AUSTIN (Nexstar) – Reflecting on the state of the Texas government after this most recent legislative session, State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) feels that several important issues were not addressed, while lawmakers were left more polarized than ever.
In an interview on Thursday, West said that “This has been the most divisive legislative session that I’ve ever been involved in. I mean, there’s always this constant refrain, ‘We don’t want to be like Washington.’ Well, guess what friends, we’re like Washington now.”
West, who represents Dallas in the 23rd senatorial district, was first elected in 1992 and is one of the most senior members of the Texas state senate.
One notable moment from the session was when Democrats walked off the House floor Sunday night to block Senate Bill 7 from passing. This bill, which concerns election integrity, is vehemently opposed by Democrats who assert that it would disproportionately affect people of color.
“It doesn’t make sense to allow people to buy beer on Sunday morning at 10 o’clock, but you then curtail the ability of churches to have souls to the polls. Who was that directed towards? African Americans,” said West.
The state senator said he believes if there is a problem or weakness with a specific way of voting, then lawmakers should fix the problem, not restrict access to the polls. But West worries that is what will happen in Texas, with Democrats having little chance of preventing the election bill from passing, especially with Governor Abbott vowing to make the legislation a focal point of a special session.
“Well, you know, this is a broader agenda of the Trump party. And there’ll be ample persons there, that if they decide to go Trump-est on us, they will be able to pass the vote,” claims West.
After George Floyd was killed last year and mass protests swept the country, every state has had to reckon with police accountability and criminal justice reform. During this legislative session, lawmakers passed some measures concerning police force, including a statewide ban on chokeholds. However, West feels that there is still much more to be done.
“We want to continue to work to make certain that people know that there’s uniformity in the use of deadly force in the state of Texas. Especially now, when the bill concerning permanent, permit-less carry was passed, that didn’t make police officers jobs any safer,” said West.
It can be difficult for Democrats to pass legislation in Texas due to Republicans controlling the House, Senate, and Governor’s mansion. In his interview, West said that he does not blame Republicans for passing legislation which their base supports. West acknowledges the GOP has the votes to run the state as they please. The solution is obvious to the senator – for change to happen, people must get out and vote.
“If people want change in the state, guess what they have to do? Vote. Republicans have been out voting Democrats, and until we as Democrats get out and vote, we’re going to continue to have the same situations.”
While the thought of Democrats controlling the Texas legislature can seem like a far-off dream, the state senator has hope.
“You can’t stop trying to continue to try to get it done… The pendulum always swings, and I think we’re getting closer and closer to the pendulum swinging back.”