With only the runoff election left it’s that time of year when bills are being formulated. Some seats are up for grabs, but many districts are safe and the behind the scenes work of crafting legislation is already beginning. To that end, I would like to suggest that the legislature take concrete steps to reach out to minorities this upcoming session. This will require collaboration now, and will help sew the seeds of goodwill so that hopefully the next session is less rancorous than the last. To that end, here are a few thoughts on how to take our shared values and place them into concrete action.
Any good outreach program both neutralizes areas of disagreement and builds upon areas of shared values.
A. Understand we can’t do anything about immigration on the state level
The big area of disagreement is immigration reform. This is not something that can be accomplished at the state level. So rather than engage in a no win debate send a message of we can’t control what happens at the national level and pivot to but another topic that needs to be neutralized – perceived discrimination. This can be addressed and neutralized to a point at the state level. As a party we believe in equality of opportunity. This can be fostered by making minor but substantive changes in college admission and government job application processes.
Promote a plan where the admission and hiring bodies receive a race and gender neutral application. This is achieved by having every application assigned an application number. Any references to the applicant are done with the application number. Every applicant comes in on the same footing and the application stands or falls on the merit of the application. The Supreme Court has been signaling that the days of affirmative action are drawing to a close, and this is a good starting point for whatever system will eventually replace affirmative action. The message is come, sit at the table with us and let’s work together now to have a new system in place for when affirmative action is deemed unconstitutional.
B. Body Cameras
The vast majority of BLM type of bogus protesting could be prevented if law enforcement officers were required to wear body cameras. Simply releasing the video of what occurs in any given interaction will establish the fact pattern. It’s not a big leap forward from the prevalent use of dash cam’s, and with cell phones used to video it protects the officer’s from being subjected to selective video recording that misrepresents the facts. Also, if everyone knows the video is being taken everyone is on better behavior reducing the risk of a situation getting out of hand. This protects the blue as much as it protects citizens of all colors. The state likely can’t require all municipalities to wear body cameras, but the state can order and fund for all state officers to do so.
II. Common Values
Focus on issues where we have shared values, and if there comes a fight on TADA, abortion, or the like at least there’s a level of goodwill that has been generated to keep the discourse more civil, and spotlighting the extreme as destructive.
A. Sex Trafficking
One area to promote, and should have bipartisan support, is having a crackdown on sex trafficking. This can be accomplished from policy, law enforcement, and legislative means. From a policy standpoint, decree that combatting sex trafficking is a goal of the state and direct agency heads to promulgate concrete steps to combat sex trafficking and implement the same. From a law enforcement standpoint, set up stings and help coordinate the victims with outreach services. Texas is a highly religious state and has significant private faith based resources available to assist those in need.
From a legislative standpoint, it’s easy enough to craft legislation that sets a web to snare those who fail to report sex crimes. Simply pass the legislation, set up an enforcement mechanism, and let the system work. This won’t stop the trafficking, but increasing the reporting will serve as a method to reduce the instances over time.
B. Health Care
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law so use the law to the state’s advantage. The state already has a County Indigent Health Care Program (CIHCP) in place to serve those who qualify for benefits. Direct the CHICP programs to ensure that all patients have enrolled in and received insurance through the ACA. If the patient still meets the underlying criteria for service through the CIHCP then continue to serve, but bill the insurance companies. As the insurance companies create a revenue stream for the CIHCP entities the state can cut back the funding to the programs. Use this unencumbered monies to assist with capital improvements to help improve the lives of the destitute along the border. Outside a crisis, there’s no excuse for insufficient clean drinking water.
However, rather than just talk about abortion, focus on what is being done to make abortion unnecessary. Divert some public service announcements to crisis pregnancy centers. Revamp the family code so that adoption is easier. Couples are adopting from the Caribbean and Eastern Europe because of less red tape to cut through. Help level the playing field so that couples who want to adopt can do so here in Texas.
This won’t sway votes in November, but it will help to close the divide. Also, cooperation on these issues helps to bring sunshine into the process so the extreme actors are exposed as extreme. The election cycle looks like it may be extreme with the way the Presidential primaries are playing out. Let’s work together under the radar to stand as a shining example of how reasonableness and cooperation can go to advance the common good.