With only days to go in the 83rd regular session, the Legislature still needs to come to an agreement on the budget and pass an education bill. Negotiations on HB 5, the bill that sets curriculum and requirements for high school graduation, among other things, continued late last night.
Today, the Texas Tribune reported that the lawmakers working on the bill were joined by some very special, very sleazy guests: Texans for Lawsuit Reform!
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst; House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio; Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston; and Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, were among the elected officials present for the negotiations. The meeting also included staff from Gov. Rick Perry's office, and Texans for Education Reform lobbyists Mike Toomey, Dick Trabulsi and Florence Shapiro, a former senator who preceded Patrick in leading the upper chamber's education committee.
Texans for Education Reform is a group of folks from Texans for Lawsuit Reform who have decided to focus their efforts this session on promoting charter schools and school “choice.”
TLR, as y'all well know, is also the group dedicated to the defeat of Democrats, both through their funding of predominantly Republican candidates. They also take a more round-about way of doing this through their lobbying and efforts to weaken the rights of citizens to seek justice in our civil courts, which is intended to hurt the financial success of trial lawyers, traditionally donors to Democratic candidates.
And what lobbyists did TLR — excuse me, TER — send to the Capitol? None other than Mike Toomey, Perry's former Chief of Staff and BFF and noted corporate lobbyist,; former State Senator Florence Shapiro, who left public service to chase big dollars as a lobbyist; and Dick Trabulsi, a founder of TLR and chairman of the group's PAC.
Right-wing pro-corporate lobbyists should not be writing our public education legislation. We need education policies that focus on educating all of our Texas children to succeed in a competitive 21st century economy.
I have my doubts about whether an organization dedicated to representing corporations' interests in dodging legitimate lawsuits should really be shaping public education policy. TLR erects barriers to justice for regular Texans who deserve their day in court. They aren't qualified to represent the best interests of the over 4.9 million students in our Texas public schools.
As long as Republicans are in charge of our state, we can expect this business to continue. While Democrats are fighting to restore $3.9 billion to public education, Republicans are letting corporate lobbyists shape our education policy. It stinks, and it's another reminder that it's high time we took back this state and let real leaders make the decisions.