Issues: Public Safety

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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It’s time to fix what’s broken

Dear Friend:

Two weeks ago, Harris County was sued to overturn an unconstitutional bail system that is jailing people just because they are poor. I stood with area leaders and advocates like the Texas Organizing Project and urged the county to work with all parties to fix the problem and settle the case – rather than use our tax dollars to defend this morally indefensible system.

It’s unfortunate that, despite repeated warnings and attempts to work with the County, this lawsuit was absolutely necessary. It’s necessary to protect the rights of Harris County residents who are kept in a modern day debtor’s prison – locked up because they’re poor. It’s necessary to save taxpayer dollars that are paying to ship inmates out of our overcrowded jail. And it’s necessary to spur needed reforms.

 TOP play

Click above to watch Sen. Ellis discuss needed bail reforms


The County’s failure to follow the law and principles of basic fairness when it comes to pre-trial bond and bail practices has translated into more than 70 percent of the jail population consisting of people who haven’t even been convicted of a crime. The vast majority of those people are stuck in jail solely because they are poor – not because they are threat to public safety.

So we’ve created two separate systems of justice: one for the rich and one for the poor. A system that keeps the Sandra Blands of the world, arrested for minor offenses, locked in cages with their lives at risk. And another that lets the Robert Dursts, arrested for murder, walk free just because they’re wealthy.

It’s a violation of our basic constitutional legal principles and our moral principles of justice. It doesn’t have to be this way.

On April 25, I sent a letter to Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Sheriff Ron Hickman, and Presiding Judge Susan Brown, urging them to advance more effective and efficient approaches to public safety that are proven to make our communities safer, reduce the County’s jail population creating significant savings for taxpayers, and result in fairer and more equitable treatment of our residents.

  • Let’s implement a program like Seattle’s successful LEAD program, which diverts non-violent, low-level drug users to community programs instead of jail.
  • Let’s reform our failed bail bond system so that we don’t have a jail where 70 percent of the inmates are sitting there merely because they can’t afford bail.
  • Let’s increase the use of personal recognizance bonds so that folks can maintain employment and support their family before trial.
  • Let’s actually take into consideration – like state law requires – the ability of someone to afford the bail amount before it’s set.

What was the response to this push for criminal justice reforms? Commissioner Steve Radack called me out by my name and told me to “shut up” about this issue. 

Here’s my promise: as long as I have the privilege of public service, I’m not going to shut up. I’m not going to shut up about our broken criminal justice system and people dying in jail. I’m not going to shut up about a bail system that puts people in a cage just because they’re poor. And I’m not going to shut up about the fact that the attorney you can afford too often determines the quality of justice you receive.

I’m going to speak up for the people and the most vulnerable in our society, just as I’ve always done. And I will not be bullied by a Commissioner into going along to get along, regardless of where my public service takes me.

Click here to read several articles about last week’s events.

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A new opportunity for reform: the MacArthur Foundation Grant

In late April, the Harris County Commissioners Court voted to approve a plan to reform the county’s criminal justice system, including accepting a $2 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation. As described by the Foundation, the grant is “part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national initiative supported by the Foundation with an initial $75 million to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails” and reducing racial and ethnic disparities.

I first brought the grant opportunity to the attention of the Harris County Commissioners Court via a March 10, 2015, letter to the late Commissioner El Franco Lee, then Chairman of the Harris County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. In the letter, I urged Commissioner Lee to “consider taking advantage of this opportunity to build upon the progress you made improving public safety and the efficiency and effectiveness of justice in Harris County.”

The county’s plan is a first step toward improving our broken criminal justice system, but the plan disappointingly fails to address the most serious issues including smart-on-crime alternatives for low-level, non-violent drug possession offenses, our bail bond system, and pre-trial release reform.

As the largest county in Texas housing the fourth largest city in the nation, Harris County should be at forefront of advancing a fairer justice system that ensures the innocent are protected, the guilty brought to justice, and all its residents are treated equally and fairly under the law.

With the MacArthur grant, we have a unique opportunity to fix our broken criminal justice system. So let’s do more. I don’t want to sell ourselves short and end up with some of the same racial and income disparities that plague our system today.

Sincerely,

Rodney Ellis


Flooding update

Our region continues to be slammed with heavy rains, resulting in more flooding affecting thousands of residents. Those seeking federal assistance can receive help at one of four 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.

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Please note that individuals must apply for FEMA Disaster Assistance by Friday, June 24, 2016, to receive aid. The four recovery centers will be open from 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:

  • Bayland Community Center, 6400 Bissonnet St., Houston, TX 77074
  • Greenspoint Commercial Office Building, 16800 Imperial Valley Dr. Houston, TX 77060
  • Cypress Creek Christian Church and Community Center, 6823 Cypresswood Dr. Spring, TX 77379
  • Lone Star College Cy-Fair Library, 9191 Barker Rd, Cypress, TX 77433

Come prepared! 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

Even if you are not 100 percent certain whether you qualify for aid, please apply. You can apply at the new recovery centers, by visiting www.disasterassistance.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-3362. If you or a loved one is hearing or speech impaired, please call 1-800-462-7585.

Do you need legal assistance?

The State Bar of Texas, American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, and FEMA are providing assistance to survivors who need help dealing with issues related to the flooding but have no means to hire a lawyer. A confidential, toll-free hotline (1-800-504-7030) is available 24/7 to help low income individuals with legal assistance on issues such as:

  • Life, medical, and property insurance claims
  • Landlord-tenant problems
  • FEMA and other government benefits available to disaster survivors
  • Help with home repair contracts/contractors
  • Replacement of wills and/or other legal documents lost or destroyed in the disaster
  • Consumer protection issues such as contractor scams
  • Mortgage-foreclosure problems

Additionally, Lonestar Legal Aid is offering free legal assistance to those who qualify.  Please review criteria for obtaining free legal aid by visiting www.lonestarlegal.org or calling 1-800-733-8394.

Texas Workforce Commission Unemployment Assistance

Individuals can apply for benefits by calling a TWC Tele-Center Monday through Friday between 8 am and 5 pm at 1-800-939-6631.

Additional resources can be found at www.houstonrecovers.org.


Graduation certificates

For many students, the end of May indicates the conclusion of a school year and the start of summer vacation. But for some lucky students, the end of their school year is especially exciting because they will soon be graduating from high school. I was extremely pleased to learn that 7,884 students in Senate District 13 will be graduating this year. I congratulated these accomplished youths by sending each graduate a congratulatory certificate applauding them for their hard work and dedication.

Along with the certificate, I included a voter registration card to encourage them to exercise their right to vote. I want to make it one step easier for people of all ages in my district to exercise their constitutional right to vote and have their voice heard at the ballot box.

I’m so proud of these students for accomplishing the important milestone of high school graduation. Congratulations to all of the graduates across Texas!

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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.

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Federal assistance now available for flood recovery

Yesterday, President Obama declared a major disaster in Harris County andordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas impacted by last week’s tragic flooding. The President also issued a disaster declaration for Fayette, Grimes, and Parker counties.

I want to thank our President for his quick action to help our community in such a time of need. Working together with our local, state, and federal partners, Houston will come back stronger than ever.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties can begin applying for assistance today by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

According to FEMA, the following is a summary of key federal disaster aid programs that can be made available as needed and warranted under President Obama’s disaster declaration issued for the State of Texas:
  • Rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable.  Initial assistance may be provided for up to three months for homeowners and at least one month for renters.  Assistance may be extended if requested after the initial period based on a review of individual applicant requirements. (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
  • Grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary and functional.  (Source: FEMA funded and administered.)
  • Grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.   (Source: FEMA funded at 75 percent of total eligible costs; 25 percent funded by the state.)
  • Unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster and who do not qualify for state benefits, such as self-employed individuals.  (Source: FEMA funded; state administered.)
  • Low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance.  Loans available up to $200,000 for primary residence; $40,000 for personal property, including renter losses.  Loans available up to $2 million for business property losses not fully compensated by insurance.  (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
  • Loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes that have suffered disaster-related cash flow problems and need funds for working capital to recover from the disaster’s adverse economic impact.  This loan in combination with a property loss loan cannot exceed a total of $2 million. (Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.)
  • Loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses, excluding primary residence.  (Source: Farm Service Agency, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.)
  • Other relief programs: Crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster; income tax assistance for filing casualty losses; advisory assistance for legal, veterans’ benefits and social security matters.

Again, to find out more and apply for aid, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers are operating from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week.

If you have any questions, please call my Houston office at 713-236-0306.

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Resources for Houston flood recovery

Yesterday, our community was slammed by historic rains that caused immense flooding throughout the area. Houston remains under a flash flood watch until 7 am on Wednesday due to the potential for additional rain. Many locations are still experiencing extremely high water that may not subside for a few days.

As our community continues to deal with flooding, please keep in mind these important tips to stay safe:
  1. Follow evacuation orders and do not attempt to return until officials say it is safe to do so.
  2. Head for higher ground and stay there.
  3. Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way.
  4. Turn around, don’t drown. If driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
  5. Keep children out of the water.
  6. Be especially cautious at night when it’s harder to see flood danger.
Area services
These services will help you as you begin to recover from the flood’s impact.
  1. Report flooding: the City of Houston Office of Emergency Management is asking any residents who experienced flooding inside their home or business to report it to the Houston 311 Help & Information Line by calling 311 or submitting the report online here.
  2. Legal assistance: the State Bar of Texas offers a legal hotline to help connect people with legal aid providers following disasters: 1-800-504-7030. Additional resources are available at texasbar.com/disasters and texaslawhelp.org.
  3. Abandoned car: if your car was towed during the flood, call 713-308-8580 or visit findmytowedcar.com to determine where it is currently located.
  4. No power or downed power lines: please report a power outage or downed power lines to CenterPoint Energy at 713-207-2222.
  5. Food: if you need food or water, please contact the Houston Food Bank at 832-369-9390.
  6. Free storage: U-Haul is offering 30 days of free storage and U-Box container usage to flood victims. Call one of the Houston offices for more details: U-Haul of East Houston 281-377-3380; U-Haul of West Houston 281-495-6683; U-Haul of Gulf Coast Texas 713-750-7701; U-Haul Storage Centers of Houston 281-531-4022
Shelters
There are designated American Red Cross shelters available across the city if you or your family have experienced flood damage and need a place to stay:
  1. Chinese Community Center: 9800 Town Park Dr. 77036
  2. Willow Meadows Baptist Church: 4300 W. Belfort. 77035
  3. Johnston Middle School: 10410 Manhattan Dr. 77096
  4. Jersey Village Baptist Church: 16518 Jersey Dr. 77040
  5. MO Campbell Education Center: 1865 Aldine Bender Rd. 77032
  6. South County Community Center: 2235 Lake Robbins Rd. 77380
  7. Acres Home Community Development Corp: 6719 W. Montgomery Rd. 77041
These shelters are open 24 hours, providing a place to stay, food, and support.

Interested in volunteering?
Families across our community are still in desperate need of assistance even after they are out of immediate danger. If you are interested in volunteering and helping those in need, please visit the Red Cross website.

State of disaster
Yesterday afternoon, Governor Greg Abbott issued a state of disaster for nine counties impacted by the torrential rains and subsequent flooding, including Harris and Fort Bend counties. This action activates the disaster recovery and rehabilitation aspects of the state emergency management plan and allows our communities to move forward as quickly as possible with recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Other questions?
Please call our Houston office at 713-236-0306 should you or your family need assistance. Additionally, operators for Houston’s 311 system are standing by to assist you with non-emergency questions.

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Houston flooding update

Dear Friend,

Here in the Houston area, we are experiencing extreme flooding after enormous amounts of rain passed through last night and this morning. As I write this, portions of Harris County have received more than 17 inches of rain in the past 24 hours – and more is expected in coming days. The National Weather Service has issued a Flood Warning for Houston until 6:45 pm tonight.

Thirteen bayous and creeks are currently flooded, and more may flood as rain water drains into the bayous. For up-to-date information on the status of local bayous and creeks, please visit the Harris County Flood Warning System website.

In an effort to keep you and your loved ones safe, I urge you to follow emergency management personnel’s recommendations:

  1. Stay at home. Unless you are escaping flood waters, the safest place for you right now is at your home. Houston police and firefighters have put their lives at risk today rescuing hundreds from high water, and you don’t need to risk both your life and theirs by heading out into the flood waters.
  2. Turn around – don’t drown. If you must leave your home, plan where you drive carefully. Do not try to drive through high water, as moving water can quickly submerge a car and push it off the road.
  3. Call 911 if you are experiencing a life-threatening danger. Emergency personnel are there to help you and your family if you believe your life is threatened by rising water or other threats.

State of disaster
Earlier today, I sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott requesting that he consider issuing a state of disaster declaration for Harris County and surrounding areas. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has already issued a disaster declaration for the county, and I know that the Governor and his staff are monitoring the Houston area closely.

Shelters
There are designated American Red Cross shelters available if you or your family have experienced flood damage and need a place to stay:

  • M.O. Campbell Educational Center
    • 1865 Aldine Bender Road
    • Houston, Texas 77032
  • Jersey Village Baptist Church
    • 16518 Jersey Drive
    • Jersey Village, Texas 77040

Additional information
Operators for Houston’s 311 system are standing by to assist you with non-emergency questions, so please reach out to them for additional information.

Sincerely,

Rodney Ellis

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Sen. Ellis on his vote against SB 11, the “campus carry” bill

(Austin, TX) // Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) releases the following statement regarding today’s passage of Senate Bill 11, the “campus carry” bill:

“As I’ve said before, this bill is a reflection of misplaced priorities,” said Senator Ellis. “Instead of arming students with guns, we should be arming them with 21st century educational opportunities, better paying jobs and fairer wages, and access to quality, affordable health care.”

Senator Ellis continued: “This is not a constitutional issue. This is an issue of ensuring our young people have a safe place of higher learning as they grow from childhood to adulthood.”

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Sen. Ellis’ statement on open carry amendment

(Austin, TX) // Tonight, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) voted for an amendment offered by Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) to HB 910, the open carry bill. Senator Ellis offers the following statement:

“I have a long history of opposing open carry legislation and a strong record of supporting sensible reforms to reduce gun violence and keep firearms out of the hands of criminals,” said Senator Ellis. “But if open carry is going to become law, law enforcement shouldn’t be able to circumvent constitutional rights and detain someone solely because they are open carrying in compliance with the law.”

Senator Ellis continued: “Our state has an unfortunate record on racial profiling and selective enforcement when it comes to detaining people of color. I supported Senator Huffines’ amendment because minority Texans, like all Texans, should be able to exercise their rights, whatever those rights might be, without fear of selective infringement and detention without any reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity.”

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Driver Responsibility Program reform passes Texas Senate

(Austin, TX) // Today, the Texas Senate passed SB 93, legislation to reform and improve the broken Driver Responsibility Program (DRP). The bill now moves to the House for consideration. Specifically, the bill will prevent drivers licenses from being suspended as a result of failure to pay a DRP surcharge. Since 2003, over 2 million licenses have been suspended, and currently more than 1.2 million licenses are suspended due to the program.

“It’s time to give hardworking Texas families relief from this broken double jeopardy program that is doing more harm than good,” said Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), author of SB 93. “I hope that by ending the threat of license suspension we can dismantle this program piece by piece and return some sanity to how we fund trauma care in our state.”

Senator Ellis continued: “The Senate’s vote today is a testament to the fact that the end of the DRP as we know it is near. The program has harmed millions of families, preventing hardworking Texans from driving to work or taking their children to school.”

“I am glad to see the legislature recognizing when things do not work out the way they were intended and having a willingness to rectify it,” said Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood). “This is a good first step in that direction.”

“The Driver Responsibility Program has created more problems than it has solved,” said Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas). “Instead of helping people or increasing safety, punitive DRP fees are a heavy burden on low and middle income Texans. It’s past time to eliminate this hurtful and unnecessary program, which is a modern day debtor’s prison.”

Former Representative Mike Krusee, who passed the bill that created the DRP, recently spoke out in a letter to Senator Ellis and called for full repeal of the program. In part, the letter reads:

 I believe the numerous problems with the DRP and its detrimental impact on millions of Texans fair outweigh any benefits. It is past time to repeal it. The program was never intended to cause as much harm as it has to Texas families.

The DRP was created in 2003 to help fill a budget shortfall and requires drivers convicted of certain traffic offenses to pay annual surcharges to maintain their drivers’ licenses. If a person fails to pay the surcharge, which is assessed on top of court fines and criminal penalties, it results in an automatic license suspension.

Since 2003, it’s clear that the DRP has created more problems than it has solved. The program has generated far less revenue than anticipated, has not improved public safety, and has increased financial hardships for low-income families. This program has created backlogs in our courts and passed on undue costs to our counties. What’s worse, the DRP has led to more uninsured and unlicensed drivers on the road.

The bill passed by the Senate today repeals language in the Transportation Code that provides for the suspension of a driver’s license for failure to pay a surcharge.

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Sen. Ellis on his vote against SB 11, the “campus carry” bill

(Austin, TX) // Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) releases the following statement regarding today’s debate on Senate Bill 11, the “campus carry” bill:

“To those who say campus carry preserves our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, I disagree, and I’m in good company. Our founding fathers knew guns had no place on campuses almost 200 years ago, just as they shouldn’t be there today,” said Senator Ellis.

In the minutes of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors meeting of October 4-5, 1824, when Thomas Jefferson was Rector and James Madison was on the board, a rule was established banning certain items and behavior, including keeping firearms on campus. Specifically, the rule adopted by the University of Virginia stated that:

“[n]o Student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or vinous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder, keep a servant, horse or dog, appear in school with a stick, or any weapon, nor, while in school, be covered without permission of the Professor, nor use tobacco by smoking or chewing, on pain of any of the minor punishments, at the discretion of the Faculty, or of the board of Censors, approved by the Faculty.”

“This is not a constitutional issue,” said Senator Ellis. “This is an issue of ensuring our young people have a safe place of higher learning as they grow from childhood to adulthood. The fact that Thomas Jefferson and the drafter of the Bill of Rights, James Madison, established these rules is pretty conclusive: guns have no place on our state’s college campuses.”

“As I’ve said before, this bill is a reflection of misplaced priorities. Instead of arming students with guns, we should be arming them with 21st century educational opportunities, better paying jobs and fairer wages, and access to quality, affordable health care.”

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