Op-Ed: What I’d like to see in the next legislature

by | Dec 16, 2020 | Opinion, Texas Legislature

There is a connection between voting and action. If you recall in the 2018 election, many Texans were motivated to vote in reaction to the Trump presidency and it felt wonderful. After that election, the Texas legislature provided an additional $6 Billion in revenue to our public schools and set the expectation that the legislature would be more of an equal partner with our schools.

After the legislature meets next year, I believe we should be judged by a few key factors — public education, health care expansion, and a sensible budget that supports public safety and public health.

First, we must reform Texas laws to improve our health care coverage. I recently pre-filed HB 389 and HJR 23, which would bring the choice for Medicaid expansion to Texas voters. Session after session, the state has refused to take up the issue of expanding Medicaid and bringing our tax dollars home to support our state’s serious health care needs. My hope is that with added pressure this session and a pandemic top of mind, we can come to pass a Texas solution. But if we do not have the political will to do so, we must get out of the way and let the voters decide.

Texas has the highest overall and children’s uninsured rate in the nation, which has only worsened since the start of the pandemic due to job loss and loss of employer provided health insurance. In the year 2020, we are just one of a few states that still have not passed Medicaid expansion. Expanding Medicaid would bring relief to 2.2 million Texans who are currently in the coverage gap — many of whom are our essential workers.

As for the budget, we must maintain the increases we made last session to support public education. COVID-19 has brought many challenges to our children’s education, and experts anticipate effects that will last far beyond the pandemic. We cannot afford to back off of our future economic health by cutting back on our children’s education and those who support them when they need it most.

We must also provide support to our workforce through increased job training, upskilling, and flexibility in the workplace. I pre-filed HB 391, which would provide greater ease for Texas state agencies to implement division-wide telecommuting practices. The governor’s executive order to require teleworking where possible during COVID-19 has highlighted the need for flexibility in agency telecommuting, all while demystifying state employees’ ability to remain hard at work while working from home.

This January will be the first time we convene as a body since we started to see COVID transmission in March. We must hold high expectations for ourselves in not only providing meaningful short-term relief for Texans who are hurting, but also mitigating the long-term impact that this year’s crisis may hold on the financial stability of our families, the strength of our economy, the health of our community, and the education of our children.

Rep. Celia Israel is the Texas State Representative for HD50

Photo: celiafortexas.com

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