Sen. Ellis and Sen. Garcia team up for voting rights

Today at Houston City Hall, Senators Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) were joined by the NAACP, LULAC, and Texas Civil Rights Project at a press conference to promote voter registration and engagement in Houston and the state of Texas.


Thanks to a partnership with Clear Channel Outdoor, the Senators will post over 40 billboards in English and Spanish in the greater Houston area to encourage citizens to register and vote ahead of November general elections. Advertising space is being donated by Clear Channel Outdoor to the NAACP and LULAC for the campaign and is valued in excess of $75,000. Hundreds of thousands potential voters will view these messages over the coming six weeks prior to the registration deadline.


Senator Ellis’ speech from the press conference is below:

Thank you all for attending this press conference.

I want to thank the City for opening up its doors for us here today.

Senator Garcia and I will be teaming up with the Houston NAACP, LULAC, Texas Civil Rights Project and a host of other groups some of which are here today, to promote voter registration and engagement in the Houston area.

There will be billboards posted throughout Senator Garcia’s and my district with various civil rights organizations to encourage people to register and vote, thanks to space donated by Clear Channel Outdoor.

The billboard campaign will begin on this Monday, August 18th and will run for six weeks leading up to the voter registration deadline on October 6th in order to vote in the November 4th election.

It is only fitting for the NAACP, LULAC, and Civil Rights Project to join us in this effort because they have led the fight for voting rights for a long time, and they continue to lead the charge to protect them.

My billboard has a simple message “We Shall Overcome, Register and Vote.”

The phrase “We Shall Overcome,” like these civil rights organizations, embodies our country’s journey to encourage and protect the right to vote.

As we celebrate the 49th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and the 51st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, we must take action to preserve what earlier generations fought to secure. The easiest first step is to vote,”

We have come a long way to ensure our citizens’ right to vote is preserved, but we still have a long way to go.

This September, I will be going to Corpus Christi to testify in the trial to determine the fate of Texas’ voter ID law.

This law’s attempt to impose stringent voter ID restrictions is nothing more than a 21st century poll tax on legitimate, legal voters.

We have already seen the negative impact of the voter ID law in the 2013 November election.

The New York Times reported 200 voters statewide and 90 here in Harris County cast provisional ballots because of an ID issue and never returned to their local election office within six days after the election to show the proper ID for their vote to count.

Many others had to sign a similar name affidavit, particularly women who changed their names after getting married or divorced, because their name didn’t exactly match their ID – including both gubernatorial candidates.

Texas repeatedly ranks in the bottom of the country in regard to voter turnout. In 2012, turnout was barely over 50 percent, ranking 48th in the nation.

Even though Texas is now 54.1 percent minority, making it one of four majority-minority states in the country, our Legislature and our Congressional delegation does not reflect that diversity.

That is why I am honored to participate in this campaign to increase voter engagement in our community.

I want my constituents’ voices to be heard by making sure they’re registered to vote. Thank you.

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Speech on opening of Health Insurance Marketplace


· Thank you, Mayor Parker for holding this press conference.

· Today, we are celebrating the historic opening of new health insurance options for Texans.

· Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Texans will have access to quality, affordable health insurance through a new health care marketplace.


· As you know, Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation with more than one in four lacking coverage. That’s more than 6 million people.

· In Houston, almost 1 in 3 people are without health insurance coverage.

· This is a problem because individuals who lack insurance are more likely to have inadequate care or skip needed care because they don’t have the money to pay for it.

· 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.


· Thankfully starting today, uninsured and underinsured Texans will be able to shop in the health care marketplace and enroll in health plans that meet their needs.

· These plans will vary based on cost and out of pocket expenses, and coverage will begin on January 1st.

· Individuals and families between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level may be eligible for assistance with their premiums.

· In Texas there are an estimated 2.6 million people who may qualify for premium assistance in the marketplace.

· For individuals who are not eligible for assistance in the marketplace, premiums are still expected to be affordable.

· According to estimates from US HHS, premiums before tax credits are expected to be more than 16 percent lower than estimated.

· In Texas, an average of 54 qualified health plans are anticipated to be selling coverage in the marketplace – increasing competition and lowering costs for consumers.

· With tax credits, premiums will be even more affordable.

· A 27 year old in Texas making $25,000 could pay $133 per month for the lowest cost silver plan, and $83 per month for the lowest cost bronze plan after tax credits.

· For a family of four making $50,000 in Texas, premiums could be as low as $239 per month for silver plan and $57 per month for a bronze plan after tax credits.

· For those of you who are skeptical about the new health plans, I would encourage you to just take a look.

· You might be surprised to find that there are a variety of quality, affordable coverage options that meet your family’s health care and budget needs.

Medicaid Expansion

· While I am excited to see the marketplace running in Texas, I know there is more work to be done to ensure that all Texans have access to affordable health insurance.

· Expanding access to health insurance is such an important issue that I worked tirelessly to get Medicaid expansion on every possible bill this session.

· This expansion would have provided coverage to an estimated 1.5 million Texans, drawn down about $100 billion in federal funding and created more than 3 million jobs over 10 years.

· Unfortunately, our state leadership failed to take advantage of this opportunity or propose an alternative solution.

· I will continue to do my part to promote these new health insurance opportunities and Medicaid expansion.

· And I hope members of our community will inform their neighbors and friends about these new health options for Texans and the importance of expanding Medicaid in our state.

Posted in: Speech

Senator Ellis 2013 UT School of Law Commencement Speech

Thank you, Dean Farnsworth, distinguished faculty, honored graduates and family members, it is a thrill for me to be here on this special day. I am honored you invited me to share it with you.

The Class of 2013 hails from thirty-two different states and four different countries and can speak twenty-two languages, from Arabic to Danish to Mandarin to Wolof.

Your class counts among its members a national championship skier and college varsity football player as well as a professional ballet dancer, a modern dance improviser, and players of the oboe, trombone, guitar, and piccolo. Several Eagle Scouts are part of the class, as are a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.

The Class of 2013 has contributed nearly 25,000 hours of pro bono service during their law school tenure.

They volunteered their time with charitable, not-for-profits, and governmental organizations throughout Austin, the state of Texas, and the United States during both the academic year and summers.

I know everyone hates commencement speeches; they’re never memorable and you just want to celebrate with your family and friends. But, to prepare I read through a lot of them and the best advice might have been:

“Always use sunscreen.”

Hard to argue with that one.

But being here today reminded me of my time at UT Law and how that prepared me for my career in law and government.

Women/Ann Richards

This class = 46 percent women; 1994 class= 41 percent women


Today you are this close to being one of the few, the proud, the reviled: a lawyer. You are a law school graduate, from one of the premier institutions in the country, and well on your way to becoming the man or woman your parents dreamed of. To the joy of many and the surprise of a few.

You are ready to become the defenders of the Constitution, the guardians of liberty and the champion of the common man and women. Protector of the powerless and stewards of that most important principle: everyone in America, regardless of the content of their character or the size of their bank account, is equal under the eyes of the law.

It is a sacred trust and one that deserves respect. It is your job to earn it.
One of my favorite lawyers, John Adams had a simple motto in his life: “Be just and good.” That is your obligation as an attorney and citizen of this world.

Unfortunately, despite today’s validation of the last three years of your work, the truth is you’re not going to get very far in life based on what you already know. You’re going to advance in life by what you’re going to learn after you leave here.

While each of you will have triumphs, I want to make something perfectly clear: Failure is an option. Not only is it an option, it is a certainty. You are going fall flat on your face, not once or twice, but often. Most of the times it is going to be when and where no one can see you, but sometimes it is going to be in full view of everyone you know and work with

We all have.

• Joe Jamail, one of the greatest and most successful lawyers in history, struggled mightily with torts.
• Steve Jobs got fired from Apple.
• Barack Obama and George W. Bush could not get elected to Congress.
• Steven Spielberg made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
• Michael Jordan runs the Charlotte Bobcats.

See? Unbelievably successful people fail. So will you, and it is going to be scary, but you will recover and do great things. Success doesn’t mean one is successful and failing doesn’t make one a failure. In fact, it is your response to failure that will determine just how successful you will be.

I leave you with this observation from Joe Jamail:

“From the beginning, to all of us, it has been said that the law is a jealous mistress. That is what we are told. What they did not tell us is that the law is a nymphomaniac. It will leave you tired, worn out, exhausted, sometimes delusional, but at the end, knowing the experience was and is beyond pleasure and satisfaction. It is priceless.”

May your life and careers bring you the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. May you turn your back on darkness, face life head on and live your dreams.

And, for God’s sake, wear sunscreen.

Thank you all.

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Ellis receives First Amendment Award

I am proud to receive this award because it means I have finally done something right!

It has been a pleasure and privilege working with the Texas Press Association, the Texas Association of Broadcasters, the dearly departed Texas Daily Newspaper Association, Senator Adams, Representative Hunter, the Lt. Governor and advocates on issues like the Free Flow of Information Act and Anti-SLAPP protections. Continue Reading »

Posted in: Speech

We need to expand access to health insurance

Ellis joins Texans Rallying for Health Care

Urges Texas to join other states accepting Obamacare funds to expand Medicaid

(Austin, Texas)//Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) joined the Metropolitan Organization, health care advocates and concerned Texans at a Capitol rally today urging Texas to address the uninsured crisis by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”. Continue Reading »

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Speech to Executives and Sales Force of Gulf States Toyota

Good morning. It is great to be here.

I wanted to give you a short update on some of the big issues this session that impact and hopefully interest you.

By now you might have heard about an $8.8 billion budget “surplus”. Well, don’t get too excited. This “surplus” is pretty much already spent, covering bills we didn’t pay last session. the biggest chunk will go to paying our overdue $4.7 billion tab for Medicaid. Continue Reading »

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Ellis Receives Virgil C. Lott Award

Remarks of Senator Rodney Ellis

I want to thank the UT Law Center for awarding me this honor, and recognize some folks here tonight, including Mr. Lott’s daughters, Joycelyn Toliver and Adrienne Reeder, their families, as well as my good friend President Bill Powers and his wife, Kim. Continue Reading »

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