Rep. Ron Reynolds on Texas Legislative Black Caucus priorities
By Aswad Walker
Missouri City State Rep. Ron Reynolds, who was recently elected chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus (TxLBC), has his priorities in order.
The TxLBC was formed in 1973 and consisted of eight members. It is currently composed of 17 members of the Texas House of Representatives and two from the Texas Senate. The TxLBC is committed to addressing issues African Americans face across the state of Texas. The 2020 US Census data shows that Texas has the largest number of African Americans in the country.
“I am honored to be elected by my colleagues to serve as the next chair of the TxLBC. I look forward to leading our caucus in fighting for the important policies to empower and improve the lives of African Americans,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds is currently serving his sixth term in the Texas House representing District 27 which encompasses areas of Fort Bend County. He serves as the ranking member of the Environmental Regulation Committee, the powerful Energy Resources Committee and the vice-chair of the Texas Caucus on Climate, Environment and the Energy Industry.
The Defender spoke with Reynolds and asked him the question, “What are your top priorities for the TxLBC?” Here’s what he said.
PRIORITY 1: HEALTHCARE
Reynolds: There are many priorities, but we need to focus on the most pressing issues, [and one is] healthcare. First of all, Texas has the largest number of African Americans in the country per the 2020 census. We lead the nation in the highest number of uninsured. Most of those are Black and Brown people. Texas leads in Black women maternal mortality. We lead the nation. So healthcare and healthcare and healthcare.
We’re one of 12 states that don’t have Medicaid expansion. Many of the health outcomes that we experience are from people who lack access to care that would help determine whether or not they get preventative medical treatment, before things exacerbate. So, one of the top issues is going to be advocating for passage of Medicaid expansion this session. That is a priority and that is really essential for the quality of life…
PRIORITY 2: ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT
Reynolds: We are prioritizing economics; making sure that the state does a better job of fulfilling their MWBE (Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise) Hub goals. The state of Texas has a HUB program; historically underutilized businesses. Yet and still most of those contracts are awarded to Anglo women who fit that definition, Hispanics and other minorities. African Americans typically fall at the bottom.
The state of Texas spends more money than many countries. And we need to make sure that we continue to advocate for a level playing field for contract opportunities with the state. The state spends billions and billions of dollars every year with your tax dollars, our tax dollars. We need to make sure that there’s equity in those disbursements for African American businesses that are competent, capable and qualified. So, the second [priority] is going to be economic empowerment.
That includes holding our state agencies accountable to contracting with and fulfilling their MWBE goals, their hub goals. Because when Black businesses succeed our communities, they thrive. Small businesses, as you may know, are the economic engines that drive our economy. So, when our small businesses suffer, our communities suffer. We need to make sure that we strengthen opportunities for Black businesses in this state, again, having the most African Americans. But we typically are at the bottom when it comes to contracting opportunities. So that is gonna be a big, big priority for us.
PRIORITY 3: CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
REYNOLDS: Another priority that we have is criminal justice reform. We did see a little progress last session on a few of the George Floyd bills, [but] not all of them. Not most of them. Just a few. So, there are many disparities that continue to exist within our criminal justice system, where Blacks are targeted and victimized at alarming rates, for longer sentences for the same offenses, being indicted, being prosecuted more, more instances of police brutality, more instances of racial profiling. And those have to stop.
This is 2022. It is unfortunate that we still don’t live in a post-racial America. So, many disparities continue to exist as of today within our criminal justice system. So, criminal justice reform will be one of our top five priorities. We still need to make sure that we can hold police accountable. That is something that we have not been able to do. We need to do that.
DN: Read about more Reynolds and additional TxLBC goals