|Job description||There are 31 senators in the Texas Senate, the upper chamber of the Texas state legislature. Term is four years.|
|Annual salary||$7,200/yr; $190/day when legislature in session|
|Brian Birdwell (incumbent)|
|1. WHY ARE YOU THE BEST QUALIFIED CANDIDATE?|
Public Education is under attack, our health care system is approaching third world status, the environment and our infrastructure are collapsing around us and our Senator is doing nothing to solve these real problems. I'm running because we can do better.
My education and experience in public service has shown me how good government can work. Unfortunately, my eyes, my lungs, and my wallet are showing me how bad governance doesn't work. Our current Senator has a history of making things worse, I'm running because I know we can do better.
Our system works when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone gives their fair share,
and everyone plays by the same rules. My opponent promotes policies are not fair; they rig the system to benefit the rich over the rest of us. My policies would ensure that everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has the opportunity to live the Texas dream.
|2. WHAT ARE YOUR TOP FEW PRIORITIES IF ELECTED?|
1- Expand Medicaid. Provide 1.6 million more Texans with health care, save billions of dollars each year, save our under stress rural hospitals.
2- Texas public education scores near the bottom for teacher pay and per pupil expenditures, and at the absolute bottom (50th of 50 States) for retired teacher's benefits. I would like for us to be near the top but realistically we should at least try to be in the middle. Being just average is an attainable goal. 25th by 2025 is my goal.
3- Protect our increasingly fragile environment. I will champion legislation to utilize our wealth of alternative energy sources, wind and solar.
4- Criminal justice reform. We must soundly reject and replace the excruciatingly unfair money bail system and replace it with a risk-assessment bail system. I will support legislation that treats drug use as a public health challenge rather than a crime.
5- Cannabis Reform. I will support legislation to legalize possession and use of cannabis and its derivatives and to regulate its production, sale and use. I will support the taxation and state regulation of cannabis sales with that revenue earmarked for local mental health, drug treatment, and veterans housing.
|3. WHAT SHOULD THE LEGISLATURE PRIORITIZE TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE IN TEXAS?
Accepting the 10 billion dollars annually of federal Medicaid funds is simply commonsense. Every year, 1.2 million uninsured Texans are left with untreated chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. The losers? The patients and the Emergency Rooms where they seek treatment. Their uncompensated care is a major reason that Texas leads the nation in rural hospital closings; closings that leave more of us further away from lifesaving care when we have a heart attack or accident.
Medicaid expansion will provide the economic base that supports family doctors, specialists, and therapists in our communities without which these professionals must leave for the big cities.
Texans pay Federal taxes that fund the Medicaid expansion in 36 “smarter” States. They enjoy savings to local taxpayers, expanded rural hospitals, and health care for 17 million people. Not expanding Medicare here is simply evidence of a failed political philosophy. After all, we send that money to Washington. Why not bring it back home?
|4. GIVEN THE ECONOMIC ISSUES IN SCHOOLS RESULTING FROM THE CURRENT PANDEMIC, STATE AND LOCAL REVENUES ARE DOWN, EVEN AS NEEDS ARE HIGH. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS REGARDING FUNDING FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE NEW PHYSICAL AND VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT?|
The budget shortfall is projected to be about 5 billion dollars. The expected response by the Republican Legislature is to balance that on the backs of our most vulnerable. In a state renowned for its flimsy safety net we can expect the plan to be cuts to all the social services. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The truth is, Texas is flush. We have the $8.5 billion rainy-day fund, a $6.2 billion federal stimulus coming, and $3.5 billion in previously un-allocated state revenue. There is no need – I repeat – no need to raise property taxes.
Add in the $10 billion we would receive annually by expanding Medicaid, an untold annual increase in tax revenue once the commercial real estate loophole is closed, an expected annual infusion of hundreds of millions in legalized cannabis taxes and a similar take from legalized casino gambling and it is apparent that we have plenty of options rather than starving the poor.
For most, remote learning will suffice, enough until our pedagogy adapts to this “new normal”. Our school districts have taken steps to provide the infrastructure for most students, but there are exceptions.
We must support those students that have learning disabilities, special education needs, AP classes, technical training, and provide assistance to struggling students. We’re going to become very flexible.
|5. IN RECENT YEARS THERE HAVE BEEN MANY PUBLIC DEBATES ABOUT STATE AUTHORITY VERSUS LOCAL AUTHORITY ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS A GOOD BALANCE BETWEEN THE TWO?
Abbott and GOP lawmakers tried to strip down municipal autonomy over the last two legislative sessions, taking aim at ride-sharing companies’ fingerprint background checks; measures to boost affordable housing; fair chance hiring; heritage tree safeguards; plastic bag bans; regulations of short-term rentals; and LGBTQ protections. (All the while the GOP tout their hallowed allegiance to “local control” by defending their anti-city attacks as measures to grant ostensible “liberty” and “freedom.”)
They’ve succeeded in demonizing immigrant communities, tying the hands of city and county officials with a law that punishes so-called sanctuary cities. They jeopardized local health care, like county partnerships that provide preventative health education, by banning cities from contracting with abortion providers. They’ve overridden Austin’s homeless camping ordinance with lies and disinformation. And they mounted a ruthless legal battle against city ordinances in Austin and San Antonio that would have granted employees paid sick leave—a measure that would help mitigate our current dire situation.
Abbott and the state legislature have worked overtime to either preempt local decision making or bludgeon the decisions that do get made into oblivion. The motive isn’t merely to assert state power, but to suppress cities, which have become growing bastions of progressive power.
|6. HOW SHOULD THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE ADDRESS ISSUES SURROUNDING TEXAS'S ENERGY FUTURE (SUCH AS CHANGING ECONOMIC CIRCUMSTANCES FOR THE ENERGY INDUSTRY, CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUES, ETC.?|
I will work to restore the rights of local governments and voters to regulate oil and gas operations within their communities. And we all should oppose any further attempts of the Legislature aimed at preventing cities and counties from regulating litter and pollution in their boundaries.
I will support legislation to strengthen and enforce regulations designed to rapidly and significantly reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
I support an aggressive phasing out of the ecologically destructive extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing.
The State must take immediate action to prevent the depletion and exploitation of our water resources by banning the use of non-brackish water for fracking, requiring practical recovery of water used in the fracking process (sometimes in the millions of gallons per well), and an end to speculative water marketing.
Texas needs to fully enforce environmental laws instead of ceding its responsibility to protect our health to corporate interests.
I support increased funding for the upkeep, maintenance and acquisition of State Park land.
I support programs that encourage the reduction of "single use" plastics.
|7. ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO ADD?|
Every working Texas deserves a living wage. I fully support, and will actively work to raise the minimum wage to $15. There should be no such classification as "working poor".