December 16, 2014

The federal government is ending its prohibition against medical marijuana.

As part of the end-of-year budget package, a bipartisan Congress has adopted language that would prohibit the federal government, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, from interfering in any way with states that have adopted medical marijuana laws. From the L.A. Times story, “Congress quietly ends federal government's ban on medical marijuana.

December 16, 2014

This is a man (see above: guy on right in duck pajamas) who is representing Texas in the halls of Congress. A former staffer in the congressional office of Representative Blake Farenthold filed suit against his office alleging she was illegally fired after complaining about sexual harassment.

In her complaint, Farenthold's former staffer alleges: 

December 12, 2014

Check our staff's top 10 favorite images from 2014 and make sure you like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get our latest work.


Greg Abbott came under fire for blocking public access to state records documenting the location of dangerous chemicals. He told Texans to "drive around" if they wanted to find dangerous chemical plants near their home. Yes. Really...



The Freedom to Marry campaign has generated almost 25,000 signatures. Our effort sought to prove we could get more signatures than Republicans had rallying against marriage at their state convention.

December 11, 2014

Not all news is good news, but these Top 10 stories from 2014 are definitely big news. Check out the stories our staff enjoyed the most, and make sure you like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get our latest work.

  1. Republican Scandals 

    Greg Abbott & Rick Perry Bobbleheads

December 11, 2014
Texas Republicans Propose Bill Allowing Discrimination, This Is How We Stop Them

This is what we're up against this legislative session: A month out, and two Republican legislators have already filed proposals for constitutional amendments that would provide a license to discriminate against Texas’ LGBTQ community by using religion as a weapon.

December 10, 2014
McCain Speech Against Torture Dismantles Ted Cruz Talking Points
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate released a report on CIA torture practices. In response, Republican Senator John McCain, a survivor of torture himself, lauded the report with a speech in which he said "...the American people have a right - indeed a responsibility - to know what was done in their name."
Ted Cruz disagrees.
November 26, 2014

Ah, the holidays. A time for turkeys of all kinds; the ones you eat, and the ones you call your uncle. At some point, you know he’s going to try to talk politics.

We’ve got your back.

This year we’ve assembled a Thanksgiving-edition of our “how to talk to your crazy uncle” series, offering five responses about President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

Because whether it’s your crazy Tea Party uncle, a distant relative who starts every sentence with, "As a taxpayer..." or if it’s Ted Cruz – someone will say something ridiculous.

CRAZY UNCLE SAYS: Does the President have authority to take executive action?

YOU SAY: Yes, the President exercises executive authority granted to him by Congress in the same way every other president has over the past 60 years. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush both used executive authority to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. Bush’s action covered about 1.4 million people, or about 40% of America's undocumented population at the time, the same percentage covered by Obama’s action.

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 begins again on Saturday, Nov.15.

To date, 734,000 Texans have signed-up for coverage on 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 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.

November 6, 2014
  1. We get it. The 2014 election felt like this:

  2. It's ok to get angry.

  3. And maybe a little drunk.

November 6, 2014

Governor Rick Perry is due in court for his second pre-trial hearing today. At issue is Perry’s veto of millions of state dollars to the office of the Travis County District Attorney after she failed to heed his demand for her resignation. The veto subsequently derailed 400 felony investigations committed against the State of Texas.

Here’s an update on what’s gone down since he was booked on a two-count felony indictment in August:

  • Reprimanded and accused of mocking the justice system: After remarks at a press conference in which Rick Perry responded to the indictment by stating “those responsible will be held to account,” he was issued a stern warning from the courts. Judge Julie Kocurek said that the only people the Governor could be referring to as being held accountable are the grand jurors, the judge and the prosecutor. In issuing her warning, she cited the section of the Texas Penal Code that outlaws retaliation against a grand juror—a second-degree felony. Third felony’s the charm, right? Citing the circus Rick Perry’s legal defense team created around his booking at the courthouse, special prosecutor Michael McCrum commented that he’d “never seen a defendant make such a mockery of our system of justice.” 
  • Continues to threaten grand jury: Perry’s defense team has since requested transcripts from the grand jury investigation. These transcripts would identify the grand jurors involved in his indictment: “There's also a risk the governor, armed with a transcript, would retaliate against anyone associated with the grand jury process, prosecutors argued. ‘In particular, the defendant's own words have instilled a concern for all persons who participated in the grand jury investigation.’"
November 5, 2014

In 2014, progressives saw the successful rebuilding of our grassroots base, including increased funding, a more sophisticated online presence and growing memberships. Organizations like ours will carry that momentum beyond the election.

We know that overcoming the Republican advantages of fundraising and infrastructure is going to take time, and this year’s collective organizing reflects long-term efforts to build a more progressive Texas.

October 31, 2014
Greg Abbott Pals Around With Some Creepy People
Over the years, one thing I've heard people say about political candidates is that "they'll be good leaders if they surround themselves with good people." It tells you something about the central figure: the company they keep is a reflection of themselves.
In the race for Texas Governor we've seen Republican Greg Abbott associate himself with a cast of characters that are unlikely to be invited to anyone's house, so why would we invite them to have a direct line into the State House?
Here is a quick list of who Abbott has surrounded himself with this year:
Ted Nugent, a rock and roller who is now better known for inflammatory comments than he is for playing the guitar. Earlier this year Nugent had to apologize for calling President Obama a "subhuman mongrel." When a reporter asserted that such phrasing was Nazi terminology, PolitiFact looked in to the claim and rated it true. Abbott hosted Nugent at a campaign event, leading media from all around Texas to question Abbott's judgement, with the Texas Monthly writing that "it reveals Abbott, at the very least, as someone who doesn't have acute political judgement."
Eric Erickson, the editor-in-chief of and the man who coined the phrase "Abortion Barbie." Abbott appeared at the Red State Gathering in Fort Worth early this year. Erickson's 2014 greatest hits go on to include public statements such as "the male of the species is dominant," and that women who work are "hurting children, and it's going to have impact for generations to come." He continued that "I don't view it as judging, I view it as a statement of fact." Even the conservative Fox News took him to task on these comments, when host Megyn Kelly gave him the what-for
Dennis Bonnen, the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas Legislature, who was worked together with Abbott for years. Over the summer Bonnen apologized after being recorded using a racial slur during a committee hearing while referring to child refugees from Hurricane Katrina.

October 31, 2014
Healthcare Is Always on the Ballot

Ed. note: the following is cross-posted from the Texas Organizing Project.

This year, Texas voters are hearing a lot about the issue of healthcare. It’s an important subject that touches peoples lives every day - not just in election years and not just this year.

Governor Rick Perry’s refusal to participate in Medicaid expansion has left more than 2 million Texans without access to affordable health care. This course of inaction, which is now supported by Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott, is a painful example of how Republicans are placing ideology before public policy.

Their actions have created a “coverage gap” for more than one million Texans - those who work and get paid too little to qualify for subsidies but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. The coverage gap includes veterans and their spouses, and those who are the vast majority of Texas’ growing economy: workers in retail, construction, child care, hospitality, and food service.

Even though passage of the Affordable Care Act increased access to affordable health care, working families still have trouble affording the preventative care and routine check-ups that defend against expensive “emergency” procedures. Without expanding Medicaid, these one million Texans in the gap can’t get subsidies to help cover these costs that low-income working families in other states have access to. Even Republican strongholds such as Arizona, Arkansas and Kentucky have adopted a form of affordable care to serve those most vulnerable.

Refusing to expand Medicaid also leaves $100 billion in federal dollars on the table. Leaving taxpayer money in the hands of the federal government means we are paying twice for health care - in higher taxes at the local level to cover uncompensated costs of the uninsured, and in federal taxes that aren’t coming home to Texas.

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