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Kirk Watson

#AskKW Twitter Town Hall Friday, June 27th

by: Kirk Watson

Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 06:53 PM CDT

Please join me for a twitter town hall this Friday, June 27th hosted from the Texas Democratic State Convention in Dallas to discuss the political landscape and important issues in the upcoming legislative session. 
I've done this at the last few state conventions and have enjoyed the opportunity to hear delegates' ideas and answer questions from all over the state. 
I hope we can spark a lively discussion.
Watson Twitter Town Hall
Here is how you can participate: 

I will take questions submitted live via twitter and tweet out responses. You can also submit questions in advance by tweeting them to my Twitter handle @KirkPWatson or using the hashtag #AskKW. 


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Kirk Watson Campaign Academy Is Now Accepting Applications

by: Travis County Democrats

Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 03:29 PM CDT

(This is a great program. If you're interested or know a promising young person who wants to learn how to campaign, please send this to them! - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

It's my sincere honor to host the Kirk Watson Campaign Academy. If you're a high school senior, college student or recent graduate that is interested in gaining campaign experience you should sign up.

This is a great opportunity to help Democrats win by learning the ropes of political organizing and campaigning. The Campaign Academy is dedicated to ensuring that every student has a rewarding and challenging experience, while making a difference in the political system.

The Academy will give students real - and unique - exposure to Texas-style politics. The best part of the program might be the daily lunch speakers, an unusually distinguished group that includes current and former elected officials, political consultants, university professors, journalists, and state policy experts. I've been happy to speak to the Academy every summer, and it was always a lot of fun - good students asking great questions.

Find the link to apply below the jump...

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What should we be talking about?

by: Kirk Watson

Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 06:33 PM CDT

If you were us, what would you be talking about?

Every other year, in the interim between the last legislative session and the next one, both chambers of the legislature continue to work.

A lot of what we work on falls in the category of interim charges or interim studies. They're a little like extended research projects: we spend time meeting (typically as committees) and learning about subjects that the Lieutenant Governor (in the Senate's case) or the Speaker of the House (in the House's) put on a list of things to review and analyze. The studies help set the priorities for the ensuing legislative session.

Obviously, these are (as Ron Burgundy would say) kind of a big deal. And the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus think they're too important to leave to the folks who've been failing to deliver on Texans' priorities for all of these years.

So I and the other Democratic Senators want your help in deciding what those priorities should be.

The Caucus has set up a web page where you can give your thoughts on what Texas should be focusing on in this interim.

Just go to bit.ly/14PzGfq and let us know what needs to be on the list.

There are so many areas where Texas can do better - for our kids, our economy and our future - than it's been doing. This is your chance to help make sure the state's priorities are where they need to be.

Please CLICK HERE and let us know what you think. Texas needs to hear it. I'll be sure your ideas are submitted to the Lieutenant Governor and encourage him to put them on the list.  <!--more-->

Good and bad health news

The last weeks have been pretty earth-shaking for anyone who cares about health or healthcare in Texas. And not always in a good way.

Most of the developments have come out of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The good news is that the Health Insurance Marketplace is now open to help Texans sign up for health insurance. Last week, I joined a number of other community leaders to help spread the word about this opportunity to get health insurance - and the need for Texans to take advantage of it.

(By the way, if you're interested in getting health insurance or know of anyone who would or should be, go towww.healthcare.gov or just call 2-1-1 in Austin.)

Texas Needs Health Insurance

Unfortunately, this great, crucial progress was obscured by raw, destructive politics, mostly from the Governor's office.


Navigator news

First, the Governor seems intent on making life as difficult as possible on healthcare navigators whose job it is to help Texans sign up for insurance. Worse still, the Governor appears to be using - or misusing - a bill I passed during the regular session that had the exact opposite goal: to make it easier for Texans to find insurance in ways that make sense for Texas.

Last week, I spoke at a hearing on potential regulations for navigators. Here are highlights from the Texas Tribune's writeup:

At an informal hearing held by TDI on Monday to take input on Perry's directive, state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said he feared legislation he authored to ensure navigators could effectively help Texans find coverage in the federal marketplace had been wrongly co-opted by Perry in an effort to derail implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

"These provisions were put in place to prevent precisely what I fear may be in motion here today," said Watson. "And that is a politically motivated effort to circumvent federal and state law concerning navigators and an even larger coordinated nationwide effort to shut down implementation of the Affordable Care Act."

Watson told the agency that Senate Bill 1795, which he authored in the last legislative session, requires TDI to make a "good faith effort" to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve the federal navigator rules before implementing additional state rules. Only after "a reasonable interval" does the law allow the insurance commissioner to begin a rule-making process.

Watson alleged that the agency's decision to schedule a stakeholder meeting to begin the rule-making process shortly after receiving the governor's directive and to hold the stakeholder meeting on the day before the launch of the federal marketplace - "a critical day for navigators" - indicated that the agency's rule-making process could be intentionally impeding implementation of the navigator program.


Don't forget Medicaid

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act also put a spotlight on another wrongheaded decision by the Governor - his refusal to expand Medicaid so more of our fellow citizens can access affordable, reliable healthcare.

This decision has terrible implications for Texas' economy as well as its people. I detailed a number of those in an editorial that ran in the Statesman last week. Here's an excerpt:

It's past time to get serious about health coverage for Texans.

The Affordable Care Act is law. Its primary components start to take effect Tuesday. Many of its benefits are already in place.

The folks running Texas need to face reality. It's time to put the health of Texans, and our economy, ahead of political histrionics.

Right now, the law extends coverage for young adults, allowing them to stay on their parents' insurance plans until they turn 26. It forbids insurance companies from turning folks down because of preexisting conditions. It expands coverage for preventive care and screenings. It lowers costs for people in the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole." And it enhances consumer protections against insurance cancellations.

The only questions left to answer are whether states such as Texas will create barriers to implementing these good changes and whether they'll expand Medicaid to cover, in our case, about 1.3 million to 1.7 million more uninsured citizens. The federal government would pick up nearly all of the costs of the expansion.

So far, the tragic answers are "yes" to barriers and "no" to more people being covered. The governor and others have made a political circus out of health care in Texas by turning their backs on tens of billions of your tax dollars that now won't come back to Texas for your benefit.

By refusing to secure health coverage for about 1.3 to 1.7 million Texans, those in control are costing Texas about $79 billion to $90 billion over 10 years in tax money we'll send to Washington. A Perryman Group study found that expanding Medicaid would boost Texas' economic output by $270 billion.

And don't forget, Texas already leads the nation in the percentage of residents without health coverage. We should put these billions of dollars to work keeping Texans healthy and cutting down on pricey emergency room visits that, in many cases, are ultimately paid for with local property taxes.

And then there are all the lost economic benefits. Expanding Medicaid in Texas would create nearly 200,000 jobs, according to a study conducted by Billy Hamilton (Texas' renowned former deputy comptroller) and the group Texas Impact.

Clearly, the launch of so many important pieces of the Affordable Care Act means last week was one for the history books.

I just hope it's remembered for the right, healthy reasons - not the harmful, political ones.

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Electrified Crowds Greet Wendy Davis & Company Tour In Houston (VIDEO)

by: egberto

Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 10:04 AM CDT

Wendy Davis and her colleagues from the Senate, Senator Kirk Watson, Senator Rodney Ellis, Senator Sylvia Garcia, and Senator Jose Rodriguez are touring Texas by bus. Their intent is to rally and educate Texans in order that they will take corrective action for the current fraud that is the current legislature.

There were over 1000 souls in attendance even after a downpour followed by a very muggy humid heat. Attendees did not mind the heat, wet, or the mud. They gave the Senators and Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood a fiery hot welcome. This rally exceeded expectation just as did last night's rally in Austin and last week's rally.

All of the attendees knew exactly why they were there. "I feel strongly about this issue," said Linda Walker, a veteran that served the country. "I didn't serve this country to   be treated as a second class citizen."

Laura said that she was out rallying with everyone else because "I feel like women's rights are being taken away. It's not fair. It's not constitutional and that's not what special sessions are for, it's for emergency situations; not for something that is related to a woman's body," she said. "My grandmother fought for this. We shouldn't still be fighting for this," said Kara.

"Men need to stay out of our bodies, especially politicians. They have no say in what we do with our bodies," said Mandy. Mandy's friend Amanda said she has been registered to vote since she was 18. "They better bet their sorry butts that I will remember each one of my representative who voted no because they are not voting for me. They are not representing me," she said.

The roar of the crowd could be heard for several blocks in Downtown Houston. Following the event, the Senators mingled with many in the crowed for a while before returning to the bus.

Visit the website: http://StandWithTXWomen.org
Visit The Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/StandWithTXWomen.

LIKE My Facebook Page - Visit My Blog: EgbertoWillies.com

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Texas Democratic Officials Call For Statewide Hearings On Abortion Bill

by: Joe Deshotel

Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 02:00 PM CDT

Update: The original version of this story was published before the Senate posted the notice of public hearing. The time and location remain correct: Monday July 8th, 10am in room E1.036 (Senate Finance).

Who would have imagined on the eve of Independence Day in 2013 that Texas women would still be fighting for their constitutional right to make their own health decisions. This day should be about freedom, and you can't have freedom without choice.

Last night over 3,500 people came to the Texas Capitol and registered their opinion on HB 2, the 2nd special session version of the back-door abortion ban, but over 1,000 still left without having their voices heard.

That's why leading Democrats in both the House and Senate are calling for public hearings across Texas.

Sources in the Senate tell me that the Senate Health and Human Services Committee is set hear the bill Monday, 8th at 10am in the Senate Finance room, but as of this posting the hearing notice has not been made public. It could be posted today but because of the Senate's 24hr rule if this is correct, Sen. Nelson can wait as late as Sunday, 10am before posting the hearing notice. Senate rule 11.18 says, "The chair shall afford reasonable opportunity to interested parties to appear and testify at the hearing", and it could reasonably argued that because of the impact of this bill that making the notice public over a holiday weekend is not sufficient.

Senator Watson has sent a letter of request to HHS Chair Sen. Nelson to have a more transparent hearing on the floor and some fair process for calling testimony for and against the bill. It is unclear whether Senator Nelson will comply with these requests.

You can Stand With Texas Women by signing this petition through Planned Parenthood to Demand public hearings across Texas.

Find out what happened in the House hearing on HB2 last night and see the requests for statewide hearings by Senate and House members below the jump...

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Texas Democratic Legislators Make "It Gets Better" Videos

by: Michael Hurta

Sun Jun 23, 2013 at 01:57 PM CDT

Earlier this week, two new "It Gets Better" videos was released by Omar Araiza, who works for Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa. The video features a long handful of legislatures, all Democrats. State Representative Mary Gonzalez, the first openly pansexual legislator, is among the legislators who take part.

Here's part I:

Watch Part II below the fold.

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A Brief History of Blocker Bills in Redistricting Special Sessions

by: Katherine Haenschen

Wed May 29, 2013 at 09:18 AM CDT

The biggest issue in the Senate in terms of the special session on redistricting will be whether the 2/3rds rule is in effect. As explained previously on BOR, the 2/3rds rule requires 21 Senators to vote to suspend the rules to bring a bill up out of order. With 12 Democrats in the 31-member body, the 2/3rds rule gives our party the leverage to stop bad things from coming up to a vote if we stick together.

However, the 2/3rds rule only exists if there's a "Blocker Bill" in place to necessitate suspension of the rules in order to bring up other legislation. No blocker, no 2/3rds rule.

Blocker bills are the norm in the Senate. Federal courts -- where most Texas redistricting schemes end up because they're intentionally discriminatory -- don't like seeing rule changes for redistricting legislation, because it usually means one side (here, the Republicans) are up to no good and trying to change the rules to win the game.

Below the jump, find out more about Blocker Bills and find out how they've been disregarded in past special sessions to pass discriminatory redistricting schemes.

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Governor Rick Perry Calls Immediate Special Session on Redistricting to Enact Discriminatory Maps

by: Katherine Haenschen

Mon May 27, 2013 at 07:38 PM CDT

Sine do, sine don't. Just moments after the House and Senate wrapped up their business, Governor Rick Perry called a special session to address the issue of redistricting.

So far, only redistricting is on the call, but other issues can be added at any time. At press time, the Senate had already gaveled back in and began debating rules for the session.

From Perry's announcement:

The special session will consider the following issue:

Legislation which ratifies and adopts the interim redistricting plans ordered by the federal district court as the permanent plans for districts used to elect members of the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate and United States House of Representatives.

One problem: these interim maps were based on previous maps passed by the Legislature and found by the courts to be intentionally discriminatory against minorities.

Read more about what we know about the special session so far.

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Jan Soifer Elected Travis County Democratic Chair

by: Michael Hurta

Mon May 20, 2013 at 09:30 AM CDT

Andy Brown, running for County Judge, is no longer the Travis County Democratic Party Chair. Yesterday, the Party's County Executive Committee, made up of the county's Democratic precinct chairs, met to appoint a replacement.

This meeting saw high turnout, as over 70 precinct chairs were present to choose their new leader. Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Senator Kirk Watson were present, too.

Both Doggett and Watson expressed their gratitude for outgoing chair Andy Brown's hard and diligent work. For that work, that CEC would pass a unanimous resolution praising Andy Brown for his service to the party.

Doggett and Watson also expressed their support for Jan Soifer. Soifer was the only candidate nominated to fill the role in an interim basis -- there will be a full election in the March primary -- and she was elected by acclimation.

Soifer is currently a Democratic precinct chair. She's a practicing attorney who has been long involved in Democratic politics in Austin. Like Andy Brown, who lost an election to a different political office before running for Chair, Soifer's involvement includes a run for District Judge in 2004. Her experience will undoubtedly help her in the chair's most frequent and important function - raising money for the Travis County Democratic Party. The transition is already off to a good start in that manner, as Kirk Watson handed over a $15,000 party right before Soifer was elected.

Soifer started immediately, as she chaired the rest of this May's CEC meeting. In remarks to the precinct chairs, she enumerated several immediate goals: continue the party's solid fundraising immediately, recruit more precinct chairs (over half many of the county's precincts are without Democratic chairs), and finally hire a full-time Executive Director to replace former ED Laura Hernandez.

Soifer is the first female chair of the Travis County Democratic Party in over three decades, and she plans to run in the 2014 primary to finish the term.

9:37 pm 5/20 Correction: The original posting said that over half of the county's precincts were without Democratic precinct hairs. That is not correct. Depending on semantics, one might be able to say that almost half were without chairs -- but the CEC approved about 15 new chairs on Sunday.
Clarification: While Andy Brown ran for HD48 in 2006, he dropped out and endorsed Donna Howard, but too late to take his name off of the primary ballot.

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Demand an Honest Budget

by: Kirk Watson

Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:42 PM CDT

This was supposed to be the year when Texas finally did better when it came to budget honesty.

We were going to use parks money to pay for parks; clean air money for cleaner air; utility fees for utility relief ... The list goes on. 

But taxpayers aren’t seeing the reform they expect, which means your money – tax dollars, fees and such – still aren’t being spent the way you were promised they would be.

Here’s how they get you:

The state budget is honeycombed with hundreds of "dedicated" funds – little piggybanks where those in control collect your taxes and fees. The state promises to spend the money on a specific, usually popular purpose that you probably support. 

But then, much of that money is hoarded in the accounts, diverted from its intended purposes and used to cover other costs.

Over the years, the state has allowed those accounts to get bigger and bigger, starving necessities (like parks, trauma care, 911 service and clean air) that it was meant to pay for and covering up for the failure to fund basic state functions (like schools and healthcare) in more honest, transparent ways.

And, as a result, nearly $5 billion was diverted away from its dedicated purposes in the current 2012-13 budget.

At the start of this session, folks like the Governor and Speaker of the House promised to start weaning the state from its addiction to diversions. But, if anything, things are getting even less transparent.

Right now, those in control of the legislature are pushing a pre-election utility rebate gimmick that would divert more than $700 million from its purpose. That’s money Texans have given the state to help low-income families in deregulated electricity markets pay their utility bills.

The reason the money was collected – the need it’s meant to address – still exists. Hundreds of thousands of poor and elderly Texans still can’t afford their bills in brutally hot months. 

Budget writers are using that broken promise to underwrite another one: they pledge to divert no more than $4 billion -- $4 billion! -- in the next budget. 

That’s close to the $4.95 billion they’re diverting now, minus the $700 million they’re writing off in the rebate scheme.

In other words they’re still addicted to diversions, pursing business-as-usual while shrouding it in fake reform. Worse still, budget writers have rejected calls to craft a plan to wean the state off of this practice over the next few budgets. I filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would bring true, long-term reform to this process; it hasn’t even been given a hearing. 

That’s not real reform. That’s like someone promising he won’t keep drinking any more without promising to drink much less, either.

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