FORT WORTH — With little to no debate, state party Democrats on Saturday afternoon signed off on their 2018 platform, a list that reflects the ideals leaders and members support ahead of the November election and 2019 legislative session.
The platform includes support for legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana, providing tuition-free community college to Texas residents and maintaining the Top 10 Percent Rule, which requires all public universities to admit all Texans who graduated in the top 10 percent their high school's class.
The nearly 7,500 delegates in attendance rounded out their three-day gathering in Fort Worth by passing the party’s entire platform in a single voice vote. National conversations surrounding issues such as the #MeToo movement and gun control shaped how party leaders approached this year’s 48-page platform, with the minority party passing planks in support of "ensuring swift responses to sexual harassment" and strengthening the national background check system. But most issues in the platform were in line with ideals the state party has accepted in the past.
Democrats also signaled their support for issues almost certain to highlight tensions between them and Republicans, who currently hold all statewide offices and control both chambers of the state Legislature. That includes platform planks calling for required “paid sick leave for all Texas workers” — a nod to an ordinance passed by the Austin City Council in February requiring the city's employers to offer paid sick leave — and “enacting sensible gun laws to curtail the availability of weapons with extended ammunition magazines, including ... military-style assault weapons.”
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In addition, party delegates also voiced opposition to several measures that earned the approval of the Republican-dominated Legislature during last year’s regular legislative session, including the passage of a contentious bill that outlaws “sanctuary” jurisdictions and punishes local law enforcement officials who do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The party's platform also includes:
- Opposition to the Trump administration’s contentious “zero tolerance” policy that separated more than 2,300 immigrant children from their parents who crossed the border illegally: “We therefore strongly oppose the Trump administration’s policy abusing children by of separating children from their parents at the southern border and denounce housing children in tent cities,” the party’s immigration plank reads. Democrats also said they “strongly oppose efforts to build a border wall of any size and the unrealistic claim, and possibly abandoned claim, that a foreign country will pay for a border wall.”
- Increasing support for the #MeToo movement and holding sexual offenders accountable: “We support strong enforcement of Texas laws to hold offenders accountable and increase the likelihood that victims will come forward to report these crimes,” the platform reads. Sexual harassment took a center stage at the Texas Capitol earlier this year after a Texas Tribune investigation detailed how current procedures offered little protection for victims. Both the House and Senate recently revised their anti-sexual harassment policies, and during Friday morning’s platform committee meeting, state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, who chairs the committee, suggested adding language to the platform accepting those changes. That includes language that strengthens protections against retaliation and provides specific steps to report inappropriate behavior. "As a state representative, I am not being held accountable right now, and the only accountability is the House administration,” Israel said. "There’s policy being drafted right now, but I’d like to add language right now holding us accountable as elected officials."
- Support for stricter gun control laws: “We strongly support strengthening and reforming current laws requiring a background check prior to the purchase by a firearm by requiring a sufficient waiting period to provide adequate time for law enforcement officials to conduct a mandatory, background check,” the party’s gun violence prevention plank reads. Following a deadly shooting in Santa Fe that left 10 dead and 13 injured, Democrats also called for requiring the reporting of stolen guns and the implementation of a "safe gun storage campaign."
- Health care for all: “The Texas Democratic Party asserts that healthcare is a human right, not a privilege for a few,” the platform reads. “Texas Democrats support an affordable, high-quality, universal health care that would provide privately-funded healthcare for all residents of Texas.” In their discussions surrounding loosening the state’s marijuana laws, delegates also voiced their approval for an additional plank ensuring that medical cannabis prescriptions are covered under their proposed healthcare plan. Since the medicine is currently federally illegal, insurance companies don’t foot the bill — leaving families in charge of paying for CBD oil out of pocket.
- Eliminating “barriers” to casting a ballot: “As Texas Democrats, we support the repeal of the highly restricting and discriminatory Texas photo voter ID law; automatic voter registration upon age 17 years and 9 months for all persons who meet Texas voter registration requirements; same day voter registration; and online voter registration,” the party’s Democracy plank reads in language identical to that passed in the 2016 platform. In addition, Democrats signaled their support for the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting commission to end gerrymandering in the redistricting process. But experts say that’s unlikely to ever happen in Texas.
Disclosure: Celia Israel has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.