state senator

Julian Bond, civil rights activist and former Georgia state senator, stressed the importance of millienals in advocating for continued progress in civil rights. 

A distinguished figure in American history, Bond recalled his early involvement in the civil rights movement. He was one of eight students to take a class taught by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

“Dr. King only taught one time. Only taught one class. Only eight people in the class. I’m one of the eight,” Bond said. “So I’m one of the eight people in the whole world who can say I was a student of Dr. King.” 

Bond expressed frustration in regards to a perceived stagnation in the fight for equality.

“[The civil rights movement] demonstrated the mobilization and courage of black people against white supremacy in a way that was unprecedented and has not been seen again,” Bond said. 

Bond referenced contemporary anecdotes in explaining the persistence of racism today.

“Obama’s election demonstrated one man’s singular achievement, not racial nirvana around the world,” Bond said. “The task ahead is enormous — equal to, if not greater than, the job already done.” 

Evan Garza, assistant curator of modern and contemporary art at the Blanton Museum, said Bond reminded listeners they are in a new era for civil rights.

“In the 1960s, civil rights activists were fighting for fundamental rights,” Garza said. “Now, the fight is for social equity and equality on very real terms.” 

Bond discussed issues such as police shootings and the racial gap in health care and jobs. He said blacks are 33 percent less likely to have health care, and, in the past 25 years, the wealth gap between blacks and whites has nearly tripled.  

Jay Ellinger, intern for state Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), said 92 percent of 2013 arrests involved black people in Ferguson, Missouri, where riots broke out in 2014 after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man. 

“The only justification for these numbers is the system is inferior, or the system works against black people,” Ellinger said. 

According to Bond, race relations have improved, but present-day issues demand more action. Everyone should fight for police fairness and engage in the civic duty of voting, Bond said. He encouraged millennials to continue to unite and press for change.

Monica Rashed, international relations and global studies freshman, said she realized the importance of being a millennial.

“We’re the last generation to know people from the civil rights movement,” Rashed said. “We have to absorb their accounts, learn from them and build our own legacy.” 

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, begins her filibuster of Senate Bill 5, a measure that would enact severe restrictions on abortions in Texas. Senate Democrats, with the help of thousands of their supporters, were able to prevent the bill from being voted on before the end of the special session at midnight on Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Standing on her feet and talking nonstop for 11 hours without drinking water to oppose a bill on abortion restrictions made state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, a household name nationwide. 

“She’s making everyone feel like they’re a part of something, that everyone can have a voice,” said international relations and global studies sophomore Leigh Larson. “She represents humility, which is something foreign in Texas politics.” 

Larson was one of hundreds of Texans at the state Capitol last week supporting Davis in her efforts to kill SB 5, a bill that would impose some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the nation. 

“The leadership may not want to listen to Texas women, but they will have to listen to me,” Davis tweeted a day before she stood for 11 hours. “I intend to filibuster this bill.”

Although Republicans eventually called enough strikes on her to end her filibuster, where a senator speaks nonstop to keep the chamber from voting on a bill, Davis emerged with 100,000 additional supporters under her belt. However, she is a new target for some Republicans in the Legislature.

Sonya Grogg never thought she would make a career of politics before working three legislative sessions with Davis. Grogg said it was Davis’ commitment to public service that kept her in the field.

“Things can always be better, I think that’s what drives her,” said Grogg, who works as Davis’ legislative director.

Davis started her career in politics serving on the Fort Worth City Council and became a state Senator in 2008. Davis started out as a young mother living in a trailer park, but worked to put herself through school at Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School.

Gov. Rick Perry is one conservative unhappy with Davis’ actions against tougher abortion restrictions. Last week, Perry said he was sad Davis does not recognize the importance of life given her own humble beginnings.

“Even the woman who filibustered in the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances,” Perry said. “It’s just unfortunate she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its true potential and that every life matters.” 

Despite the anger she has incited among conservatives, Davis has made herself stand out in Texas. Thousands have said they will stand with her Monday, when the Legislature reconvenes to discuss abortion.

“The idea is to be engaged,” Grogg said. “Sometime down the road, you’re going to realize that you can actually make a difference, that there is an avenue for your voice to be heard.” 

Members of the UT community are revisiting the issue of guns on campus after a state senator introduced a bill Thursday that would allow concealed firearms on university grounds.

The bill, filed by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and co-authored with 13 other senators, would allow concealed carry license holders to carry concealed handguns while on campus and would prevent universities from establishing rules prohibiting concealed carry.

President William Powers Jr. opposed a similar bill proposed during the 2011 legislative session and will oppose the bill filed Thursday, UT spokesman Gary Susswein said.

“He continues to oppose the idea of guns on campus,” Susswein said. “His position has not changed.”

Representatives of student organizations voiced both concerns and support for the legislation.

University Democrats president Nate Norris said he fears allowing concealed firearms on campus could potentially give depressed or troubled students access to a method of suicide.

“If you put guns in dorms on campus, they’re readily available for students who are already in a volatile time,” Norris said. “I don’t think access to guns would help that situation.”

Norris said he doubts allowing concealed carry on campus would prevent a shooting such as the Dec. 14 shooting that killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. He said the presence of firearms in public areas has not prevented shootings from occurring in those areas.

“Columbine had two armed guards and they weren’t able to stop the shooters,” Norris said, referring to the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo.

Danny Zeng, College Republicans vice president, said the majority of students would not bring firearms on campus if the law passed because Texas law only allows citizens who are 21 years old or older to have concealed carry licenses, and most students are younger than that.

“There’s a perception that if we allow concealed carry, we will see a huge flood of guns come into UT. That’s not going to happen,” Zeng said.

Student Government president Thor Lund said his organization will lobby in favor of a proposal that gives universities the authority to allow concealed carry on their campuses.

“We want to make sure the decision is up to the university and not a state mandate,” Lund said.

Printed on Friday, January 18, 2013 as: Powers opposes concealed carry bill 

Texas A&M football’s move to the Southeastern Conference next year has now become a political issue, with one state senator moving to legislatively mandate the traditional Thanksgiving football matchup against UT.

Texas State Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, announced plans to preserve the long-standing rivalry between the A&M Aggies and the UT Longhorns by introducing legislation instructing both teams to meet by law.

State Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, will sponsor the legislation to be presented during the 83rd session of the Texas Legislature, according to a press release from Sen. Williams‘s office.

“This football series began in 1894, and I don’t think it’s time to stop this rivalry,” Sen. Williams said in the press release.

“The game has served as an important family tradition for millions of Texans throughout the century, and it’s important we preserve this great tradition.”

UT men’s athletics director DeLoss Dodds said political intervention may cause scheduling problems for both schools.

“At Texas, we have contracts for three non-conference games each year that run until 2018,” Dodds said. “We also don’t know what the configuration of the Big 12 will be. We didn’t leave the conference — they did. We’ll make a decision that’s best for Texas.”

President William Powers Jr. expressed similar sentiments in an interview with The Daily Texan conducted last week.

“A&M is leaving, and that’s sad. We hate to see them go, but A&M is doing what is best for A&M,” Powers said. “They’ve been thinking about leaving since before the [Longhorn Network] started, so there is no connection.”

International relations junior Hallie Warnock said she was strongly in favor of keeping the game on Thanksgiving weekend but questioned the need for political intervention.

“They’re one of our biggest rivals after OU,” Warnock said.

“It’s one of the games you get most excited about. It’s a rivalry that’s gone on for a long time, and it’s really important to us. No matter which team is better each year, it’s such a great accomplishment to beat them. UT takes it more seriously than anyone.”

Warnock said although she believes some politics should regulate sports, mandating legislation is too intense.

Texas A&M successfully eliminated all legal barriers preventing a move into the SEC, clearing the way for it to compete in all sporting fixtures for the 2012-2013 academic years, the league announced on Sunday.

Printed Thursday, September 29, 2011 as: Senator looks to preserve rivalry by introducing bill

Several hundred gather to remember community leader’s accomplishments

In memory of Emma Barrientos, the wife of a retired state senator, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Tejano Democrats sponsored an early voting rally Tuesday at Zaragosa Park in East Austin.

The rally included not only dedications to Barrientos, but also a Democratic candidate at the top of the ticket this election cycle, Bill White, and Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Linda Chavez-Thompson.

Several state officials made appearances, including Emma Barrientos’ husband, former state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh and the Democratic candidate for land commissioner, Hector Uribe. A local band, The Mexican Revolution, also performed at the rally in front of several hundred supporters.

“If there’s ever a state that needs new leadership, it’s Texas,” Shapleigh said. “We’re here to celebrate the life of a great, great woman who would have wanted us to celebrate our lives.”

Barrientos actively participated in community politics and was among the first Texans to advocate for the establishment of the Mexican American Culture Center in the city, which was named after her. She also served on the founding board of the Mexic-Arte Museum, a museum that focuses on Latino contributions in Texas and as board president of the Austin Museum of Art.

She contributed to countless political campaigns, and fought, along with her husband, to ensure the recognition of Latinos in Austin’s history.

“Austin is a special place,” Barrientos said at the event. “We have not finished the race, but we all have to do our part. We have to work, produce [and] make money to provide for our children.”

Bill White and Chavez-Thompson made speeches urging the city’s Hispanic community to vote. The Democratic candidates stressed the importance of the minority vote in the upcoming election.

“We want our kids to have a better future, those are the dreams of Texans,” White said. “We need to prepare the next generation better. You can affect change, but it takes hard work. It starts during a special time called election, when you have the opportunity to take part in history.”

Republican Gov. Rick Perry has left the state in worse condition than when he took office in 2000, White said.

“One million people are unemployed, twice as high as it was before Rick Perry was elected,” he said. “He’s content to lag behind the other states in high-wage jobs. He’s selling state government to the highest bidder. Insurance rates are $600 more per household than the average of other states, and Texans are being priced out of earning a home.”

State reps. Dawnna Dukes and Eddie Rodriguez, who both represent parts of Austin, were among other political officials present at the rally.

“We’re going to show Rick Perry what East Austin can do,” Rodriguez said. “The future of this state is at stake.”

Early voting ends Oct. 29, and Election Day is Nov. 2.