Jessica and Texas Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) at the Texas Tribune Festival

Highlights of the Texas Tribune Festival

I spent this weekend at the Texas Tribune Festival, which is basically a music festival with politicians instead of bands. Tribune Fest was chock full of major players in Texas politics and, let me tell ya, I was in heaven! Here’s my list of the 15 best (and worst) moments from the weekend, in mostly chronological order:

  • When Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott  tried to convince everyone that the Affordable Care Act is the product of voter fraud, and the crowd laughed at him. 
  • When Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said “Texas is going to turn blue over my dead, cold, bloated butt.”
  • When David Dewhurst busted out his 8th grade Spanish (“Yo sabo…el gobern…seguridad por el futuro”) and everyone was confused.
  • When David Dewhurst said “We already have universal healthcare, it’s called the Emergency Room.” and the crowd laughed at him.
  • When David Dewhurst decided that 5 months is plenty of time for a woman to decide what to do with her pregnancy, but has never been pregnant himself. When Texas Rep. Sarah Davis rolled her eyes every time Rep. Donna Campbell answered a question with “I am a physician…”
  • When a lady in the audience recommended humanely sucking fetuses out of women and growing them in artificial uterueses as a middle ground in the abortion debate.
  • When a Republican turned out to be the voice of reason on the Women’s Health Panel (Sarah Davis, you are amazing! Preach!)
  • When Donna Campbell said there is nothing in the legislation that would shut down women’s health facilities and I was part of the unruly mob for the few seconds before the next question. Jess with Texas Representative Jessica Farrar, her personal hero! (She's smiling!)
  • When Texas Senator Eddie Lucio (he’s a Democrat, btw) tripped over a chair trying to get away from questions about his opposition to all forms of birth control.
  • When Rep. Jessica Farrar said that political wars can’t be fought on the backs of women.
  • When I got to hang out with Jessica Farrar.
  • When Evan Smith said “Welcome to Politics Church.” at the beginning of Sunday morning’s session.
  • When the room was so packed with people waiting to see Wendy that we had to use bathroom passes to get in and out
  • When the Longhorn Band came in and there was a pep-rally for Wendy Davis at the end of the day.

Those are my favorite moments, but I wasn’t at every session. Did I leave something out? Leave a comment to share your favorite moments from Tribune Fest, too!

Wendy Davis–Why I stood up for Texas women

A few days ago Texas State Senator Wendy Davis wrote this piece for the Washington Post explaining her recent filibuster in the Texas Senate, and I couldn’t agree with her more. It’s the perfect blend of frustration with current Texas government, hard-hitting facts, and hope for the future of a lady-friendly Lonestar State, all wrapped up in the powerful language of a very powerful woman. I’ve posted it in it’s entirety here:

Washington Post 

Why I stood up for Texas women
By Wendy R. Davis, Published: July 15

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis represents District 10 of the Texas Senate.

Texas state leaders have again taken up a partisan effort to impose severe restrictions on the ability of women in our state to receive reproductive and other crucial health-care services. Just a few weeks ago, I spent nearly 13 hours filibustering this bill. I stood up to filibuster the bill because Texas Republican leaders would rather pursue a partisan agenda than help Texas women. I stood to oppose the bill because it rolled back constitutional rights and would reduce the number of women’s health clinics from 42 to 5, thereby threatening the health and safety of thousands of Texas women.

I know how important this is because as a young woman, the only health care I received — preventative care, cancer screenings, checkups, etc. — came from a women’s health clinic close to where I live in Fort Worth. Indeed, more than 90 percent of the care provided by these centers has nothing at all to do with abortion. Quite the opposite, their services are absolutely critical to preventing unplanned pregnancies and to providing much-needed health-care screening.

So while the “people’s filibuster” will go down in history for putting a stop (if only temporarily) to a misguided bill, the filibuster was more than organized opposition or even endurance — it was an expression of mainstream Texans standing up against partisan power-mongers who no longer act in Texas’ best interest or even tell Texans the truth. These partisans have depicted their bill as an effort to improve the quality of care available to women in local clinics. However, the filibuster exposed their real intent — to close clinics all over the state of Texas and deny health-care services to thousands of Texas women. And now Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have rammed these new restrictions through the state legislature in a special session, without concern for health care or constitutionality.

This partisan effort builds on a concerted action by state leaders to roll back access to women’s and family health care. In 2011, their budget cuts threw approximately 150,000 women out of a health safety net that, as in my experience, served as their only source of regular, reliable care. Since then, state leaders have bypassed a nine-to-one federal match in funding for the women’s health-care program and saddled state taxpayers with approximately $30 million per year in unnecessary expense, as well as millions of additional dollars spent through Medicaid on unplanned births. Worse, a vendetta against Planned Parenthood by Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has gutted nearly half of the state’s women’s health-care delivery system. As a consequence, tens of thousands of Texas women may very well have no providers of care despite additional state funding.

There has been a great deal of attention given to the portion of the bill that would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, which was added by partisans primarily as a means for whipping up their political base. But this cynical and dishonest political tactic puts women’s lives at risk. Less than 1 percent of all abortions in Texas occur at the 20th week or later. In nearly all of these cases, a family in tragic circumstances has had to make the difficult and private decision to let go of a much-wanted pregnancy because of a major medical concern. What’s more, state leaders don’t mention that they opposed and defeated an amendment to allow an exception to the 20-week ban when a woman has been raped or is the victim of incest. This exception is no small matter. Each year, about 25,000 American women — 30 percent of them minors — become pregnant through rape or incest.

In the end, the filibuster was a means to continue the fight and stand up to Republican leaders. That fight is not a new one for me. As a senator from the only true swing district in the Texas Senate, I’ve been targeted by the GOP for my outspoken criticism of their extremist attacks on public education and voting rights, to name just two examples. My nearly 13-hour stand against the effort to deny women access to basic health care evolved into a people’s filibuster opposing a selfish and out-of-touch leadership that refuses to listen to real families with real hopes.

Texas really is the greatest state in the greatest nation. Texans — and women all over the country — deserve leaders that care, that listen and that work to protect their interests. The people’s filibuster demonstrated that Texans — and women everywhere — are ready and willing to fight back.

I stand with Wendy Davis and Texas Women. If you do too, consider supporting her campaign online here.

I stand with Texas women

I can’t rally with the hundreds of strong women and men fighting for women’s rights in the Texas Capitol, but I did share my story with Senator Wendy Davis to support her efforts to filibuster SB5 tomorrow:

My name is Jessica, I’m a Texan. I was born in Corpus Christi and I graduated from Vista Ridge Highschool in Cedar Park, just a few minutes north of Austin up 183. I was raised on Dublin Dr. Pepper and Friday night football, and I’m proud of the world-class education I’m getting right here at home at the University of Texas at Austin.

I am a Texas woman, and I am a woman of God. My faith informs me that all life is sacred, but my constitution informs me that what goes on between me, my uterus, and my God, is none of your damn business. My female reproductive system is not within your jurisdiction to govern because you are not the voice of God, you are the voice of the people, and the people say no to SB5.

If you’re with us, share yours too.

Tune in on Twitter tomorrow to lend your virtual support!

P.S.: Read this Texas Tribune Article to get caught up on how it all started, and check out these pictures from the abortion debate at the Texas Capitol.

hundreds of students sit in a lecture hall at the University of Texas

Am I taking notes next to a gun?

hundreds of students sit in a lecture hall at the University of Texas

How many firearms are in this picture?

So far I’ve never had to wonder  which of my classmates are hiding a gun, but the era of unarmed notetaking may be drawing to a close.

Texas HB 972, which would permit concealed handguns to be carried into college classrooms, passed out of committee Friday with a 7-1 vote. The bill does allow universities to opt out of the campus carry provision after consulting with faculty, students, and staff, but it reduces the penalty for violating campus weapon bans from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Of the 9 members of the committee, only El Paso’s Joe Picket voted against it (San Antonio’s Phil Cortez was absent).  The bill is now on it’s way to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Pop Quiz

How many guns belong in a freshman Literature class of 100 students?

A. 1

B. 10

C. 100

D. none of the above.

Here’s how to help:

Call your representative to let them know how you feel about concealed handguns in classrooms and reduced penalties for people who violate campus weapons regulations. Leave a comment on this post to let us know how it went! 

Want more?

Read this article about HB 972 in My SA, like Texas Gunsense on Facebook, see what the NRA says about Texas HB 972, and check out my other posts about gun violence.