redistricting hurts Texas

I am a graduate student in the Texas Medical Center, in Houston. The graduate students at my institution (MD Anderson Cancer Center, of which former President Goerge HW Bush is a board member) and at other institutions in the medical center and throughot the state are the backbone of the life-saving research that is done here every day. Graduate students typically work 60-80 hours a week, and earn $20,000 a year (and given that most of us spend years workig on our research, we end up raising families on this income). To ensure our focus on our research and commitment to our funding, university guidelines prevent us from seeking supplemental employment opportunities and other source of support - even if we were to be awarded a thousand merit fellowships from private sources, our income is capped at 130% of the base stipend.

A man holds up a sign protesting Gov. Rick Perry's decision to open a second special session in order to force the Texas Senate to pass a congressional redistricting bill. We are incredibly vulnerable when it comes to sudden expenses, and as a result our benefits are critical to keeping us afloat.

Enter the state budget crisis in Texas. The legislature recently passed legislation SB1370 affecting Texas Employee Benefits (which graduate students working for state institutions like MD Anderson Cancer Center are categorized under). Section 1601.201-c of the Insurance Code amended in SB1370 Section 4.06 specifically names graduate students as employees to lose benefits.

The graduate student associations are banding together to travel to Austin and lobby the legislature to amend SB1370. Our goal is to remove mention of graduate students from Section 1601.201-c (50% of coverage cost) and/or include them in Section 1601.201-b (full coverage).

The problem? The marching orders from Tom Delay insist that the Texas Legislature deal with redistricting firs. It's base hypocrisy for the Governor to invoke the needs of Texans and decry how the Democrats have decamped to New Mexico to break quorum, when it's his doing that forced the issue in the first place. Should we graduate students find a sponsor for the proposed amendment to SB1370, it's unlikely that the Lt. Gov. would even allow the bill on the floor. If the Governor believed in his rhetoric about helping Texas, he would remove redistricting from the agenda and allow matters of true import to be debated.

Sadly, Texas government majority is in thrall to Washington partisans, not Texans.

UPDATE: Charles Kuffner comments, putting Perry's hypocrisy in perspective.

Drawing causal connections between this issue and the governing legacy of George Bush in Texas, or the federal deficit which has helped starve Texas under his Presidency, is an excercise for the reader.

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