Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Senator Wendy Davis: Fighting the Good Fight

Although I didn't get to meet Senator Wendy Davis on my 4-5 trips to Texas' state capitol, she had my attention when I heard that she had filed a bill to regulate payday lending. Of course, her proposed legislation ultimately gave way to Representative Vicki Truitt's considerably weaker bills, but Senator Davis tackled something that few other legislators (with the exception of Tom Craddick in the House) were loathe to try.

Now she's at it again and I confess, for what its worth, she's gaining my undying admiration.

Wendy Davis filibustered the vote on the budget, to throw this legislature into a special session! Now, call it what you want, but I call it refusing to curl up in a corner and say, 'Please, don't hurt me anymore!'. I mean, seriously, there are those who may think it a failed gesture, shouting at the rain, tilting at windmills and whatever other worn axiom used to describe the fruitless desperate acts of the frustrated. I call it using every arrow in the quiver to have the voices of the people heard.

The GOP/Tea Party dominated legislature would rather end the session under funding education by $4 billion than to adequately fund Texas' future by dipping into the rainy day fund. Now for those who have heard the term and don't know what the 'rainy day fund' is - the short answer is, its the states emergency fund. A few sessions ago, Texas bet the farm, as it were, on a business friendly revenue restructuring that depended on increased tax revenue. When the revenue didn't come in as expected - as a matter of fact, it resulted in a $27 billion shortfall - our Governor masked the deficit last year by taking stimulus money from the same federal government with which he was so 'fed up' he wrote a book to expansively express his disdain! This, by the way is the same Governor 'thinking' of running for the GOP nomination for presidency!

Of course the chickens have come home to roost on this mendacity and the answer is, 'Don't touch a dime of the $9 billion state emergency fund! We'll have to underfund education for the next two years with a formula that essentially says, 'Don't worry, no children will be born in the next two years that we'll have to educate later. We're all good!'

Wendy Davis decided to do something!

""...she spoke and spoke and spoke till the midnight deadline rolled around..."

"We have a Rainy Day Fund, and we didn't use a single dollar of it to fund our failure," said Davis."

"In our own households," she continued, "if we had money in the bank and our homes were about to be foreclosed on, we would spend the money in the bank. It would be irresponsible for us not to do that. And so many of our constituents, our families, our school teachers, our school districts have asked us to use the money we have in the bank so we don't take this first step toward failing them. The response was not to do that. It was even worse than that ... It was to say, 'We're going to rewrite the formula that allows us to permanently wipe [funding for public education] off our balance sheet.""

Hooray Wendy! Will it work? Oh, probably not. Unless there are other tools at their disposal that Dems are prepared to use in an effort to force a compromise, this may indeed be an exercise in futility. But Senator Davis decided to do something besides whine about how 'tough this session is' and decided to get tough and do something! 

Ultimately lies with Texas voters. We'll have to remember the party that gave us a State Board of Education that decided that historical facts are not as important as conservative 'feel good ideology' and in the process so rewrote history, that (once it is corrected), future Texans - and Americans - will wonder why we allowed patients in a lunatic asylum to determine our social studies curriculum. We'll have to remember the 'wisdom' that decided that over crowded classrooms and 20th century technology in the 21st century was good enough to train future educators, engineers, doctors and nurses. And we'll have to remember those who introduced an ideology regarding education that so underfunded post secondary schools that it threatened to make a bachelor's degree from a state university almost indistinguishable from a trade school certificate.  We'll also have to remember the geniuses who sought to save Texas money by cutting Medicaid costs by $7 billion and ended up costing the state $20 billion in county hospital costs and federal Medicaid reimbursements!

In the meantime, I can't help but admire Senator Wendy Davis. She's fighting the good fight. 

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