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November 20, 2014
Net Neutrality 101

The debate over Net Neutrality has attracted more attention recently since President Obama came out in support of it, and then doubled its attention when Texas Senator Ted Cruz came out against it. But many are still left wondering, what is Net Neutrality, and who does it affect?

Net Neutrality allows anyone who accesses the internet fair and equal privilege to the same information, and under this concept no one— neither government, specifically the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or ISPs— can permit special privileges to anyone over another. Simply speaking, Net Neutrality— the concept that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, or AT&T, as well as the U.S. Government must treat all data on the internet equally— can be equated to the first amendment for the internet.

The problem we’re currently facing is easy to understand if you break it up into pieces. Under current regulation (or lack thereof), most consumers have two options, at most, when it comes to choosing an internet service. And when the internet users in a geographic region are limited to one or two service providers it creates a lag in download speed, which slows down service for anyone on the network.

To alleviate the issue, ISPs have offered a solution: treat the internet like a highway, and create a fast lane. Under this solution consumers AND telecommunications companies would be able to pay an extra fee to receive faster service.

Sounds reasonable, right? Wrong.

November 20, 2014

Now that the 2014 election is over, it’s easier to see that despite a few setbacks we also made some serious advances— particularly on the topic of Marijuana policy reform.

These victories for marijuana policy reform give validity to polls showing that more than half of Americans already support, and it’s only a matter of time before more states jump on board.

While not on the ballot, we’ve seen considerable progression on the issue in Texas. Polling shows that more than 60% of Texans favor laws that reduce possession laws from criminal offenses to civil offenses (which is commonly referred to as “decriminalization”), while 58% support medical marijuana laws in Texas.

So what do you think? Should Texas support marijuana policy reform? You can weigh in on the issue here.

The following are a list of states that conquered stigmas surrounding marijuana policy during the midterm elections.

Oregon and Alaska

Oregon and Alaska voted to join Colorado and Washington as the third and fourth states to legalize marijuana use for adults 21 and older. Similar to alcohol sales, the two states have established systems in which marijuana will be regulated and taxed. On the Oregon ballot, Measure 91 was approved by more than 54% of voters, and on Alaska’s ballot, Measure 2 was approved 52-48.

Washington, D.C

Voters in the nation’s capitol approved Initiative 71— an initiative that removed all penalties for possession and home growth of limited amounts of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older— by a margin of 65-28. To date, this was the largest approval rate of any marijuana policy reform initiative in history!

November 18, 2014
Rick Perry's Double Standard on Drunk Driving

Gov. Rick Perry's administration promoted a convicted drunk driver to chair the same Cancer Research Fund that was being investigated by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. When she was convicted for the same offense, Perry said she had lost the public trust and needed to resign, adding recently that "given the chance, he'd do it again." But his recent appointment to head up the Cancer Research fund proves otherwise, indicating that he's less against "Driving While Intoxicated" and more against "Driving While Democrat."

Wayne Roberts, who now heads up the governor’s signature creation, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, was convicted of driving while intoxicated in 1990 and 2006. He also was fined in 2000 on a charge of public intoxication in Virginia.

Perry made him budget director in December 2001 and appointed him to the State Pension Review Board in 2009. The board of the cancer fund, known as CPRIT, appointed Roberts to his current position, and three of the board members were selected by Perry. At both the pension board and CPRIT, Roberts oversees billions of state dollars.

Like Lehmberg, Roberts seems to have paid the price for his infractions. But unlike Lehmberg, Roberts was charged with drunk driving and public intoxication three times! And rather than calling for a resignation, Perry's administration has done the opposite and promoted him. That's a inconvenient double standard that comes at a time when Perry is in court defending a charge of coercing Lehmberg to resign over her single drunk driving offense.

November 18, 2014

In a blow to Governor Rick Perry's defense campaign, the presiding judge in Perry's pre-trial rejected his attempt to get his two count felony indictment thrown out on a technicality

In response, Ed Espinoza, Executive Director of Progress Texas, released the following statement:

"Even though Rick Perry and his high-priced legal team have left no political stone unturned, their cheap technicality trick won’t get Perry get out of his felony indictment. The judge rightly rejected their ridiculous argument. Perry may think he's above the law, but he isn't."

November 14, 2014

The midterm elections are over, but our senators in Washington still have important business to attend to: confirming judicial nominees to fill vacancies on our nation’s federal courts to keep the wheels of justice moving.

The Senate has a constitutional duty to work with the President on the judicial nominee process to ensure that federal court vacancies are filled. Nationwide, heading into the 2014 lame duck period, there are 64 current judicial vacancies and only 34 nominees pending in the Senate. Nine of the current judicial vacancies are in Texas’ federal courts, and there are only six pending nominees.

As Senator John Cornyn said in 2005: “No partisan minority of the Senate has a right to block a bipartisan majority from casting a vote to confirm this president’s or any president’s nominees.”

This isn’t about politics; it's about good governance.

November 13, 2014
Republican Appointees Urge Adopting ACA Provisions

A 15-member board of medical professionals appointed by Governor Rick Perry and created by a majority Republican legislature is pushing for the Texas’ health commissioner to accept federal funds to expand medicaid. Board members of the Texas Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency (IHCQE) called Texas’ rate of uninsured “unacceptable” and said that “we should be maximizing available federal funds through the Medicaid program to improve health care for all Texans.”

The IHCQE are not the only Republican appointees to back medicaid expansion. Greg Abbott's recent pick for Texas' Secretary of State, Carlos Cascos, told the Texas Tribune that:

 "As secretary of state he was 'not just going to go along to get along' with Abbott, and that on health care issues there would be 'policy disagreement' among Republican officials."

Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, conservative lawmakers have stopped at nothing to slow down or block provisions of the law. Most alarmingly— considering the dire need for it in Texas— medicaid expansion has been at the forefront of their political sights. 

Medicaid expansion, which would provide coverage to the Texans who need it most, is working in 28 states nationwide, and at least four more states are expected to follow suit soon. By conservatives blocking access to federal funding, they are denying access to affordable healthcare to over 1 million hard working Texans.

November 12, 2014
Open Enrollment Through The Healthcare Marketplace Begins November 15

Whether you missed the opportunity to get affordable health care during last year’s open enrollment period, or you’re looking to make changes to your existing plan, you’re in luck— Open enrollment through the Affordable Care Act via Healthcare.gov begins again on Saturday, Nov.15.

To date, 734,000 Texans have signed-up for coverage on Healthcare.gov and, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, the marketplace has been a huge lift: “Texas has seen more progress on affordable health insurance in the last six months than in the last decade.

A few things to know before you get started:

You can start shopping for coverage now. Although enrollment doesn’t start until Saturday, you can compare plans on HealthCare.gov now to get an idea of which will fit your needs best when the time comes to enroll. The enrollment period is from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15. However, the deadline to receive coverage by Jan. 1 is Dec. 15.

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