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What Counties and Cities Can Do To Curb Gun Violence in Texas

May 25, 2022

Gun violence presents a significant challenge in Texas, approximately half of whose residents own a firearm and where a person is killed with a gun every two hours. High levels of gun ownership coupled with Texas' high rate of gun violence create a danger to public health.According to Rand Corp., an average of 46 percent of Texas residents owned a firearm from 1980 to 2016. However, this percentage likely increased after 2020, when the country saw a surge in gun sales associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, estimates suggest that 32 percent of U.S. adults owned a firearm by the end of 2020. Texas is also home to numerous federal firearm licensed (FFL) dealers. Information from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) indicates that as of January 2022, the state had almost 10 percent--5,089--of all FFL dealers in the country. Studies also report that thousands of gun shows6 are organized in Texas every year.

The Quest For Equity and Quality Examining Provider Experiences and Participation in Texas Rising Star

April 1, 2022

Exposure to high-quality child care is the foundation for a child's academic and social-emotional success, especially for children from low-income families. Increasing access to subsidized child care is one of the many strategies used to provide affordable early education to children from low-income families. However, increasing access alone is not enough when it comes to early learning. Children need to be in high-quality care to reap the many benefits.One systematic way to measure and increase quality of child care programs is through a state's Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). QRIS is a systematic framework used to measure, improve, and communicate the quality of early childhood education (ECE) providers across a range of indicators. In Texas, this system is called Texas Rising Star (TRS). TRS is only open to child care providers who accept families receiving subsidy child care assistance. While TRS offers incentives for participation including professional development and increased reimbursement rates, currently TRS reaches only a fraction of lowincome children and the providers. 

Texas Civil Rights Project Impact Report 2021

March 14, 2022

This year's Impact Report will tell the stories of the victories we shared together in our movement for social justice in Texas. From the halls of the Texas Capitol in Austin to the Rio Grande Valley, our team of dedicated legal advocates fought to ensure the civil rights of all Texans were preserved, no matter what language they spoke or what their citizenship status was.

A Retrospective on a Decade of Investment: Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Policy Academy & Policy Fellow Initiative

March 1, 2022

The Hogg Foundation for Mental Health's mission is to transform how communities promote mental health in everyday life. Policy engagement has always been a strategic priority for the organization. In 2010, the foundation launched the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Policy Academy and Policy Fellow Initiative with the goal of bolstering the mental health and substance use policy workforce to make long-term systems change. The initiative supports ten host organizations to employ and mentor a full-time, mental health policy fellow for two years. This retrospective report provides the clearest evidence to date that philanthropic investment in the capacity of nonprofits to engage in meaningful public policy work by funding fellowships can yield benefits even in an area as complex as mental health.

Extreme Gerrymanderers

February 22, 2022

Gerrymandering is the intentional practice of manipulating the boundaries of congressional districts to provide an unfair advantage for a specific party or group. The practice has increasingly created barriers to representative democracy and allows politicians to select their voters, rather than allowing voters to pick their politicians.New maps that create the boundaries between congressional districts are drawn every 10 years, following each decennial census. In the wake of the 2020 Census, state legislators crafted a number of hyperpartisan and discriminatory gerrymanders. This report highlights a dozen of the worst.

Economic Democracy Case Studies

February 8, 2022

The Economic Democracy Project at Demos envisions liberation for Black and brown people. This requires us to address inequities in economic, political, and institutional power. The concept of economic democracy recognizes that everyone deserves a stake in the system and that the economy should exist to serve the people—the demos. In a moment in which a corporate ruling class exploits racial and class divisions to dodge accountability and accumulate power, preserving our democracy requires creating opportunities for the public to lead and shape economic outcomes.The Economic Democracy Project aims to highlight and develop strategies that Black and brown communities can use to build economic and political power. It has 3 priorities:Break up and regulate new corporate power, including Amazon, Google, and Facebook.Expand the meaning of public goods and ensure that services are equitably and publicly administered.Strengthen "co-governance" strategies so that people and public agencies can collectively make decisions about the economy.The case studies outlined here spotlight 4 community campaigns working across the U.S. to reclaim power over economic resources.

Voter Registration at Texas Public Libraries

February 1, 2022

The National Voter Registration Act ("NVRA") requires states that have not adopted automatic voter registration to designate certain public offices as "Voter Registration Agencies." These Voter Registration Agencies are required to offer voter registration to the public in certain specific ways. In 1995, after passage of the NVRA, Texas designated public libraries as one category of publicly funded offices that must serve as Voter Registration Agencies if they meet certain funding and hours-of-operation requirements.Beginning in 2020, the Texas Civil Rights Project learned that of the more than 500 independent public library systems in Texas—comprised of thousands of local branches—not a single public library was in full compliance with its obligations under the Texas Election Code.This initial finding raised serious questions as to whether libraries were providing the voter registration opportunities guaranteed to Texans by the NVRA and the Texas Election Code. After TCRP sent thousands of letters to library directors, discussed requirements with hundreds of librarians and county election officials, and issued public records requests to various election authorities, more than 290 different library systems have now submitted an NVRA Implementation Plan as of January 1, 2022 and about 70 others are in the process of doing so.While this is significant progress, there is much work left to do to guarantee that every Texan in every community across the State has access to the voter registration opportunities guaranteed to them by law. TCRP continues to offer assistance to libraries and has developed educational materials to help libraries more easily train staff and volunteers. Nevertheless, TCRP calls on the Texas Secretary of State to fulfill his duties to protect Texans' voting rights, and calls on our communities to assist us in ensuring that every public library is conforming to the law.

Ohio, Texas, and the Future of American Politics

December 10, 2021

The emergence of the urban-rural divide in American politics over the past few decades is a critical development in America's voting patterns. Today, rural areas vote predominantly for Republicans, while urban areas vote for Democrats. As a result, America's suburbs have increasingly become a swing region. I discussed this development in broad terms in the previous report. In this report, I look at the political development of two states—Ohio and Texas—which illustrate how "urbanicity" has transformed the United States' political makeup.While Ohio has historically been considered the nation's premier swing state, its votes have become more concentrated in rural areas, thereby strengthening the GOP's performance statewide. Rural areas began moving toward the Republican Party in the 1970s, a movement that accelerated in 2016 with Donald Trump on the ballot. On the other hand, the rapid growth of Texas' cities has pushed the state into more competitive territory for the Democrats. Despite the rural and small-town vote shifting toward Republicans, the leftward bolt in Texas' large cities and megacities has contributed to better performance for the Democrats. If these trends continue in future elections, Ohio will become solidly red, while Texas may go blue in the next few cycles.

Texas Cite & Release Advocacy Toolkit

December 9, 2021

Black people and other communities of color, including immigrants, have faced decades of overpolicing, criminalization, and incarceration in Texas, often for alleged conduct that does not mandate an arrest or even carry jail time in the state. One way to effectively reduce arrests is to pass a local cite and release policy. This advocacy toolkit gives local organizers and advocates in Texas the tools they need to lead a successful cite and release campaign. We have included many helpful resources, samples, and insights for every step in a cite & release campaign – from initial education, research, and data collection through policy implementation.

A Review of Redistricting in Texas

December 1, 2021

Texas exploded with growth in the decade between 2010 and 2020, far outpacing any other state by adding 3,999,944 people, entirely in our cities and suburbs. Over 95% of our new residents are people of color, with Latinos constituting a whopping 49% of total growth. In this Texas, on a proportional basis, given their significant population size, Latinos should comprise the majority in 45 state house districts.But the final maps, as recently signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, prop up the political power of rural, Anglo Texans at the expense of everyone else. Indeed, both of the new congressional districts created are majority Anglo. And the state House map reduces the number of majority Latino opportunity districts – meaning, districts where Latinos have a meaningful chance to elect a candidate of their community's choice – from 33 down to 30.This report is meant to provide a detailed analysis of the maps, as passed. We also seek to celebrate what our movement for a more reflective democracy did accomplish, which is worth celebrating. And, finally, we want to make sure that future generations of civil rights lawyers, community organizers, lawmakers and everyday Texans fully understand the origins of our flawed maps. The lessons and experiences learned from this cycle are absolutely critical for the next 10 years of work built by Texas organizers and attorneys. Ultimately, this process must reflect and celebrate the diversity and dynamism of our State because Fair Maps are a clear sign that we have a healthier and more reflective democracy. The absence of that fairness and transparency point to deep flaws in our democracy that must be rectified and addressed to achieve a more just Texas.

Five Gallons in a Ten Gallon Hat: Groundwater Sustainability in Texas

November 16, 2021

Despite the hopes and desires of scientists, engineers, and planners, the projected future of groundwater production in Texas is unsustainable. About 95 percent of locally-expressed desired future conditions are based on water-level declines, groundwater is currently being produced at 1.8 times the maximum sustainable amount, and groundwater is expected to be produced 2.4 times the maximum sustainable amount. However, Texas has an opportunity to consider groundwater sustainability since current production for all aquifers excluding the Ogallala Aquifer is only 80 percent of the maximum sustainable amount of production.To better understand how groundwater is produced sustainably, I identified five types of sustainable groundwater management in Texas: (1) hydrologically-forced, (2) court-forced, (3) legislatively-forced, (4) desire-driven, and (5) de facto. There is also the situation where it is politically difficult to achieve sustainability, generally when production far exceeds sustainable production, thus requiring controversial production reductions. Hydrologically-forced sustainable production seems to only occur when aquifers are small and highly productive. In Texas, part of the Edwards and Gulf Coast aquifers are sustainably managed due to court and legislative forcing, the latter in response to the former. Through the establishment of desired future conditions, a dozen or so groundwater conservation districts have explicitly expressed a desire to manage groundwater resources sustainably. And there are cases of aquifers being produced sustainably without any management action--at least for now. But there are also many aquifers not produced sustainably because production or permits have exceeded maximum sustainable production.Based on the results of this study, I recommend that (1) groundwater conservation districts include decadal water budgets in explanatory reports for desired future conditions or the Texas Water Development Board include these budgets as part of the delivery of modeled available groundwater numbers, (2) the Texas Water Development Board carefully consider the process of estimating maximum sustainable production if and when they are required to provide those estimates, and (3) the Legislature consider requiring maximum sustainable production as another factor for groundwater conservation districts to consider when establishing desired future conditions.

Advancing Groundwater Sustainability in Texas: A Guide to Existing Authorities and Management Tools for Groundwater Conservation Districts and Communities

November 16, 2021

Groundwater provides about 60% of our yearly water supply in Texas — it is a vital, yet limited, resource that supports Texas communities, economies, and natural systems. Despite its importance, across most of Texas, groundwater is being managed in a way that allows for its eventual depletion, putting communities, rivers and streams and the ecosystems that depend on groundwater at risk. A recent report from the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment concluded groundwater conservation districts, Texas' preferred method of managing groundwater, have an opportunity to change course and to manage groundwater sustainably.Fortunately, the Texas Legislature wisely imparted management obligations on GCDs that are imperative for long-term water security and livability of Texas' communities. And the Legislature has equipped GCDs with a full toolbox of planning, rulemaking, and permitting authorities to carry out their management obligations. GCDs have flexibility within their existing authorities to integrate sustainability principles into management goals, desired future conditions, management plans, and rules. Although GCDs face challenges managing a common pool resource that is privately owned and many suffer from a lack of funding and state investment in local data and modeling, GCDs can still move toward sustainable management by actively engaging the public and implementing new approaches through smaller, targeted programs, enabling GCDs to fully utilize the tools already available to them.