Issues: Human & Civil Rights

Senator Ellis responds to Supreme Court striking down HB 2

(Houston, TX) // Today, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) released the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down HB 2, which enacted unconstitutional limits on Texas women’s access to safe abortion access:

“Today marks a win for Texans, but the fight does not end today,” said Senator Ellis. “Legislative opponents of reproductive freedom want to make it virtually impossible for Texas women to seek safe, legal health care without having to face the political consequences of trying to ban all abortions. HB 2 was a cynical, destructive but – gladly – uneffective strategy.”

Ellis continued: “With the Court striking down HB 2, this represents first step in dismantling medically unnecessary laws aimed at making it harder for people to exercise their rights. All women deserve the respect and dignity to make their own health care decisions without bringing Big Government into what should be a very personal and private matter between a woman, her doctor, and her faith.”

“Finally, I want to give immense credit to Senator Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster against a version of HB 2 brought national attention to Texas’ attempts to pass unconstitutional limitations on a woman’s right and ability to make decisions about their health, family, and future. I still have your back, Wendy!”

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Sen. Ellis statement on Orlando tragedy

(Houston, TX) // Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) released the following statement on the mass shooting in Orlando:

“I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of those who were impacted by today’s senseless violence in Orlando. More than ever, it is clear that hate can kill. All of us have a responsibility to join together in a unified response against hatred directed at any group – whether it’s because of what you look like, where you were born, or who you love.”

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Houston leaders speak out on school finance decision and treating all Texas students with dignity

(Houston, TX) // Today, Houston leaders held a press conference at Sen. Rodney Ellis’ office to discuss the Texas Supreme Court’s school finance decision and the state’s response to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance to prevent discrimination against transgender students.

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court issued its long-awaited school finance decision, ruling that Texas’ school finance system was constitutional despite it being “undeniably imperfect with immense room for improvement,” as the decision stated. Also on Friday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to schools on how to ensure transgender students are not subject to discrimination. That led to threats that Texas will walk away from more than $10 billion in federal education funding.

Below please find quotes for use by your publication. Photos from the press conference are available for download here.

Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston): “At a time when the Supreme Court admits that Texas’ school finance system is barely scraping by constitutionally, we can’t afford to walk away from $10 billion in federal funding that helps to feed and educate our state’s neediest kids. Let’s instead turn our focus to investing in our neighborhood schools and treating all of our students with the dignity they deserve.”

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Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston): “The Texas Legislature already faces the enormous challenge next session of improving our troubled school finance system during a time when state’s budget is going to be squeezed by falling oil and gas revenues. The last thing we can afford to do is forfeit $10 billion in federal funds by discriminating against innocent transgender children.”

Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston): “The Texas Supreme Court finding that our state meets the minimum state constitutional requirements is nothing to celebrate. This is not a victory for taxpayers, this is a loss for our children. Because the Court’s opinions make it clear that there is plenty of room for improvement. It is ridiculous that we have allowed our public education system to fall so low. The Texas legislature needs to properly fund our schools ─ not just settle for meeting minimum requirements. The children of Texas deserve a system that allows them to meet the high standards we place on them.”

Rep. Coleman continued: “The President’s guidance directing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as ─ is correct. School is particularly stressful for transgendered students. Their school should be a place where they can feel safe ─ not ostracized and discriminated against. President Obama’s guidance does not put students in danger, but losing federal funding for purely political gain will hurt students in Texas.”

Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston): “LGBT students are suffering from too much bullying as it is. We do not need the Lt. Governor acting as bully in chief. He should be focusing his energies on how to bring our state up from 38th in the nation on school spending.”

Houston ISD Board of Education Trustee Anna Eastman: “To me it’s all about this quote: ‘As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.’ It’s what I said when HISD was crafting our non-discrimination policy. I hope we all can get beyond a political battle in the media and make sure we are taking care of all of our kids, so they have safe places to learn. Transgender students who are more likely to be bullied, to be homeless, to commit suicide because they are misunderstood don’t want to hurt others, they just want the same assumption of safety and comfort most of us already have.”

Philip Fraissinet, partner with Thompson & Horton LLP: “Although the decision from the Texas Supreme Court last week may have been a technical legal victory for the state, it certainly was not a victory for the children, families, and taxpayers of Texas. Although the Supreme Court was highly critical of the current public school funding system, unfortunately the Court, for the first time in decades, decided not to hold the state accountable for meeting its constitutional obligations. It will be more important than ever for  citizens to engage the political process to ensure that this decision is not used as an excuse to backslide into an even more inadequate and inequitable funding system. Rather, families, educators, taxpayers, and all citizens must be the ones to  challenge lawmakers to make the serious structural improvements to our funding system necessary to provide all Texas children a real chance to succeed.”

Zeph Capo, President of Houston Federation of Teachers: “It’s shameful that the state continues to play politics with Texas children’s futures. The people who will suffer are the students and teachers who are doing the best they can with the crumbs that they can pull together.”

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Press conference on Monday re: school finance decision and treating all Texas students with dignity

(Houston, TX) // At 11 am on Monday, May 16, Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), Rep. Borris Miles (D-Houston), Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston), Houston ISD Board Trustee Anna Eastman, as well as education, civil rights, and LGBT advocates, will hold a press conference to discuss the Texas Supreme Court’s school finance decision and the state’s response to the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance to prevent discrimination against transgender students.

The press conference will be at Senator Ellis’ district office at 440 Louisiana #575, Houston, TX 77002.

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court issued its long-awaited school finance decision, ruling that Texas’ school finance system was constitutional despite it being “undeniably imperfect with immense room for improvement,” as the decision stated.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to schools on how to ensure transgender students are not subject to discrimination. That led to threats that Texas will walk away from more than $10 billion in federal education funding.

“At a time when the Supreme Court admits that Texas’ school finance system is barely scraping by constitutionally, we can’t afford to walk away from $10 billion in federal funding that helps to feed and educate our state’s neediest kids,” said Senator Ellis. “Let’s instead turn our focus to investing in our neighborhood schools and treating all of our students with the dignity they deserve.”

Education, civil rights, and LGBT advocates will be present at the press conference, along with area elected officials.

What:       Press conference with elected officials, advocates, and subject matter experts

When:       Monday, May 16, 2016 at 11:00 am

Where:     Senator Rodney Ellis’ office, 440 Louisiana #575, Houston, Texas 77002

Who:         Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)
Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston)
Representative Borris Miles (D-Houston)
Representative Gene Wu (D-Houston)
Houston ISD Board of Education Trustee Anna Eastman
Representative from Equality Texas
Zeph Capo, President, Houston Federation of Teachers
Philip Fraissinet, Partner, Thompson & Horton LLP

###

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Flooding recovery & Texas Fair Defense Act event

Dear Friend:

These past few weeks have been trying times as our community recovers from the tragic floods that cost eight people their lives and displaced thousands of others. President Obama was quick to issue a disaster declaration for Harris County. Because of his prompt declaration, Harris County residents are eligible to apply for federal assistance to supplement local recovery efforts. Federal assistance can be used on home repairs, temporary housing, replacement of personal property, medication, funeral expenses, small loans and transportation, among other things.

Those seeking federal assistance can receive help at one of four newly opened flood recovery centers in Harris County. These recovery centers will have representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) who can help people register flood damage, apply for aid, and answer questions. City and county officials will also be available to offer referrals to legal aid and local social services.

The four recovery centers will be open 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 2 pm on Saturday. Please review the list below to see which recovery center is closest to you:

Applicants will be asked to provide:

  • Social Security number
  • Address of the damaged primary residence
  • Description of the damage
  • Information about insurance coverage
  • Current contact telephone number
  • Address where they can receive mail
  • Bank account and routing numbers for those preferring direct deposit of funds

As of Monday, FEMA had already approved $13 million in assistance to flood victims in four Texas counties, including Harris.  Even if you are not 100 percent certain whether you qualify for aid, please apply. You can apply at the new recovery centers or at www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362.  If you or a loved one is hearing or speech impaired, please call 1-800-462-7585.


Fighting for families

This past weekend, I joined the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) to fight for displaced residents in the Greenspoint area whose apartments were recently flooded. Despite the fact that their apartments are completely unlivable and full of mold, apartment managers are demanding full rent. TOP helped to organize residents to demand that managers allow residents to forgo rental payments until FEMA and insurance payments can be secured.

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As a Houston Chronicle article explains:

State. Sen. Rodney Ellis joined tenants and advocates outside The Woods of Greenbriar, a complex of more than 170 units in the 900 block of Greens Road, to encourage landlords to waive May rent. […]

Ellis, who is running for Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner, implored property owners to go further than a discount.

“It is totally reasonable to ask the landlords to give one month free rent, because there is nothing that they could do with the unit I just left and most of these units while they’re being repaired,” the state senator said. “If these great folks were not in these units, they wouldn’t make a dime. The units would be empty.”

After the managers felt the pressure, they offered tenants a 25 percent rent reduction on May rent, the first such offer from management. That’s a good first start – certainly better than the threats of penalties residents had previously received from landlords.

But let’s be clear: charging residents in crisis to stay in unlivable, mold-filled apartments is cruel. As residents attempt to secure different housing, landlords should recognize the severity of this situation, expedite repairs, and waive rent and penalties for families in unlivable apartments.


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15th Anniversary of the Texas Fair Defense Act

I want to invite you to join me at this Friday’s 15th anniversary celebration of the Texas Fair Defense Act at Houston’s Fourteenth Court of Appeals (301 Fannin St.). The event runs from 12:30 to 3:30 pm, and it is free and open to the public. Plus, attorneys can receive 2.25 MCLE hours from the State Bar for attending.

Click here to RSVP and get more information.

Fifteen years ago, I passed the Texas Fair Defense Act to improve our state’s criminal justice system and ensure that poor Texans are not sentenced to a poor defense. While the Act has helped to move Texas’ justice system forward, quality of justice is still too contingent on your wealth and the attorney you can afford. We have long way to go on the path to providing Texans the reliable, effective, and fair justice they deserve, which is why this symposium is so important.

After all, the promise that every person, rich or poor, stands equal before the law is at the root of the American ideals of liberty and justice. Ensuring that promise is a reality requires that all people have their rights equally protected by quality legal representation when they are accused of a crime.

From 12:30 to 3:30 pm, the event will include two panels and a keynote address from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Director of Access to Justice, Lisa Foster. Also in attendance will be Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, as well as numerous legal leaders throughout the state.

Following the symposium, there will be a reception at Hearsay Gastro Lounge (218 Travis) from 3:45 to 5 pm.

I hope to see you there.

Posted in: Ellis Email Express • Tagged with: , , ,

Sen. Ellis comments on Equal Pay Day

Today is Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when women’s earnings “catch up” to men’s earnings from the previous year. The typical woman working full time, year-round in Texas is paid just 79 cents for every dollar a man is paid, which means she has to work until today to be paid as much as the typical man took home by December 31, 2015.

In response, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) issues the following statement:

“Last session, I partnered with Rep. Senfronia Thompson to give Texas women another tool to fight wage discrimination,” said Senator Ellis. “We filed the Texas Equal Pay Act because, quite simply, women deserve equal pay for equal work. The bill would afford victims of wage discrimination the ability to seek restitution in less expensive state courts in front of a locally elected judge and jury of their peers. After all, we should be tearing down hurdles to equal pay, not perpetuating those that already exist.”

Senator Ellis continued: “While the bill didn’t pass, I pledge to continue fighting for an economy that works for all Texans – especially our mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives.”

According to The National Partnership for Women and Families:

• In Texas, median annual pay for a woman who holds a full-time, year-round job is $36,428 while median annual pay for a man who holds a full-time, year-round job is $46,235. This means that women in Texas are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to an annual wage gap of $9,807.

• The wage gap can be even larger for women of color. Among Texas women who hold fulltime, year-round jobs, African American women are paid 59 cents, Latinas are paid 44 cents and Asian women are paid 78 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

• On average, Texas women who are employed full time lose a combined total of nearly $37 billion every year due to the wage gap.

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‘Religious freedom’ proposals mask discriminatory intent

I’m a Baptist living in a state with millions of Christians of all denominations. A 2010 study showed that more Muslims lived in Texas than any other state. The numbers of Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists living here are also among the highest in the nation.

Texas is, in fact, one of the most culturally and religiously diverse states in the nation. A big reason for this great diversity is that the Texas and U.S. Constitutions protect religious freedom for everyone, regardless of their faith. Religious freedom is a fundamental right for everyone in America.

I’m proud of all of this. But I’m disturbed when people argue that the law should permit individuals or businesses to claim religious freedom as an excuse to discriminate against others.

We saw this play out recently with the unfortunate repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, but we’re also hearing the same arguments in support of new laws that would allow individuals, businesses, and even government officials to use religion to discriminate.

That’s wrong and counter to everything I believe as a Christian, American, and Texan.

Supporters of such legislation like to point to shop owners who don’t want to serve people they personally object to for religious reasons.

But that trivializes what’s at stake here. What we’re really talking about is allowing people to be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied public services simply because who they are or whom they love offends someone else’s personal religious beliefs.

That’s not standing up for religious freedom. That’s excusing and even condoning discrimination.

We hear arguments in favor of religious objections mostly when anti-discrimination laws protect our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender neighbors. Discrimination against anyone is wrong. Period. But don’t be fooled into thinking that LGBT people will be the only targets if our laws allow the use of religion to discriminate. We know only too well how religion can be misused for such bad works.

After all, folks have relied on the Bible to justify some pretty horrible things in our nation’s history. Slaveholders, for example, asked who could question the Word of God when the Bible said, “slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6:5).

Most Americans today realize such arguments are a shameful part of our history. But now confusing religious freedom with a right to discriminate could drag us back toward those days.

For example, we know that some extreme religious movements preach white supremacy and anti-Semitism. Should people who have those beliefs be able to fire or deny services to someone simply because they’re African-American or Jewish? Most of us surely would say no. But imagine the problems created when the law opens the door to using religion as an excuse to discriminate against anyone. Where do you draw the line? Which discrimination is allowed, and which isn’t?

The problem is even clearer when it involves government. If public officials can refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples for religious reasons, then don’t be surprised when some object to granting licenses to people who have been previously divorced.

Opening the door to using religion as a license to discriminate would call into question numerous state and federal laws that bar discrimination based on characteristics like sex and even religion itself. If an employer believes women working outside the home is sinful, should he be permitted to fire or refuse to hire them? What about workers who belong to a different religion?

That’s not the kind of Texas I want, and laws that would open the door to these dangers are reckless and wrong.

Moreover, if the issue here really is protecting religious freedom, new laws are simply unnecessary. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by the Legislature in 1999, successfully balances the right to religious liberty with the right to be free from unfair discrimination.

Texas must and already does protect the right of individuals to live their personal lives according to their religious beliefs. But allowing people to use religion to refuse to obey laws that protect everyone from harm would put an individual’s religious beliefs ahead of the common good.

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Sen. Ellis supports Dewayne Brown’s efforts to seek compensation for wrongful conviction

(Houston, TX) // This morning, Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) joined Dewayne Brown and his attorneys in support of Dewayne’s efforts to seek compensation for the 12+ years he wrongfully spent behind bars, including nine on death row.

“I am proud to stand with Dewayne Brown as he seeks the compensation he is rightfully owed under the law,” said Sen. Ellis. “Let’s face it: there is no amount of money that can repay someone for being on death row for 9 years for a crime they did not commit. But the provisions of the Tim Cole Act, which I passed in 2001, exist to try to remedy the injustice that Dewayne suffered.”

“It is days like today that make me so proud that I led legislative efforts to increase compensation for the wrongfully imprisoned,” Ellis continued. “Since I changed the law in 2001, the state has paid more than $92 million in compensation to wrongfully convicted Texans. Why? Because these men and women deserve some semblance of justice. After all, Texas leads the nation in the shameful category of proven wrongful convictions.”

While in the Texas Senate, Ellis has “led legislative efforts to increase compensation for the wrongfully imprisoned,” according to the New York Times. In 2001, Ellis authored and passed legislation that increased the amount of compensation, increased the statute of limitations for claiming compensation, and allowed convicted persons found to be innocent to seek relief and compensation from the courts, rather than by pardon. In 2011, Ellis sponsored and passed comprehensive exoneree compensation reform legislation, which provided health care to the wrongfully convicted, established standards for attorney’s fees in compensation claims, and helped exonerees to receive compensation.

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About Dewayne Brown

Alfred Dewayne Brown – his family and friends call him Dewayne – was convicted of capital murder on October 18, 2005 for a crime he did not commit. Dewayne was wrongly accused of robbing a check cashing store located off 610 in southeast Houston with two other individuals in April 2003, which left a cashier and a police officer dead. Dewayne, however, was at his girlfriend’s apartment sick in bed at the time of the murders. Indeed, he called his girlfriend’s workplace from her apartment at around 10 a.m. that day, which was shortly after the murders took place and while the actual killers where on the run elsewhere.

Dewayne’s girlfriend and her employer both testified at trial that Dewayne had called about 10 a.m., but there was no evidence showing from where Dewayne made the call. Despite his alibi, which Dewayne maintained since the day of his arrest, the jury convicted him of capital murder, and he was sentenced to death on October 25, 2005.

Nearly eight years later in 2013, one of the Houston police detectives originally assigned to Dewayne’s case was cleaning out his garage and found subpoenaed phone records from the phone company that the DA’s office had obtained during their investigation but had never been turned over to Dewayne’s lawyers at trial. Those phone records showed that a call had been made from Dewayne’s girlfriend’s apartment to his girlfriend’s place of employment at the time Dewayne, Dewayne’s girlfriend, and Dewayne’s girlfriend’s employer all say Dewayne called – thus proving Dewayne’s alibi.

Once Dewayne’s lawyers obtained the phone records (8 years after the State should have turned them over) they eventually were able to secure a reversal of his conviction and his eventual exoneration.

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Remembering Dr. King

Dear Friend,

Today, the nation pauses to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King. Across the country, the deeds and words of this great man will be highlighted and given their rightful praise. Dr. King gave his life to the struggle of ensuring every man, woman, and child had the opportunity to achieve their own personal American Dream.

Just six days ago, I sat in chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives and listened to President Barack Obama give his final State of the Union Address. U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson invited me as her guest, and it was a privilege and pleasure to hear the President defend his legacy and lay out the challenges and opportunities that America will face in coming years.

President Obama’s election and re-election are testaments to the battles King waged to create a better, more inclusive, and freer America and the product of the struggle he and countless thousands endured. His efforts played an essential part in making it possible for someone who looks like me to be elected President of the United States. King’s work provided the foundation for change that continues to this day.

As President Obama spoke, I was reminded about how far we’ve come as a country in the seven years of his presidency. America has enjoyed 70 months in a row of private sector job growth, creating more than 14 million new jobs. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 17 million Americans have health care coverage they didn’t previously have, no one can be turned away for preexisting conditions, and our country’s uninsured rate is the lowest ever recorded. Today, Americans are free to marry the person they love, proving that all of us – and our marriages – are created equal.

But there’s still much more to accomplish.

During the State of the Union, President Obama outlined the policy proposals that he intends to pursue over the next year: “Fixing a broken immigration system. Protecting our kids from gun violence. Equal pay for equal work. Paid leave. Raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to hardworking families. They’re still the right thing to do.”

The President is right. We need to keep America moving forward by pursuing Dr. King’s goal of “equality of opportunity” and economic justice – building an economy that gives everyone a fair shot. That requires affordable higher education, increasing the minimum wage, and closing wasteful corporate loopholes that make the tax system blatantly unfair for the average family.

We need to renew the protections in one of Dr. King’s most enduring successes: the Voting Rights Act of 1965, landmark legislation that outlawed discriminatory voting practices and upheld the principle of one person/one vote in this country. Yet, the voting rights advances secured by Dr. King and thousands of others are still under attack today through controversial voter ID laws and gerrymandered districts aimed at suppressing the vote.

We need further investments in clean air, water, and energy to protect the safety, security, and health of our children and grandchildren. Dr. King’s legacy helped give birth to the environmental justice movement, which promotes the right to a clean environment for all people, no matter where you live or how much you earn.

As President Lyndon Johnson said, “[y]esterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.” Dr. King and thousands of others risked their lives for the ideal that all men are created equal and changed America – and the world – for the better.

But that does not mean the work is done. The vast majority of Americans have not reached the mountain top, and it is the job of public policymakers to ensure everyone has access to the tools necessary to make the climb.

Today, let us rededicate ourselves to his call to action to shed light on inequality and demand justice for all. Dr. King’s dream is alive and well in our community today, and I am grateful to all who fight alongside me to ensure it is realized.

Sincerely,

Rodney Ellis


Liberty and Justice For All

Yesterday, the LBJ Foundation, on which I serve, awarded its most prestigious prize, the LBJ Liberty and Justice for All Award, to former President Jimmy Carter in recognition of his leadership in public service and his tireless efforts toward peace and human rights. What a privilege it was to be with President and Mrs. Carter!

The LBJ Liberty and Justice for All Award honors those, like President Carter, who personify Johnson’s belief that the mission of public service is “to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man.” At age 91, President Carter epitomizes Johnson’s passion for justice and dream of bridging racial and economic divides.

Though Johnson and Carter never met, as governor of Georgia, Carter wrote former President Johnson a handwritten note in December 1972, after a Civil Rights Symposium Johnson had convened at his presidential library. It read in part, “I have long admired you personally and deeply appreciate your tremendous and unprecedented achievements as president.” Johnson died a month later.

“It is a great personal honor to be given the Liberty & Justice for All Award in the name of Lyndon Johnson, a man who helped shape my life and for whom I have the greatest admiration and appreciation,” said Carter.

When Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, he appointed a record number of minorities to high federal positions, created the Department of Education, strengthened Social Security, and negotiated a historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, which remains in place today.

Carter is one of four American presidents to win the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received in 2002, and the only one to do so as a former president. The recognition furthered his international reputation as a humanitarian and peace broker.

You can see more photos from the event by clicking here.


Do you have health insurance?

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act – or “Obamacare” – millions of uninsured Americans now have access to new health insurance options through a Health Insurance Marketplace. If you don’t have health insurance, you have about two weeks to check out available coverage options atwww.healthcare.gov and select a plan before this year’s open enrollment ends on January 31.

We will all get sick at some point in time, and access to health insurance is a critical part of ensuring that individuals and families are healthy and successful. Plus, if you are eligible and don’t enroll in coverage by January 31, you might have to pay a fine at tax time of $695 dollars per person or 2.5% of your income, whichever is more.

Many people are able to get a plan that works for them and is not too expensive because financial help is available for individuals who make between $11,670 – $46,680 and between $23,850 – $95,400 for a family of four. According to estimates for Houston, a 27 year old with an income of $25,000 might be able to purchase coverage with assistance for as a low as $81 per month. A family of four with an income of $50,000 may be able to get coverage for $52 per month after tax credits.

These plans purchased on the exchange will have new consumer protections and cover all ten essential benefits such as emergency services, prescriptions drugs, and preventive care – ensuring consumers get comprehensive coverage instead of a bare bones policy.

Information about these new health insurance plans, where to get in-person assistance, and how to apply for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program can be found atwww.healthcare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

Posted in: Ellis Email Express • Tagged with: , ,

53 members of Texas Legislature file amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas case

(Austin, TX) // Yesterday, 53 members of the Texas Legislature filed an amicus brief with the United State Supreme Court in support of the University of Texas in the Fisher v. University of Texas case.

The brief, which is available for download here, argues in support of the University of Texas’ holistic, individualized admissions process, noting that the “standards are not a process that has been unilaterally imposed by a university administrator but […] rather reflect a unique, bipartisan, multi-racial process in which legislators, the Board of Regents, and educators worked together to advance important State educational priorities.”

Those standards reflect the members’ “obligation to be aware of demographics so that we can ensure, as we must, that visibly open pathways to leadership and opportunity exist for all Texas citizens.”

Summarizing the members’ argument, the brief states:

[We] submit this brief in support of respondent, the University of Texas – our State’s flagship institution of higher education and the alma mater of many of the State’s most important leaders, including many members of the legislature – in furtherance of [our] responsibility to ensure that the citizens of Texas have equal access to higher education and unfettered pathways to leadership and opportunity in the State.  [We] also do so in recognition of [our] sworn obligation to advance the interests of all the people of Texas and to adopt bold solutions to the problems that affect their lives.

The 53 members who signed the brief:

Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston, District 13) has served as a member of the Texas Senate since 1990.

Representative Hubert Vo (D-Houston, District 149) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2005.

Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston, District 139) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1989.

Representative Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas, District 103) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2005.

Representative Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City, District 27) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2011.

Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin, District 48) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2006.

Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo, District 21) has served as a member of the Texas Senate since 1987.

Representative Ramon Romero, Jr. (D-Fort Worth, District 90) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2015.

Senator Royce West (D-Dallas, District 23) has served as a member of the Texas Senate  since 1993.

Senator Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio, District 19) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1997 to 2006 and has served as a member of the Texas Senate since 2006.

Representative Ana Hernandez (D-Houston, District 143) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2005.

Senator Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston, District 6) has served as a member of the Texas Senate since 2013.

Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston, District 140) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2009.

Representative Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio, District 120) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1996.

Representative Armando Martinez (D-Weslaco, District 39) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2005.

Representative Terry Canales (D-Edinburg, District 40) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2013.

Senator Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen, District 20) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1981 to 1991 and 1997 to 2003 and has served as a member of the Texas Senate since 2003.

Representative Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio, District 125) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2013.

Senator José Rodríguez (D-El Paso, District 29) has served as a member of the Texas Senate since 2011.

Representative Mary González (D-Clint, District 75) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2013.

Representative Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie, District 101) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 2009 to 2011 and again since 2013.

Representative Elliott Naishtat (D-Austin, District 49) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1991.

Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston, District 15) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1973 to 1983 and has been a member of the Texas Senate since 1983.

Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston, District 148) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1995.

Representative Celia Israel (D-Austin, District 50) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2014.

Representative Helen Giddings (D-Dallas, District 109) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1993.

Representative Poncho Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass, District 74) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2013.

Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville, District 27) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1987 to 1991 and has been a member of the Texas Senate since 1991.

Senator José Menéndez (D-San Antonio, District 26) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 2001 to 2015 and has been a member of the Texas Senate since 2015.

Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin, District 14) has served as a member of the Texas Senate since 2007.

Representative Alma Allen (D-Houston, District 131) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2005.

Representative Carol Alvarado (D-Houston, District 145) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2009.

Representative Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas, District 111) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1993.

Representative Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont, District 22) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1999.

Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston, District 147) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1991.

Representative Harold Dutton, Jr. (D-Houston, District 142) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1985.

Representative Eric Johnson (D-Dallas, District 100) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2010.

Representative René Oliveira (D-Brownsville, District 37) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1981 to 1987 and again since 1991.

Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston, District 141) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1973.

Representative Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio, District 116) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2001.

Representative Abel Herrero (D-Robstown, District 34) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 2005 to 2011 and again since 2013.

Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin, District 51) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2003.

Representative Gene Wu (D-Houston, District 137) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2013.

Representative Nicole Collier (D-Dallas, District 95) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2013.

Representative Borris Miles (D-Houston, District 146) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 2007 to 2009 and again since 2011.

Representative Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas, District 104) served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1993 to 1997 and again since 2003.

Representative Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio, District 123) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2015.

Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso, District 75) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2009.

Representative R.D. “Bobby” Guerra (D-Mission, District 41) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2012.

Representative Toni Rose (D-Dallas, District 110) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2013.

Representative Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio, District 119) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2008.

Representative Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin, District 46) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 1995.

Representative César Blanco (D-El Paso, District 76) has served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2015.

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