AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a response to Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State address Monday, Texas Democrats turned to state leaders and Texans affected by the pandemic.
The pre-produced, 10-minute video pulled in the voices of a University of Texas student, a respiratory therapist, an immigration activist, and others like Union Ironworker representative for Texas Jerrod Strange.
“Working Texans want a fair shot to get ahead, but the Republicans in charge at the Capitol aren’t getting the job done,” Strange said. “We’re sick of politicians who care more about political donors than about our paychecks.”
Strange highlighted the need for higher wages, more training opportunities, good schools and access to the coronavirus vaccine.
Others also highlighted the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. At the end of January, the state reported more than 36,000 people had died and more than 2 million cases. So far, about 1.69% of Texans have been fully vaccinated, while 6.27% have been partially vaccinated since vaccines became available in December.
UT student Ali Shiraz described feeling “in the dark,” with mixed signals from the government on its response, and hoped lawmakers this session would pass legislation to provide relief and help craft guidelines for schools. Former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro characterized Texas’ response to the pandemic as inadequate.
“No matter what Gov. Abbott says, we have all suffered under his watch because of his actions,” Castro said, but didn’t elaborate on specifics. “We are all hurting. Texans are demanding an end to this pandemic and a fair shot to get ahead.”
Current Texas lawmakers hoped this session would bring more access to healthcare for Texans — including through an expansion of Medicaid — increased postpartum care for women, and help for workers and businesses affected by the pandemic.
The video also highlighted the need to push for equity in healthcare access as well as help for communities of color disproportionately affected by the pandemic and racial justice issues.
“Our communities should not have to live with trauma and fear and wondering if they or their families or their neighbors will be next to die from police brutality,” said Dr. Candice Matthews the accountability chair for the Texas coalition of Black Democrats.
Abbott had said ahead of the session he intended to pass a law that would prevent cities from cutting police funding. Austin was one of the cities that had altered its police budget, cutting $20 million in funds last year and redirecting another $130 million to other departments.
Juana Guzman, a community organizer with RAICES, which provides legal services to immigrants, said she wanted lawmakers to get rid of SB4, which became law in 2017. That law requires local governments and law enforcement to follow all federal immigration laws and requests for detention. That would include letting police ask people about their immigration status during routine traffic stops.
“We demand every single racist policy be uprooted,” Guzman said.
“If we get this right, we can continue to build a stronger Texas that works for everyone,” Castro said in conclusion. “If we don’t, we’ll continue to get left behind.”