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8.5% is the arbitrary benchmark rate set by the Texas Education Agency for the number of Special Education Students in a school district that may receive Special Education.  Even children with severe disabilities, including deafness and blindness, can't always get special education. 

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Thank you Ceidy!

As the Fall Semester comes to a close, Texans Together bids a fond farewell to our intern, Ceidy Sanchez.  

Ceidy is a Senior at University of Houston Downtown, working on her Bachelors in Political Science and active in her sorority, Gamma Alpha Omega.  With her 120 hours of internship completed, she only needs her final semester course work to graduate in May 2015.  While she has a bit of work to do yet, she is very grateful to have this semester over.  "I don't know what I was thinking,"  Ceidy said. "Full class schedule, full time job, and intern hours, I don't think I slept at all."  Maybe not the best plan, but she still demonstrated her incredible determination and got the job done!

Back On The Hamster Wheel

Interesting blog on campaign finance reform.  While some of the approaches aren't going to be popular, it really uses a more balanced reality approach.  The simple truth is campaign finance reform would lead to a more responsible government, but the very people that need the new restrictions are the very people who will be passing the laws.  Not likely to happen any time soon, but it really needs to happen.  The 2014 election cycle was only a small taste of the avalanche of issue less screaming ads barreling down on us in 2016.  Now's the time to invest in ear plugs.

Article originally published at Brennan Center for Justice by Victoria BassettiNovember 25, 2014

The 2014 election results were hardly dry on the newsprint, before almost every American politician and would-be politician hopped back on the hamster wheel, furiously spinning for more and more money.

Vince Ryan’s Message to Highlands Rotary Club

Harris County Attorney, Vince Ryan, recently addressed Highlands’ Rotary Club at their monthly luncheon. Mr. Ryan’s guest appearance was timed perfectly following a controversial end to Harris County’s lawsuit over the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, which are located in Highlands. Harris County and the State of Texas pursued over $3 billion in penalties from the companies responsible for the Waste Pits- International Paper, Waste Management of Texas, and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation (MIMC). After a four week trial, Waste Management of Texas and MIMC settled with the plaintiffs for $29.2 million before closing arguments were made. Following closing arguments November 13, 2014, the jury found International Paper (the company that created and abandoned the waste) not guilty. Mr. Ryan told the Rotary that Harris County plans to appeal the verdict for International Paper due to rulings in the trial that protected the company.

Why I Vote Winner!

Jenni Reed, the winner of our 'Why I Vote Contest", came into the office to pick up her prize.   We had some really great entries in our video contest and it was close, but Jenni came out on top.  She was excited to receive her prize, but also looked forward to volunteering with Texans Together in the future.  It was a great meeting and wonderful to meet her in person.

A 'Texas Way’ better than no way

Great editorial piece from San Antonio Express News looking at where we are at now for Medicaid expansion.  It explores some of the major players supporting new ways to bring Medicaid to more Texans.  It should be noted that some of those backing this new plan will directly benefit as federal funds for underinsured or uninsured Texans will soon be disappearing as part of the Affordable Care Act.  

The Act was structured with a  Medicaid expansion covering the bulk of the poor uninsured and the working poor that the Healthcare Marketplace and traditional Medicaid did not cover. Since Texas declined the expansion, this has left many Medicaid Gap patients and providers with a very unhealthy outlook. 

Texans Together, as part of our Get Coverage! campaign,  is working to reach out to the underserved communities for help connecting to the Healthcare Marketplace, enrollment education, and appointments with Marketplace Navigators.  Daily, we see people who fall short of the Marketplace and are not Medicaid qualified.  Medicaid expansion is desperately need and the right way to treat Texans.

Following Article and Picture from San Antonio Express News November 29, 2014 ~ "A 'Texas Way’ better than no way" by EXPRESS-NEWS EDITORIAL BOARD

So, the 15-member Texas Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency — medical professionals all — recommended this month that Texas expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act to provide coverage to roughly 1 million Texans.

Get Coverage is ..... ?

Get Coverage is our outreach program to educate underserved communities about the Affordable Care Act.  As part of the Gulf Coast Collaborative, we assist community members in connecting with Healthcare Navigators to enroll them in the Marketplace, provide education materials to make the enrollment process easier, and help them understand the terminology and general coverage issues of Medicaid, The Medicaid Gap, Healthcare Marketplace and Healthcare Marketplace Subsidies.   We're providing communities with opportunities to get members enrolled and educated in their communities at events and central locations.



Questions about ACA: Hardship Exemption

Health and Human Services released new guidance for a hardship exemption on tax returns for those finding themselves in the Medicaid gap.  With the failure to expand Medicaid and 25% of Americans in the Medicaid Gap in Texas, this exemption is particularly important for Texans, especially for those working poor who didn't previously get their denial from the marketplace.  

EHL - What's next!

Empower Houston Leader's next gathering will be for a Women's Empowerment Extravaganza on December 13th, 2014 from 5 to 7 pm.  We will be at the Historic Shape Community Center, 3815 Live Oak and Alabama, Houston, TX 77004.

Administration takes case for Obamacare directly to Texans

Secretary Burwell met with the Gulf Coast Collaborative including Texans Together prior to the press conference.  She discussed the importance of the organizations involved in reaching the goal for Texas.  She said they had a million people log into the healthcare marketplace over the previous weekend and the call center fielded over 200,000 calls with 20,000 going to Spanish speaking representatives. She stressed Latino Outreach was key to success in Texas.

The following article was originally written by Lori Hines , for the November 18, 2014 Houston Chronicle 

Photo by James Nielson/Houston Chronicle

As the second enrollment period for its federally mandated health insurance program gets under way, the Obama administration is bypassing Texas leaders intractably opposed to the Affordable Care Act and working directly with more cooperative local officials and grass-roots organizations.

San Jacinto River Waste Pits Trial is Over, EPA Still Moving Forward

Just one month after Harris County’s trial began over the alleged release of toxic waste from the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, a settlement and jury verdict was reached. The Waste Pits trial was expected to proceed for several months but substantial amounts of the County’s scientific evidence was excluded from the trial, allowing it to move much quicker than expected. Closing arguments took place Thursday, November 13, 2014.


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Houston, Texas 77251-1296



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by Dr. Radut