Grassroots America’s Priorities for the 85th Legislative Session

“Limited government principles, coupled with high ethical standards, advance individual liberty, promote economic freedom, and ensure transparent, high quality, efficient and effective services for taxpayers. It is therefore an entirely reasonable expectation that a Republican majority legislature and an all-Republican statewide leadership will pass these needed reforms and necessary citizen protections, the majority of which are specified in the 2016 Texas GOP Platform.” JoAnn Fleming, Executive Director, Grassroots America

 

Protecting Religious Liberty and First Amendment Rights  Definitively protect the religious liberties of individuals, of government employees, of counselors, of business owners, including (but not limited to) faith-based care facilities and adoption agencies. Protect and preserve First Amendment Rights, including freedom of speech, protection of the right not to violate one’s conscience as it relates to religious faith and beliefs; these protections must include protection for political speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and the requisite due process for all who exercise these Constitutional rights.

 

Protecting life –  Ban abortion by dismemberment to end the trafficking of the body parts of victims of abortion; close the loopholes in state laws that do not protect unborn children with disabilities from abortion; enact an overarching budget patch to render Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers ineligible for one cent of state money; repeal the Texas Advance Directives Act of 1999 to safeguard vulnerable patients from hospital death panels and quality of value judgments imposed by hospital personnel.

 

Second Amendment – pass open carry without a license (constitutional carry); support license to carry fee reform – making lawful carry more affordable for the average law abiding citizen.

 

Support SB 6 Texas Privacy Act for public schools, government buildings and public universities; ensures biological males use facilities designated for males and biological females use facilities designated for females in support of expected privacy and public safety; ensures that businesses have the freedom to determine their own facility policies, which the free market will either endorse or reject.

 

Border Security/Immigration Enforcement – secure Texas from border breeches, including  refugee resettlement by the federal government; ban sanctuary cities and campuses with enforceable financial penalties; end social welfare magnets (including in-state tuition breaks and loopholes in TANF – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families); uphold the rule of law by mandating e-verify for government and private sector employers.

 

Educational Freedom/Parental Choice – apply free market principles to education to empower parents with more options for the education of their children; protect private and home schools from government regulation; reform public education for enhanced academic accountability, reduction in remedial rates, and fiscal responsibility; remove federal overreach and curriculum influence from Texas public schools, while requiring parental notification/opt-out regarding curriculum that conflicts with parental religious or moral beliefs.

 

Spending and Property tax reformRequire voter approval when local governments and/or local taxing entities seek to increase the tax rate by more than 3%. Since funding public schools represents the largest component of property taxes, no lasting structural reform is possible without the legislature addressing the financing of public education and the elimination of the “Robin Hood” system – the wealth redistribution scheme where property wealthy school districts give money back to the state for smaller, or poorer districts. School finance reform must also address the Texas Constitutional mandate for “efficiency.” The Texas Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that efficiency means ‘productive of results with little waste.’ Any local spending control legislation must include public education if there is to be lasting spending and property tax reform.

 

Budget Reform – enact zero-based, program-based budgeting; eliminate the franchise tax; require a supermajority legislative vote for taxes to be raised. Any increase in state and local government spending from all sources should be limited to the increase of population growth plus inflation. The Texas Legislature, the Governor, Lt. Governor, and House Speaker should actively work to balance the state’s budget with existing revenues without additional debt and employing the past practices of accounting gimmicks, deferrals, and various types of budget trickery, including holding tax and fee revenues in line items to balance the budget on paper.

 

Transportation reform – Toll cessation (remove tolls from roads and highway segments when paid for to prevent perpetual taxation and multi-leveraging schemes); ensure gas taxes and all public road funds go to non-toll roads only; prevent conversion of free lanes to toll lanes; reform toll collection abuses. The Transportation Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation must be reformed to eliminate inefficient processes and operational waste. As the recent Sunset Review demonstrates, simply shoveling more money into a broken, untrustworthy system will never fix it.

 

Reforms to ensure election integrity – Empower the Office of the Texas Attorney General to enforce sanctions and penalties for election fraud; mandate that county election administrators meet the statutory requirement to make ballot data available on the day following the election; mandate proper and timely maintenance of eligible voter data base by county election administrators; reform the application process and use of ballot by mail; require court-proof photo identification for all voters; require preservation of ballot images and paper back-ups to electronic voting; make election dates uniform; end rolling polling so that voting locations cannot be moved; and close Texas primary elections.

 

Secure the Texas Power Grid strengthen/harden the resiliency of Texas’ electrical grid against natural-occurring and manmade attacks to protect the lives and economic livelihood of Texans.

 

Protect Taxpayers from LoneStar Card Abuse – add recipient photo ID and name on Texas LoneStar Cards to help deter fraud, waste and abuse in the food stamp program.

 

End corporate welfare, central management of the Texas economy disguised as economic development, and private land grabbing through unfair eminent domain – eliminate all forms of corporate subsidies and welfare in favor of free market principles. This includes the Texas Enterprise Fund, Events Trust Funds, and the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentives.

 

Pass American Laws for American Courts – Only the US Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and Texas statutes should govern Texas courts – not foreign laws. Clarify that foreign laws are extraneous and inconsequential in Texas courts and in courts of the United States.

Pass a Parent Child Protection Act to 1) protect children from unnecessary and harmful investigations and removals by clarifying the standards that must be met before a child can be removed from his or her home; 2) close loopholes in current law that allow CPS to ignore deadlines and other necessary mandates without any repercussions; 3) provide additional protections to families and parents by reforming the legal procedure allowing families an effective defense while remaining innocent until proven guilty.

Pass a Family Unity Act reforming parts of the Texas Family Code, including 1) defense of the rights of parents, providing due process by closing loopholes allowing in-laws to file frivolous lawsuits against parents; 2) protecting children from “legal kidnappings” which take them from loving homes by establishing hard standards of evidence that must be met before a court can order children to be taken from their parents; 3) keeping families together by stopping indefinite removals of children from their homes by placing restrictions on the use of so-called “temporary orders”— a type of court order that has no actual deadline or end-date.

Mandate Ethics Reform for Government Officialsmandate disclosure of government contracts held by public officials and their family members; prohibit public officials from engaging in registered lobbying while in office and for five years after leaving office; separate legislative salaries/pensions from state district judicial salaries; prohibit double-dipping by statewide officials and legislators – the practice of retiring on paper, while still in office, in order to draw early pension benefits.

Empower the Texas Attorney General to investigate local public corruption. This includes giving the Attorney General – not district attorneys and county attorneys – the statutory authority to investigate alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act and to enforce the Act to ensure that those public meetings covered by TOMA are in compliance with state law.

 

Secure renewed Medicaid Waiver from Congress for a block grant to the statethe block grant must restore the original intent of Medicaid, which is state administration of the program.

 

Reform Mental Health Programs we support the legislative agenda of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas as it relates to Article II funding for the MHMR (mental health/mental retardation) community and state hospital mental health services:

  • Ensure the availability of an appropriate number of forensic and civil psychiatric beds (including maximum-security forensic beds).
  • Provide for outpatient treatment services and alternatives to hospitalization.
  • Endorse efforts for the standardization of the Crisis Mental Health Commitment Process.
  • Ensure pre-arrest and post-arrest diversion of mental health patients from county jails.
  • Support the development of a system of regional crisis intervention treatment centers to facilitate diversion
  • The suicide rate is trending upward in Northeast Texas. It was 43% higher in this corner of Texas than for the rest of the state; therefore, in Smith County, we are seeking the establishment of an Extended Observation Unit as an immediate solution, which can reduce the need for behavioral health services at the forensic and civil bed levels. Long-term, a Crisis Stabilization Unit can fill a severe gap in available services in Northeast Texas.