Motor Vehicles Board Votes Down Controversial Confederate License Plate
November 10, 2011

Word out of Austin is that the Texas Board of Motor Vehicles voted down a proposal to begin issuing license plates featuring the flag of the Sons of the Confederate.

Senator Rodney Ellis issued this response immediately after the decision. Ellis opposed the license plates.  

“I am pleased the Board acknowledged that the Confederate battle flag is unworthy of the state’s honor.  The battle flag has become a symbol of repression and violence, not heritage.  It provokes feelings of fear and intimidation amongst far too many Texans, and the Board was right to deny it official approval with today’s decision,” said Senator Ellis.

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Senator Ellis Files Casino Gaming Legislation
March 3, 2011

(News Release) 

AUSTIN, TX – Today Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston filed legislation SJR 34 in the Texas Senate, while Representative Jose Menendez from San Antonio filed the same measure in the House as   HJR 112, to let Texas voters decide on whether they want to allow casino gaming become a source of revenue as an alternative to proposed budget cuts.

“Texans deserve the right to decide whether they want draconian cuts to children’s education, health care for the elderly, and aid to veterans, or they want to move forward with an option to bring back jobs and money to Texas that we are giving away to other states.  We are facing a record budget deficit.  All reasonable options to generate revenue ought to be on the table,” said Ellis.  “It is time for our state to capture the benefits of this industry and take advantage of significant capital investment, new jobs, a revived travel and tourism industry and revenue that will help fund education and keep our promise of lower property taxes.”

Consistent polling data has shown that Texans want the opportunity to vote on this issue.  A recent survey conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune indicated that 81% of Texans favor an expansion of gaming this legislative session.

The legislation places a constitutional amendment before Texas voters that would authorize up to eight destination resort casinos including two for coastal islands, and an additional eight licenses for slot machines at existing Texas horse and dog tracks.  The legislation also allows three Indian casinos.  Each of the three recognized Indian tribes in Texas would be able to operate a gaming facility on their tribal lands in accordance with state and federal law.

Money generated by a tax on the gaming revenues will be directed to the Property Tax Relief Fund, helping to ensure that the legislature keeps the promise of lower local property tax rates.  Non-gaming tax stream revenue generated from within the destination resorts will fund college scholarships through the TEXAS Grant College Scholarship Program. 

“Texans are already gaming across the entire state –Texans play the lottery in 16,000 different locations, online poker from home computers, up to 150,000 illegal eight liner machines that are littered across the state and casinos right across our surrounding borders — we’re just sending those Texas tax dollars to other states to pay for new roads in Oklahoma and schools in Louisiana.  It’s time to keep that revenue here in Texas to benefit Texans,” Ellis added.

“I am in full agreement with Senator Ellis”  Rep. Menendez added. “We need to keep Texas dollars here  to fund our own children’s education, and  we should let the voters decide if they want to create the jobs and economic development opportunities that high quality destination  casinos will mean for  those communities who support these initiatives.  Give the choice to the people!”

Senator Ellis Files Routine HIV Testing Legislation on World AIDS Day
December 1, 2010

(News Release from the office of Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)

(AUSTIN, TX)//Today, on the 22nd Annual World AIDS Day, State Senator Rodney Ellis filed legislation to implement routine HIV testing. The legislation is based on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) 2006 recommendations for routine HIV testing.

 World AIDS Day was started by the United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS) in 1988. It has since become one of the most recognized international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.

 “In honor of World AIDS Day, I have filed routine HIV testing legislation, which increases access to testing by incorporating it into routine medical care.  This legislation also aims to remove legal and reimbursement barriers, in addition to reducing the stigma by making testing routine,” said Senator Ellis. 

Senate Bill 241 will require health care providers to offer HIV tests in the course of routine medical screening. The patient will maintain the option to decline. The bill also provides for reimbursement from Medicaid and private insurance plans.

 “It is my hope that this legislation will make HIV testing as routine as getting a physical or flu shot and move our state forward in reducing the number of individuals infected from this virus,” commented Ellis

 The CDC believes that the number of new cases of HIV each year could be decreased by up to 30 percent with routine screening in all heath care settings. It costs approximately $303,000 to treat each new HIV infection, but only $35 for an HIV test.

How Many Miles Will Senator Ellis Bike on Election Day?
October 30, 2010

He’s an avid biker and he’s on the November 2nd ballot, however, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-13) plans to host “Tour de Polls” – a bicycle ride on election day.

Starting from the heart of his senate district at 9 Tuesday morning, Ellis is inviting people to jump on their bikes and pedal with him to various polling locations to look for any voter irregularities.

Senator Ellis is also encouraging people to exercise their right to vote. Get it, “exercise.”

This reporter is happy that she’ll be on assignment in Austin on election day. Otherwise, my boss would want me to follow along and I can’t bike very many miles. 

“This midterm election is extremely important and will be instrumental in determining the direction of Texas. I wanted to do something fun in an effort to encourage everyone to make their voices heard at the polls,” stated Senator Ellis.   

According to information provided from his office, Senator Ellis is a longtime supporter of cycling in Texas. He has co-hosted six National Conference of State Legislature Bipartisan Bike Rides which have helped to encourage elected officials to get on their bikes.

Here’s the schedule:

 WHEN:          Tuesday, November 2, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

WHERE:       9:00 AM          Texas Southern University

3100 Cleburne St.

Houston, TX 77004

Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church       

3826 Wheeler Ave.

Houston, TX 77004

New Thompson Elementary School  

6121 Tierwester St.

Houston, TX 77004

Mount Moriah Baptist Church           

4730 Pederson St.

Houston, TX 77033

The Crossing Community Church     

3225 W. Orem Dr.

Houston, TX 77045

Hobby Elementary School                 

4021 Woodmont Dr.

Houston, TX 77045

Red Elementary School                     

4520 Tonawanda Dr.

Houston, TX 77035

Lanier Middle School                        

2600 Woodhead St.

Houston, TX77098

                                               

                                                Texas Southern University

3100 Cleburne St.

Houston, TX 77004

 

Sen. Ellis Praises Pardon-Calls For Criminal Justice Reform
March 19, 2010

 Hand-Delivered Pardon Brings Justice at Last for Tim Cole and His Family

(Fort Worth, TX)//Governor Perry presented Timothy Cole’s pardon to Tim’s mother, Ruby Session, Tim’s brother, Cory Session, and other members of the Session family today.  Tim’s pardon comes more than ten years after he died in a Texas prison for a rape he did not commit. Tim was officially exonerated in April 2009 by Judge Charles Baird.

“Tim’s mother, Ruby, has said many times that she would believe Tim was pardoned when she saw that pardon in her hand. That day has finally come for her today with the governor hand-delivering the pardon to her. It is unfortunate that it came ten years too late, but nonetheless, Tim’s name is officially cleared, his reputation has been restored, and Ruby Session can sleep peacefully tonight knowing that for a fact,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis.  

“Like in the bible in the book of Timothy, Tim Cole fought the fight, he finished the race and he kept the faith. Tim has victory at last!” said Cory Session, Cole’s brother.

The pardon comes after the Attorney General issued an opinion in January 2010 affirming that the governor has the power to issue posthumous pardons. Senator Rodney Ellis requested the opinion on July 14 in the hopes of giving the Governor latitude to issue a pardon of innocence for Timothy Cole. Sen. Ellis also tried to pass a constitutional amendment specifically granting the governor such authority, but it failed to pass the 2009 legislature.

“While this is the first posthumous pardon in Texas, the legislature and the governor need to make criminal justice reform a priority next session if we are going to make sure there are no more Tim Coles in the future. The quality of indigent defense needs to be improved. The Texas Forensic Science Commission needs to be re-examined so the integrity of investigations like the Cameron Todd Willingham case are protected. We need to look at the reliability of forensic evidence being admitted into our courts, especially eyewitness identification evidence. Tim’s wrongful conviction was due to the use of faulty eyewitness identification procedures, the most frequent cause of wrongful convictions in Texas and the rest of the country. Every law enforcement agency in Texas should have written eyewitness identification procedures based on best practices, but unfortunately only 12 percent have any written procedures at all,” noted Sen. Ellis.

Sen. Ellis authored a number of measures last legislative session to improve criminal justice practices so that evidence was more accurate and wrongful convictions less likely. Those bills included legislation to improve eyewitness identification procedures; a bill to require custodial interrogations in felony cases to be recorded; and legislation to broaden defendants’ access to post-conviction DNA testing. All three of these bills passed the Senate but unfortunately died in the House.

Sen. Ellis also authored or sponsored legislation bearing Tim Cole’s name that was enacted in 2009, including legislation to establish the Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, and the Tim Cole Act, which increased compensation for person’s wrongfully convicted.

Sen. Ellis and State Rep. Alvarado Bike Across Texas
March 8, 2010

March 8, 2010 Friends:

We would like to share with you our daily updates from the Rise Across Texas Challenge, a two week, 850-mile trek across our great state in an effort to raise money for the Rise Schools, a network of schools dedicated to children with disabilities. No we have not been texting while on our bicycles, but every night we will be sitting down and collecting our thoughts about the day’s ride and reporting back to you. Please enjoy these two updates from March 6th & 7th, the first two days of our ride and look out for our daily emails. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you’d like. For more information about the Rise Schools, please visit http://www.riseacrosstexas.org. Saturday, March 6th, 2010 – Rise Across Texas Challenge: DAY 1 – 59 miles- Orange to Kountze Today we started our journey across the state in the Rise Across Texas Challenge benefitting the Rise School, a school for children with learning disabilities.

 We would like to thank Steve Hicks, the President of the Rise Across Texas Foundation for hosting a great journey. This morning we departed from Orange, TX. We kicked off the ride with a nice ceremony hosted by the Orange Chamber of Commerce at Ochiltree Park. We were joined by Mayor Brown Claybar, State Rep. Mike Hamilton, Governor Rick Perry and Beaumont Councilman Audin Samuel. Orange is one of the 10 smallest counties in the state in sq mileage but one of the 45 biggest in population. The town of Orange was settled in 1830 and originally named Green’s Bluff. The name was later changed to honor President James Madison in 1840 and renamed Orange in 1850. 

It was named for an orange grove planted by early settlers at the mouth of the Sabine. Y’all know how paranoid Rodney is about dogs? We were chased by several dogs, but no worries I protected the senator from the wild pack. Attached is a photo of one of the ferocious dogs that was chasing Rodney. We arrived in Kountze this afternoon and head to Conroe tomorrow. Sunday, March 7th, 2010 – Rise Across Texas Challenge: DAY 2- 88 miles, Kountze to Conroe Today Rodney and I met local elected officials from Kountze and then made our ride to Conroe. It was a very long ride filled with a few adventures. Kountze is home of the Big Thicket located in Hardin County. We’re told cougars and bears are still spotted in the Big Thicket. Hardin County was created in 1858, named by the Texas Legislature to honor the Hardin family of Liberty. Kountze was named for two financial backers of the Sabine and East Texas Railroad, Herman and Augustus Kountze. Today we were joined by Bill White.

We’re glad he took a break to join us for a worthy cause. Our adventures included being chased by yet another dog, this time the senator protected me and let me know that I owed him one. I thought we were even since I saved him yesterday? A funny thing happened between Cleveland and Cut and Shoot, someone drove up beside us and threw a beer can at us! I’m pretty sure it was intentional since it had plenty of beer in it. Did I mention Rodney and I took a wrong turn and we rode a few extra miles? Thank God Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who is a pharmacist sent us some special cream. Tomorrow we’re off to Brenham. More updates to come! Thanks to all who have offered their support of our endeavor. From the Road – Carol Alvarado Rodney Ellis Texas State Representative Texas State Senator

Senator Ellis – Posthumous Pardon A “Bittersweet Victory”
March 1, 2010

 Earlier I posted a notice from the office of   Governor Rick Perry.  Today he issued a posthumous pardon for Timothy Cole, who died in prison, after being convicted of a crime he did not commit. (you can read that post below)

State Senator Rodney Ellis has issued a statement calling the pardon a bittersweet victory. Sen. Ellis  has fought long and hard for this day and worked closely with Tim’s family.  

Tim Cole Finally Pardoned

 

(Austin, TX)//Timothy Cole was pardoned today, more than ten years after he died in a Texas prison for a rape he did not commit. Tim was officially exonerated in April 2009 by Judge Charles Baird.

“Although the wheels of justice turn slowly, they do eventually take us to our desired destination. While Tim didn’t get justice in his lifetime, today he was vindicated, his name was cleared, and he finally got the justice he has so long deserved. I congratulate Tim’s family – Cory Session, his brother; Ruby Session, his mother; and all his other family members – for this bittersweet victory,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis.

The pardon comes after the Attorney General issued an opinion in January 2010 affirming that the governor has the power to issue posthumous pardons. Senator Rodney Ellis requested the opinion on July 14 in the hopes of giving the Governor latitude to issue a pardon of innocence for Timothy Cole.  Sen. Ellis also tried to pass a constitutional amendment specifically granting the governor such authority, but it failed to pass the 2009 legislature.

“While this is the first posthumous pardon in Texas, we have a long way to go if we are going to make sure it is the last. The quality of indigent defense needs to be improved. We need to look at the quality of forensic evidence being admitted into our courts, especially eyewitness identification evidence. Tim’s wrongful conviction was due to the use of faulty eyewitness identification procedures, the most frequent cause of wrongful convictions in Texas and the rest of the country. Every law enforcement agency in Texas should have written eyewitness identification procedures based on best practices, but unfortunately only 12 percent have any written procedures at all,” noted Sen. Ellis.

Sen. Ellis authored and sponsored legislation bearing Tim Cole’s name that was enacted in 2009, including legislation to establish the Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, and the Tim Cole Act, which increased compensation for persons who were wrongfully convicted.

A Big Endorsement in the Race for Mayor
May 20, 2009

Three of  Houston’s powerful political players are taking sides  in the  race  for mayor. 

State Senators Rodney Ellis,  Mario Gallegos and John Whitmire, all democrats, announced today that they are supporting Gene Locke’s campaign to win the top job at city hall.

In a statement sent to the media, Senator Whitmire said,  “At  a time when Houston needs a strong accomplished mayor at city hall, the right candidate has come forward. We are committed to seeing Gene Locke elected Mayor of Houston.”