If Gov. Greg Abbott follows through on his idea to have the state take over the Austin police department, would Texas be called a "police state?"
Would Austin cops be called the "state police?"
The Austin American-Statesman doesn't think too highly of Abbott's proposal.
"Texas has real problems," the newspaper said in an editorial. "Austin PD isn't one of them."
"Let’s get this straight," the editorial continued. "More than 25,000 Texans have died from a virus that is overwhelming hospitals in some parts of the state.
"Texas has the largest number of uninsured residents in the country, a staggering public health problem burdening hospitals and our state economy even before the pandemic came along," the paper declared.
"And when it comes to policing, a harsh new state report (from the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission) says the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement is woefully ill-equipped to provide the training standards and rigorous oversight of peace officers that Texans deserve.
"Yet against this backdrop, Gov. Greg Abbott would have you believe the state’s most pressing public safety problem is … policing in Austin?"
The legislature will be dealing with the Texas budget, the pandemic and recovery from it, schools and education spending, redistricting, and many other critical topics, the editorial said.
"Texans need for lawmakers to address these real challenges, not indulge Abbott in a gratuitous and costly stunt over the Austin police budget," the paper said.
"The notion that the capital knows better than City Hall on police budget decisions is absurd and runs counter to the small-government conservatism Abbott has long preached."
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Rep. Celia Israel -- Planning to land running in the 2021 legislative session that begins Tuesday, Jan. 12, is Celia Israel, a Democrat, who represents District 50 in Northeast Travis and Williamson Counties.
Israel, 56, lists some top priorities for the session:
1) The state budget.
"The pandemic has seriously cut into the state's tax revenues, and as a result, the legislature faces some tough choices on what's most important," says Israel, vice-chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
"Pass a budget that does not cut back on the increases we made to support public education last year," Israel says, of the several billion dollars the Legislature added in 2019.
"Regardless of what the pandemic brings, we cannot afford to back off of our future economic health by cutting back on our children’s education and those who support them," Israel said.
2) Medicaid expansion, paid 90 percent by the federal government, is part of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. It would medically insure more than a million Texans who currently aren't.
But Texas Republican leaders have kept Texas among the 12 states refusing to accept it – costing the state about $9 billion a year.
Israel pre-filed HB 389, and a proposed constitutional amendment, HJR 23, to allow Texas voters to accept Medicaid expansion if the Legislature fails to.
Also weighing in on the expansion is Waco-based economist Ray Perryman. He underlines that Texas, due to staunch Republican opposition, is leaving billions of federal dollars on the table every year.
Medicaid Expansion pays for medical coverage for low-income residents, and is funded 90 percent by federal dollars.
As it stands now, Texans still pay federal taxes to support Medicaid expansion. That money goes to the majority of states which have decided to accept it – but not to Texas.
“In the middle of this pandemic, so many people [are] losing health coverage, it’s just a really bad time to have billions of dollars sitting there for the taking and just walk away from it,” Perryman said.
“It’s really something if you just forget about the politics and look at the numbers, whether you’re a liberal who wants to give people more health care, or a conservative who wants to save the state tax dollars, you should be for this,” Perryman said.
3) Teleworking – is yet another idea by Rep. Israel, who says it will help "support the Texas economy and Texas workers."
She says that Gov. Abbott's executive order to require teleworking where possible during COVID-19 is a great and creative idea.
It "has highlighted the need for flexibility in agency telecommuting, all while demystifying state employees' ability to remain hard at work while working from home."
She has introduced "HB 391, (which) would provide greater ease for Texas state agencies to implement division-wide telecommuting practices."
4) Voter Registration -- Finally, Israel has filed a bill "that would allow Texans to register to vote online, a process that is more secure and efficient."
Also, she said, the lack of ability to register eligible Texas voters online "provided significant challenges for our voter registrars to remain safe and socially distant this election year."
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