As a delegate to the Republican Party of Texas convention, I was honored to testify before platform committees, vote on amendments, and be part of the process of developing the party’s stance on important issues for the coming biennium. Reading the Democratic equivalent confirms that the other party has a much different vision for society and government. However, I was surprised to find several areas of common ground between the two.
The 182 men and women elected to the next legislative session, and the 38 sent to represent this state in the U.S. Congress, will all approach their posts with their own priorities as well as those of their respective parties. I hope, though, that they can set aside some time to come together and quickly accomplish the things both parties agree would be beneficial to the state of Texas. In this article, I’ll detail several issues where both party platforms completely agree. Remember that it’s possible for two groups of people to see the world in very different ways, and yet approach the same conclusion—that often speaks to the urgency of action to solve that problem. It’s a lot to ask for both parties to set aside their differences and avoid using these issues to gain advantage over each other, but if we can do it, you’re about to see just how much can be accomplished, especially for the most vulnerable Texans among us.
No Jail for Non-Jailable Offenses
Democrats make it clear in several of their criminal justice planks that they want to keep people out of jail for low-level crimes, or crimes that would only be punishable by fines. The Republican platform explicitly calls upon the Texas Legislature “to end the practice of jailing individuals for offenses for which jail is not an allowable consequence under the law.”
Ending Debtor’s Prison
The Democratic platform calls for “ending the practice of sending poor people to jail or prison for inability to pay fines and court costs.” The Republican platform goes a step further, asking the Legislature to end incarceration of individuals who cannot pay “tickets, fines, and fees for class C misdemeanors, including traffic violations.”
Age of Criminal Responsibility
Both parties explicitly call for the age of criminal prosecution or responsibility to be raised from 17 to 18.
Consent During Traffic Stops
The Republican platform calls upon the Legislature to “require officers to get written or recorded consent (i.e. body cams) to conduct a search and inform motorists that they can decline to give such consent.” The Democratic platform uses almost the same words, asking to require officers to “get written or recorded consent prior to conducting a search during traffic stops and require them to inform people of their right to decline such consent.”
Ending Civil Asset Forfeiture
The Democratic platform calls for “ensuring civil asset forfeiture only upon a criminal conviction.” The Republican platform calls for the abolition of civil asset forfeiture using the same language, and requests that the Party make this one of its legislative priorities for the 2019 legislative session.
Eliminating 3-Tier Alcohol Distribution
The Democratic platform contains strong free-market language defending the rights of craft brewers: “Democrats support modernizing the TABC’s 3 tier system because Texas’s craft breweries create jobs, encourage tourism, grow the economy, revitalize communities and add incremental tax revenues. Democrats support legislation allowing craft breweries to enjoy the same rights as their competitors in every state that allow them to sell and market their products directly from their breweries to consumers for take-home consumption, and ensure fairness in distribution across the state.” Cheers to that. For their part, Republicans “urge the Texas Legislature to adopt legislation eliminating the mandatory three-tier system of alcohol production, distribution, and retail. Texans should have the freedom to purchase alcohol directly from manufacturers, just as any other retail product.”
Reducing/Ending “Robin Hood”
The Democratic platform calls for the state to “equitably reduce reliance on ‘Robin Hood’ recapture.” The Republican platform goes a step further, stating that Republicans “oppose the ‘Robin Hood’ system of public school finance and believe the Texas Legislature, not the courts, should determine the amount of money spent on public education and the distribution thereof.” While both parties likely come at this issue from different angles and have very different visions for what school finance in Texas should look like at the state level, it is clear that neither party is happy with the status quo produced by the “Robin Hood” program and support its reduction or elimination.
The Republican platform calls upon the Legislature to provide “appropriate funding for the improvement of mental health services for children and adolescents,” especially emphasizing training for people who touch the life of a child in the foster care system and trauma-informed care. The Democratic platform offers several suggestions for this, asking for the number of treatment facilities to be increased and for community-based mental health services for children and adults.
Republicans call upon the Legislature to “improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.” Democrats call for “the immediate legalization of medical cannabis use.”
Rape Prevention and Prosecution
The Republican Platform calls for the passage of “Abby’s Law,” which requires prosecution of rapists within 90 days, prioritizes victims’ safety and justice, requires the state to “establish a standard protocol to be followed in regards to claims of sexual assault,” and requires that “the funding of rape kit processing where the assailant is unknown will be continuous with mandatory annual reporting to ensure that the money is being allocated for this intent.” While the Democratic platform is not as specific, it supports “strong enforcement of Texas laws to hold offenders accountable and increase the likelihood that victims will come forward to report these crimes” and calls for training programs for all professionals involved in the reporting of sexual crimes.
The Republican platform calls for a “zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment,” but does not specify a group for this to apply to. The Democratic platform addresses sexual harassment in several planks, and specifically calls for a policy to be adopted in the Texas House and Texas Senate that could include significant penalties such as censure or expulsion.
Eliminating Chapter 313 Property Tax Abatements
The Democratic platform calls for “eliminating tax loopholes and unproductive special breaks, such as Chapter 313 agreements, to simplify the tax system and provide revenue for essential services.” Republicans “support repealing Tax Code Chapter 313 school property tax abatements.”
Eliminating the Driver Responsibility Program
The Democratic Platform calls for “stabilizing trauma center funding by repealing the Driver Responsibility Program fees, which many Texans cannot afford and never pay, and replacing the funding [by] other budgetary means,” while the Republican platform focuses on the Texans affected: “we call upon the Texas Legislature to abolish the Driver Responsibility Program and to immediately restore the driver licenses of the citizens whose licenses were suspended by the DRP and to cancel their debt.”
Elimination of Special Funds
Both parties call for the elimination of certain special funds, but they target different ones. The Democrats object to the Texas Enterprise Fund, referring to it as a “corporate slush fund that rewards businesses owned by political cronies and contributors, despite their failure to meet hiring targets and other program requirements.” The Republican platform calls for the Legislature to abolish the Events Trust Fund program and the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, which also meet that description. Perhaps as a compromise, we can end all three.
Public Information Act/Trade Secrets
The platforms have suspiciously identical language about this: they both, in these exact words, “support legislation that would close contractor and trade secret loopholes in the Texas Public Information Act, while providing due process protections for private companies wishing to keep trade secrets private.”
Home and Community-Based Services
Both platforms call for the Legislature to support HCBS. The Democrats call for HCBS funding to “follow the person” in cases of long-term care. Republicans see this as a pro-life measure, presumably directed at mothers who may be considering abortion for children who would be born with special needs, and ask to “enact language to apply additional protections and to address any loopholes that fail to protect or provide appropriate home and community-based alternatives for children and adults with disabilities, in addition to providing families with information about life-affirming social and medical services available to them in Texas as alternatives to abortion and costly institutional care.”
While the Democratic platform generally advocates for less stringent enforcement of laws against illegal immigration, it does include this plank: Democrats “support strict enforcement and appropriate punishment against those who exploit undocumented workers rather than targeting the workers themselves.” Republicans agree with this approach, asking for Texas to eliminate the employment magnet by “requiring all employers to screen new hires through the free E-Verify system to prevent the hiring of illegal aliens and of anyone not legally authorized to work in the U.S.” Nothing in the Republican platform calls for the targeting of workers who are illegal immigrants—responsibility for these enforcement actions would come down entirely upon employers, as it should.
Legalization of Hemp
The Democratic Platform supports “the legalization of hemp for agricultural purposes.” The Republican Platform recognizes “industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity,” and urges the Legislature to “pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture, and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products.”
Opposition to Eminent Domain by Private Entities
The Democratic platform states that “the protection of private property is a cornerstone of freedom and liberty and is central to the Texas Constitution,” and includes strong and detailed language opposing eminent domain by private corporations, allowing condemnation “only where necessary, and only for needed projects such as transportation and utilities that serve a clear public interest.” It also supports an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would eliminate the ability for private entities to “exercise the powers of eminent domain in condemnation of private property” and ensure “all entities seeking eminent domain authority should be required, before any eminent domain is exercised, to prove that they are deserving of condemnation authority and prove that their project serves the public good.” The Republican platform calls for eminent domain to “exclude the seizure of private property for private economic development or increased tax revenue.”
Both parties call for Congress to remove cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Democrats want it removed entirely (and in the interim, to cease enforcement of federal laws regarding cannabis in states that allow it), and Republicans want to move it to Schedule 2.
The Democratic platform opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and opposes “free trade” proposals which “hurt American jobs and workers, the environment, and the American consumer.” Democrats “support fair trade deals to bring back and protect Texas and American jobs.” While Republicans “support free trade as a necessary component of American capitalism and of the United States’ influence in the world,” Republicans oppose the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Republicans also demand “the immediate withdrawal” from NAFTA and CAFTA.
The Republican Party Platform can be read here: https://www.texasgop.org/platform/. The Democratic Party Platform can be read here: https://www.txdemocrats.org/our-party/texas-democratic-party-platform/. I would encourage every politically-interested Texan to read both.
Senate District 11 Chairman
Harris County Republican Party
Fred Flickinger says
I had no idea there was this much in common.
Great work Scott.
Jim Black says
Wish that included the Libertarian Platform too.
Dan Comstock says
Good job, Scott!
Howie Katz says
In California, a patient visits his doctor to complain about an anxiety problem:
Patient: “Doctor I have an anxiety problem. I need a prescription for pot.”
Doctor: “Do you know what is causing your anxiety?”
Patient: “Yes. I’m afraid the cops will bust me for possession if I don’t get a medical marijuana card. And I need a prescription too.”
Doctor: “Sounds reasonable to me. Here is your medical marijuana card. And this is your prescription.”
Patient: “Thank you doctor. Now I already feel somewhat better. I’m going to toke up some joints and tell the cops to go fuck themselves.”
Doctor: “Don’t drive while stoned, or you’ll still get busted. And don’t get so stoned that you’ll forget to come back for your refills.”
In California, doctors prescribe pot for almost any imagined ailment – headaches, backaches, stomach aches, ingrown toenails, hemorrhoids, erectile dysfunction, anxiety, depression, nightmares, etc., etc. Marijuana prescriptions have been a cash cow for California doctors.
Do we really want to allow Texas doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients?
Howie: Marijuana is safer than the cigarette I’m smoking now and less addictive than the Scotch I had last night. I lived in The Netherlands some years ago and they had “coffee shops” selling weed. There was a coffee shop in the capital, The Hague, called Creamers. Creamers was for middle aged, middle level government officials to have a joint on the way home from work rather than a few drinks. Yet, the country survives and frankly works pretty well.
Society would be a lot better off treating marijuana like alcohol. Tax hell out of it and regulate it to keep it out of the hands of teen-agers. Now, anybody can get weed and there’s no controls on it. Only drug dealers make money off of it.
BTW, I’m old enough to remember President Reagan’s war on drugs. It really had two results.
First, drug smugglers stopped flying in loads of marijuana because of the bulk and relatively low profit margin. That led to the creation of a domestic marijuana growing industry.
Second, the drug smugglers started bringing in stuff with more bang for the buck, cocaine. That in turn flooded the cocaine market and the price (at least for kilos and more) dropped considerably.
Howie Katz says
Tom, I could argue with you on several points you have made. But my point was to show why doctors should not be allowed to determine what conditions they can prescribe pot for.
Pot has been touted for the treatment of epilepsy, glaucoma, pain, nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients, MS muscle contractions, sleep disorders and Tourette’s symptoms. But reputable scientific studies have shown that this is not true. Yet doctors choose to believe otherwise because it keeps the cash register ringing.
Furthermore, a 20 year study by a team led by Professor Wayne Hall, a drug adviser to the World Health Organization, found cannabis is highly addictive, causes mental health problems, doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and opens the door to hard drugs.
The situation with doctors prescribing medical marijuana in California got so bad that it amounted to a de facto legalization of Marijuana for recreational use. Now that pot has been legalized for recreational use in the state, that cash cow for doctors will shrink considerably. Why bother to get and pay for a pot scrip now?
The legalization of medical marijuana in California was a designed step for the legalization of recreational pot. And so it will be in Texas if we allow doctors to prescribe pot for whatever alleged ailment they choose.
By the way Tom, I am not opposed to the use of cannabis in medicine. Certain extracts of cannabis which do not cause a high have been shown to have curative results in some cases. If FDA approved extracts were to be prescribed instead of smokable pot, that’s fine with me.
Howie, Your obession borders on the fanatical. I do agree with you that for some pot is addictive and detrimental to their well being – just like alcohol, gambling, etc. I won’t repeat the “free society” argument you have obviously heard and rejected. I will say that as a parent I am more afraid of someone like you arresting my child than my child growing up to use marijuana on a recreational basis. Think about that, the monster that a parent is most afraid of in this situation is… YOU.
Howie Katz says
Good! Since you’re afraid of a monster like me busting your child, maybe that will encourage you to insist that he or her not smoke pot.
Melissa Noriega says
Interesting list, much to think about-I’m going to save this.
Thank you for the work that went into it.
Scott: It’s never going to happen because of the toxic environment we’ve accepted in our political discourse. Whether it’s opposing a president’s Supreme Court nominee before he’s announced or refusing to reach out to the other party for suggestions and help in replacing Obamacare with a better system or failing to enact what most people agree on to fix immigration, neither party is willing to reach out to the other. Neither party wants to govern. Each wants to score political points.
And, it’s not just politicians. A woman wearing a MAGA hat verbally attacks a Hispanic kid in a store, people like Maxine Waters urges restaurants not to serve Administration officials.
Remember when a bunch of people thought a military exercise, Jade Helm, was an attempt by the Obama Administration to impose military rule? And those nuts convinced the governor of Texas to send the State Guard to watch them. That was not only insulting to me as a retired Army officer but it showed the power of the crazies.
How did we get here? I don’t know. I do know that Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were buddies who wanted to make things work. I’m old enough to remember that the 1964 Civil Rights Act got through the Senate because the Republican leader, Everett Dirkson, made it happen.
There are lots of things that everyone agrees on in even the most contentious issues. For example, the NRA and the anti-gun nuts will never agree on a lot of things but everyone agrees that criminals and the dangerous mentally ill shouldn’t have access to firearms. They should be sitting down together to come up with a way to do just that.
But, it won’t happen. Too many people have too much of a stake in continuing the toxic environment in our politics.
It makes me want to puke.
Donald Sumners says
Cooperation in state senate might well be accomplished. Cooperation in the house is another matter. Maybe new house speaker would be willing to back joint effort.
The 21-vote rule to take up a bill once forced the state senate to act cooperatively. However, Lt. Gov. Patrick dumped that his first week on the job. Now, the senate is like the house: purely partisan. The same thing is happening in the US Senate with the watering down of the filibuster. There is no need for a broad consensus.
Think about it, about 30 members of the US House, the Freedom Caucus, runs the place. If they don’t go along with the leadership, nothing happens. So, the Republican leadership has to bend to them even though they are a small minority of the Republican caucus.
Something similar happened in the Senate. When the Republicans slow walked judicial nominees during the Obama years when the Democrats were a majority, the Dems gutted the filibuster rule on appointments. They never thought that what goes around comes around.
Both parties have let partisanship get in the way of governing. I say, A plague on both your houses.
Janet Thomas says
We may agree on a few issues, but as to the ideologies of the two parties, we are universes apart. Tom Perez recently said that the 28-year-old communist nominee in New York is the future of the party, which wasn’t a surprise to conservatives and, for the most part, Republicans are moving more to the right. The Democrats are for full government control of every aspect of life, restrictive regulations on businesses, gun control, unlimited abortion up to and including the ninth month, gender re-assignment, against conversion therapy even if someone desires it, mandatory teaching of “alternative lifestyles” in el-hi, climate change being more dangerous than terrorism, open borders, globalism and a hatred of America. This is the party that in 2012 at their national convention, when they took a floor vote whether to remove any mention of God in their platform, there was a resounding “yes”. The vote was taken three times and all three times, it was a yes. The national chair however made the decision that God would remain in their national platform rather than alienate the more traditional Democrats in the party. The Democrats have become the party of the pink hat, antifa and socialism/communism. To date, there are 197 instances of attacks on Trump supports from Democrats, Next weekend, we will see thousands of Democrats showing up all over the country to protest the President’s choice for the Supreme Court. In 2016, traditional democrats voted for Trump and more and more people are leaving the Democrat party every day. No, the parties will not come together, there are too many differences and too many important lines in the sand.
Jeanean Slamen says
Thank you, Mr. Bowen. I’m publicizing this column on the Dem side of the fence in hopes we can address your question on both sides of the party divide. We have many philosophical differences but where there is common ground we owe it to Texans to cooperate for the common good.
Scott Bowen says
Thank you for doing that! I greatly appreciate it. I hope to see bipartisan movements coalesce around some of these issues, because they really are important.
Gary D says
Some of the comment here show why in general Democrats and Republicans cannot work together despite their agreement on a number of issues highlighted in the party platforms. There is an old drug warrior citing his favorite study on the dangers of marijuana and ignoring an even more comprehensive review by the National Institutes of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that finds marijuana is a relatively safe drug with “conclusive evidence” that marijuana is good for treating chronic pain. This is one of the most common reasons cited for marijuana’s medical use — particularly in light of the opioid painkiller epidemic, which has spawned in part as patients turn to opioids to try to treat debilitating pain. The report concludes that marijuana can treat chronic pain. And that may allow it to substitute more dangerous, deadlier opioid painkillers.
The report also found “conclusive evidence” that marijuana is effective for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Coupled with the findings on pain, this suggests that marijuana really is a potent treatment for cancer patients in particular, who can suffer from debilitating pain and severe nausea as a result of their illness.
The report found “moderate evidence” of no link between marijuana smoking and lung cancer or marijuana use and head and neck cancers, which are commonly linked to tobacco. There was also “moderate evidence” of better cognitive performance among individuals with psychotic disorders and a history of marijuana use.
Given that marijuana’s harms appear to be relatively small, mainly that use can lead to some becoming unproductive excessive users, even if legalization leads to more pot use it seems worth the benefit of reducing incarceration and crippling violent drug cartels financed in part by revenue from illicit weed sales.