gun license, military I.D., or U.S. Passport to qualify to vote under the SB 14 law, many other U.S. citizens eligible to vote in Texas do not have one of the limited types of I.D. required under the SB 14 voter photo I.D. law:
To ensure the right of voters to cast their ballots in a system that is free from intimidation, discrimination, or abuse by partisans or state and local officials, we support:
Voting is a right, guaranteed by the sacrifices of many who died to protect it. While Texas consistently has one of the lowest voter participation rates among the 50 states, Republican politicians have used public office to suppress the vote and further restrict participation instead of working to increase it.
Therefore, the legislature must fund voter database modernization, including automatic registration when qualified citizens turn 18. Voter registration should be a lifetime status for all qualified, non-felon Texas citizens, requiring only change of address documentation in person
or online, once registered. It is the responsibility for our state and county government in tandem only to ‘suspend’ or ‘purge’ voters for proven ineligibility, not merely for non participation.
Texas democrats support:
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
The electoral process has been corrupted by the influence of unlimited corporate spending stemming from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling. Texas Democrats believe that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.
The public trust has been violated by abuse and corruption in campaign spending. To ensure that our campaigns are financed legally, fairly, and transparently, Texas Democrats call for:
To ensure an open and accountable government that honors the public’s right to know, we support:
Texas Democrats believe all people possess inalienable rights that are protected by freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, which government is duty-bound to protect. We believe in and support:
Personal Security: Ban Reparative Therapy
For decades it has been beyond dispute by health professionals that homosexuality is a normal, natural and positive variation of human sexual orientation. Similarly, it is clear that a person’s gender identity — one’s inner sense of being male or female — is deep-seated and cannot be changed. Yet, in 2014, the Republican Party of Texas continues to encourage violence against the very souls of LGBTQ people through the quackery known as “reparative therapy" which is now illegal in two states. Texas Democrats strongly oppose the use of any public funding for this demonstrably harmful practice. We further call on the Texas Medical Board, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, and the Texas Department of State Health Services to fully investigate and to sanction any practitioner who engages in reparative therapy.
Personal Security: Accurate Identity Documents
In Texas, there is no clear process for transgender adults to obtain accurate personal documents that reflect their transitioned gender. (Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity, one’s inner sense of being male or female, differs from their assigned or
presumed sex at birth). Texas Democrats support the creation of a uniform, transparent, and streamlined legal process for transgender Texans to obtain accurate identity documents. Pending this process, transgender people must have their preferred names and pronouns respected, regardless of what it says on an ID card. Transgender Texans must be afforded an ongoing right to personal privacy concerning their gender identity.
Personal Security: Education of Service Professionals
Discrimination results in a world of unsafe spaces for LGBTQ people: streets, classrooms, health care facilities, retirement homes and areas of public accommodation. Of the 1.6 million homeless youth in the United States, studies estimate that 20-40% are LGBTQ-identified. In elementary school, gender non-conforming students (those who don’t meet society’s expectations of gender roles) experience harassment, attacks, and sexual assault at high rates. For older LGBTQ people, a legacy of social rejection and narrowed horizons has left them twice as likely to live alone as their heterosexual counterparts and more than four times as likely to have no children. To address the harms of ignorance and prejudice, Texas Democrats call upon social, health care and public service professionals to seek out and adopt best practices in the delivery of services to all Texans.
Equal Protection: Freedom To Marry
Texas Democrats support the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. We call for the total repeal of DOMA and passage of the Respect For Marriage Act. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now recognize and have legalized same-sex marriages.
In February 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia in De Leon v. Perry, ruled that Texas’ current prohibitions on same-sex marriage conflict with the U.S. Constitution, “[in] deny[ing] homosexual couples the right to marry, and in so doing, demean[ing] their dignity for no legitimate reason.” Texas Democrats call for the immediate repeal of the Texas Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitutional Marriage Amendment and oppose other attempts to deny the freedom to marry to loving same-sex couples.
Equal Protection: Employment Non-Discrimination
Qualified, hardworking Texans are denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise discriminated against just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender non-conforming. A person’s qualifications and job performance, not irrational prejudice, should determine success on the job. Texas Democrats support workplace protections codified in the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We recognize and applaud the many unions and businesses whose standard contracts prohibit LGBTQ employment discrimination. Texas Democrats support the
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recent decision that transgender employees are included within Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition of sex discrimination.
TEXANS WITH DISABILITIES RIGHTS
The Texas Democratic Party believes in the right of every Texan to lead a productive life, enjoy liberty, and to pursue happiness. Texas Democrats want all Texans with disabilities, including veterans, to have a sustainable quality of life in the least restrictive environment possible and to have accessible community settings that are functional to their everyday life. This is not only a basic civil right, but is also part of the economic vitality and interest of Texas. No person should face discrimination based on disability status.
There are an estimated three million Texans with disabilities. Texas is currently in a severe crisis when it comes to the delivery of services to disabled persons. Winning lawsuits or natural wealth cannot be the only hope of disabled Texans to survive and function as part of Texas's social and economic fabrics.
Texas Democrats support the following to impact this sector of our population and enact necessary change to promote social justice for all disabled persons:
Texas Democrats believe government should scrupulously honor every Texan's right to religious freedom, as guaranteed by the Texas and U.S. Constitutions and protected by the separation of church and state. We believe:
The Texas Democratic Party recognizes that we are a nation of immigrants. In Texas, we value those who have come from many different countries and cultures with the common aim of seeking a better life for themselves and their families, and who have contributed from the start of our great nation to the growth, prosperity and security of the United States and of Texas.
Our Party recognizes the urgent need for comprehensive and humane immigration reform - reform that respects the principles upon which our country was founded, including family, freedom and a better future for our children. Our Party understands that given current demographic trends, without immigrants, the strength of our economy and vibrancy of our culture are unsustainable due to an aging population and decreasing birth rates. Without reform that recognizes this reality, our economy will shrink as have other countries with exclusionary immigration policies. Our Party understands that viewing immigrants through a lens of fear and prejudice only hurts Texas and our nation.
Whether through a dollars and cents analysis or through a human rights analysis, an open, inclusive and humane set of policies can only benefit our country and our state. Therefore, we support:
Our Party also realizes that Republican officials advocate for discriminatory laws that interfere with the federal government’s regulation and enforcement processes and immigration laws that economically damage this state. Therefore, we strongly oppose:
Texas Democrats strongly support the efforts of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to fight for comprehensive immigration reform.
To honor the men and women who serve our county, state, and federal policy should demonstrate respect for their service and sacrifices made by ensuring a smooth transition from military to civilian life and providing benefits to honor our veterans’ service.
We support the continuation and enhancement of veteran’s benefits, including post military training, medical and disability. We support a new GI Bill to increase educational benefits for veterans to fully cover the cost of a college degree and related housing expenses. We support the following: Texas Veterans Land Board, which enables veterans to purchase land and homes at favorable terms and interest rates; County Veteran Service offices, that offer a variety of services tailored to their communities that assist veterans and their families with services such as: filing VA disability claims and VA appeals, navigation of the complex and ever-changing VA system and providing referrals in their community for services not provided by VA; County Veteran Courts that provide veterans convicted of misdemeanor and non-violent offenses with rehabilitation and treatment opportunities.
In many VA hospitals and medical facilities, scandalous budget shortfalls have become so severe that they stopped scheduling new appointments, were unable to replace doctors and nurses when they left, and were even unable to keep surgical suites operational due to a lack of equipment. Texas Democrats support:
Texas should demonstrate its support for military families and communities. We insist that our military members on active duty and in the Reserve receive fair pay and allowances. They must be the best organized, trained, and equipped fighting force possible. We encourage city, county, state, and federal elected officials to review present benefits and determine how they can be enhanced. We also demand truth in recruiting, including a provision that parental permission be required to authorize the recruitment of minors. Texas Democratic support:
With volatile energy costs making it more costly for Texans to go to work and earn a living, our rapidly growing population requires a transportation system that will safely and efficiently move more people, goods and products to expand economic opportunity. The guiding principles for a transportation system that benefits all Texans should include the impact of
transportation on the economy, public safety, affordability, reduced congestion and environmental quality. To that end, we support:
Texas Democrats subscribe to President John F. Kennedy’s description of the aims of Foreign Policy:
“What kind of peace do I mean and what kind of a peace do we seek?.... the kind that enables men and nations to grow, and to hope, and build a better life for their children—not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women, not merely peace in our time but peace in all time…. [W]e shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success.”
Texas Democrats believe peace, prosperity, and national security are assured by maintaining a strong national defense, promoting democracy, and advancing development abroad. We further believe that military action should be used as an instrument of foreign policy only as a last resort, authorized by a Congressional declaration of war, or as allowed by our Constitution. To this end we support the use of consistent diplomacy and development efforts abroad in coordination with our allies around the world. We believe the most important element in our military is the individual service member, and it is absolutely critical that we keep faith with those who serve and defend us.
SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT
Texas Democrats believe that protecting our national security requires maintaining robust military capabilities and strong alliances, while also addressing the sources of security risks that stem from state weakness, poverty, corruption, and social breakdown abroad. Therefore we believe America must:
Texas Democrats believe that our foreign policy must also enhance the economic and employment conditions of American workers and restore our balance of trade. Therefore, American policies must:
Texas Democrats believe that our national security is advanced by legitimate conduct, strong international leadership, and sustained international engagement. Therefore, American policies should:
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