Wednesday, April 15, 2015


This post is from the website of More information about the very positive effects of Medicaid expansion is available there, but this one-page fact sheet offers a great deal of information.

Key Facts: Closing the Coverage Gap in Texas

1. Texas Association of Business supports coverage expansion. “It just makes sense for us from the business perspective.” TAB Legislative agenda (see page 12):

2. The Texas Hospital Association promotes the “Texas Way,” a solution that would negotiate with the Federal government to draw down money but design the program ourselves.;

3. The Perry-appointed Institute on Health Care Quality and Efficiency recommends expanding coverage.

4. Former State Deputy Comptroller Billy Hamilton estimates that Medicaid expansion would free up a minimum of 1.2 billion of 2014-2015 General Revenue (GR) that is currently expended on this same population through a patchwork of healthcare programs for the uninsured. Full report on his assessment of what Medicaid expansion would do to the Texas economy can be found at:

5. The Perryman Group estimates that “every $1 spent by the State returns $1.29 in dynamic State government revenue over the first 10 years of the expansion. In other words, the State actually makes money by participating in the Medicaid expansion.” Dr. Perryman is a well-known and oft-cited economist at Rice University:

6. Funds could be acquired from budget offsets and/or increased general revenue as suggested by Billy Hamilton and the Perryman Group. HHSC and LBB 2014-2017 estimates on the state GR cost for doing Medicaid expansion in Texas are no more than 1.03 billion a biennium.;

7. PricewaterhouseCooper’s report on Medicaid Expansion’s effect on uncompensated care, which speaks to hospital financing and how hospitals will suffer without some sort of Medicaid Expansion.

8. Harris Health Systems in Houston has laid off 113 people. “Harris Health officials have blamed the deficit on several factors, chief among them the state's decision not to opt for expanded Medicaid from the federal government.”

9. A Jackson-Hewitt report states that “the decision in Texas to forego the Medicaid expansion may increase federal tax penalties on Texas employers by $266 to $399 million each year.” State Medicaid Choices and the Hidden Tax Surprises for Employers:

Infographic Sources: Families USA: (employment); Kaiser: (working families); HHSC -; (# in gap).

For online list of resources go to: or

Saturday, April 11, 2015


This is the second posting about race and sentencing. (The first is Death Penalty in Texas.) The document is prepared for a two-column, back-to-back handout. I don't know why there's a shaded background, and I can't get rid of it! Maybe you can.

You may contact your State legislators any time about this issue. Just type Texas legislature in your browser and follow the links for phone numbers or e-mails.


Race and Sentencing in Texas
Ways in Which Race Can Impact Sentencing

Race of the Victim.....Nationally, nearly 80% of murder victims in cases resulting in an execution have been white, even though nationally only 50% of murder victims generally are white. A 1990 examination of death penalty sentencing conducted by the United States General Accounting Office noted that, "In 82% of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e., those who murdered whites were found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks." Individual state studies have found similar disparities. In fact, race of victim disparities have been found in most death penalty states.
Race of the Defendant.....Nationally, the racial composition of those on death row is 45% white, 42% black, and 10% Latino/ Latina. Of states with more than 10 people on death row, Texas (70%) and Pennsylvania (69%) have the largest percentage of minorities on death row. Year 2000 census data revealed that the racial composition of the United States was 75.1% white, 12.3% black and 12.5% Latino/Latina. While these statistics might suggest that minorities are overrepresented on death row, the same statistical studies that have found evidence of race of victim effects in capital sentencing have not conclusively found evidence of similar race of defendant effects. In fact, while some studies show that the race of the defendant is correlated with death sentences, no researcher has made definitive findings that the death sentence is being imposed on defendants on account of their race, per se, independently of other variables (such as type of crime) which are correlated with defendants' race.
Race of the Jurors.....In capital cases, one juror can represent the difference between life and death. A belief that members of one race, gender, or religion might generally be less inclined to impose a death sentence can lead the prosecutor to allow as few of such jurors as possible. For example, a Dallas Morning News review of trials in that jurisdiction found systematic exclusion of blacks from juries. In a two-year study of over 100 felony cases in Dallas County, the prosecutors dismissed blacks from jury service twice as often as whites. Even when the newspaper compared similar jurors who had expressed opinions about the criminal justice system (a reason that prosecutors had given for the elimination of jurors, claiming that race was not a factor), black jurors were excused at a much higher rate than whites. Of jurors who said that either they or someone close to them had had a bad experience with the police or the courts, prosecutors struck 100% of the blacks, but only 39% of the whites.
Race of the Prosecutor.....Whenever and wherever capital punishment is authorized by law, the decision whether or not to seek a death sentence in particular cases is left to the discretion of the prosecutor. A 1998 examination of Chief District Attorneys in states with the death penalty found that nearly 98% are white, 1% are black, and 1% are Hispanic.
Issues of Race Raised by the Gary Graham Case, Texas
Concerns about the influence of race on the application of the death penalty in Texas were central to a 1993 civil rights claim raised by attorneys representing Gary Graham. A complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund contended that Graham was on death row as a direct result of widespread racial discrimination within the Texas criminal justice system. The claim was filed just days before Graham’s first scheduled execution date, and it pointed to a series of troubling racial disparities in Harris County, where Graham was tried and sentenced to death. The NAACP’s complaint presented evidence that black Texans who reside in Harris County are arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death in numbers that are vastly disproportionate to their representation in the population. It noted:
The incarceration rate in 1991 for black people in Harris County was nine times greater than the incarceration rate for white people.
In the same year, 61% of all offenders sent to prison from Harris County were black (although only 18% of the county’s population was black).
55% of the people on death row from Harris County were black, while only 35% were white.
Among people on death row from Harris County who, like Graham, were sentenced to death for crimes that occurred when they were teenagers, 73.3% were black and only 13.3% were white.
Graham's attorneys presented these disparities as “probable cause” for the Department of Justice to conduct a full investigation of the influence of racial bias in the criminal justice system in Texas.



As a denomination, the United Methodist Church opposes the death penalty. So does the United Methodist Women… Japan is the only industrial democracy besides the United States that has the death penalty. In Japan, the 2013 per capita execution rate was 1 execution per 15,809,458 persons.

Following is one related posting, Death Penalty in Texas; I will add a second. Both will be prepared for a two-column, back-to-back handout.

Remember: We can contact our State legislators at any time by way of the State's website. Just type Texas legislature in your browser and follow the links.


Texas has executed 518 people since 1982, more than 1/3 of the 1,394 executions nationwide since 1977.Currently 275 people are on death row in Texas.
The average cost of a Texas death penalty case is $2.3 million vs. $750,000 for life in prison. (Dallas Morning News 1992) A separate housing facilty for death row inmates costs $61.58 per day.
Each county pays for its own trials and the state appeals process. Often, smaller or poorer counties cannot afford to seek the death penalty. These costs have caused some counties to raise tax rates and withhold employee raises.
135 of Texas’ 254 counties have never sent a single offender to death row. However, because state tax dollars pay for the federal habeas corpus process, every Texas resident is contributing to the enormous costs of death penalty appeals. This means that tax dollars of Texans in the counties that cannot afford to try death penalty cases still subsidize the “wealthier” counties that do seek the death penalty.
Texas ranks 47th nationally in terms of per capita spending on mental healthcare. It ranks 1st in executions (more than 400 since 1982).
Around 30% of those incarcerated in Texas prisons or jails have been clients of the state’s public mental health system. (TX Dept. of Criminal Justice)
Execution schedule through June 18, 2015
On January 21, 2015, Texas executed Arnold Prieto
On January 28, Texas executed Garcia White
On February 4, Texas executed Donald Newbury
On February 10, execution for Lester Bower Jr. stayed
On March 5, execution for Rodney Reed stayed
On March 11, Texas executed Manuel Vasquez
On March 18, execution for Randall Mays stayed
On April 9, 2015, Texas executed Kent Sprouse
On April 15, Texas will execute Manuel Garza
On April 23, Texas will execute Richard Vasquez
On April 28, Texas will execute Robert Pruett
On May 12, Texas will execute Derrick Charles
On June 18, Texas will execute Gregory Russeau

Main factors that determine who is executed are local politics, the quality of legal counsel, the location of
the crime, plea bargaining, and pure chance. Offenders who commit similar crimes under similar circumstances often receive vastly different sentences. The race of both the offender and victim, as well as social and economic status, also play a large part in deciding who lives and who dies.
The death penalty cannot be justified as a necessary public safety measure because it has not been proven to reduce crime. Most research on the death penalty demonstrates that the possibility of being sentenced to death does not deter criminals from committing either calculated or spontaneous crimes.
States that maintain the death penalty traditionally have higher murder rates than the national average, according to FBI data. No connection has ever been made to link the rate of murders in a state to its use of the death penalty. Some countries that have abolished the death penalty, such as Canada, have since
experienced a decline in violent crime.
A 2009 national poll commissioned by the Death Penalty Information Center found that police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among ways to reduce violent crime and the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money. In addition, a 2009 study by the University of Texas at Dallas found “no empirical support for the argument that the existence or application of the death penalty deters prospective offenders from committing homicide.”
32 The FBI Uniform Crime Report consistently shows the South, which accounts for more than 80% of executions, to have the highest murder rate in the nation. The Northeast, which has carried out less than 1% of all executions, typically has the lowest murder rate.

Supreme Court Evaluation of Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System.  A 1990 study found racial disparities in the charging, sentencing, and imposition of the death penalty. The study concluded that a defendant was several times more likely to be sentenced to death if the murder victim was white. This has been confirmed by the findings of many other studies that, holding all other factors constant, the single most reliable report, the non-partisan U.S. General Accounting Office found "a pattern of evidence indicating predictor of whether someone will be sentenced to death is the race of the victim.”
Nationally, the racial composition of those on death row is 45% white, 42% black, and 10% Latino/ Latina. Of states with more than 10 people on death row, Texas (70%) and Pennsylvania (69%) have the largest percentage of minorities on death row. Year 2000 census data revealed that the racial composition of the United States was 75.1% white, 12.3% black and 12.5% Latino/Latina.
In January of 2012  an analysis by the Houston Chronicle found that 12 of the last 13 people condemned to death in Harris County, Texas were black. After Texas itself, Harris County is the national leader in its number of executions. Over one third of Texas's 305 death row inmates – and half of the state's 121 black death row prisoners – are from Harris County. One of those African Americans, Duane Buck, was sentenced based on the testimony of an expert psychologist who maintained that blacks are prone to violence. In 2008, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal resigned after sending an email message titled "fatal overdose", featuring a photo of a black man lying on the ground surrounded by watermelons and a bucket of chicken.
(Info from Texas Coalition to Abolish Death Penalty and Texas and Death Penalty Education and Resource Center) 

Friday, April 10, 2015


This is a brief explanation about Native American Indian Sunday. Two-column, back-to-back piece, if desired.

APRIL 19, 2015

Some frequently asked questions……….

There are over 18,000 known Native people in The United Methodist Church. The largest group are members within the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, but Native United Methodists and ministries may be found from the tip of Florida to Alaska. Native people serve the church in every capacity and their churches have the highest percentage of female pastors in the denomination.

Which is proper: Native American or American Indian? Either is acceptable. In The United Methodist Church we generally use Native American/Alaskan Native in official publications. Most Native people in the lower 48 states still call themselves "Indian.” Some prefer to be tribally specific, such as "I am Hidatsa.”

The term Native American was developed to include American Indians and Alaskan Natives together. In Canada, Native people are called Aboriginal People, or Natives. Currently, the word Native is used to describe the collective indigenous population of North and South America.

Do Native Christians worship differently from other Christians? Primarily, no. Native United Methodists believe in the theology and polity of The United Methodist Church. In visiting a United Methodist Native congregation, you would find many similarities. Like any other local congregation, Native churches incorporate elements of culture, work, and interest into their worship experiences.
There are unique features in some Native churches and ministries that are often a part of the worship experience. Most Native worship services include the singing of hymns in one or several Native languages. Some churches do not have piano or organ, while some choose not to use them during traditional hymn singing.

Why do we observe Native American Sunday--or What makes Native people special? Within the Body of Christ, every person, every culture has unique gifts to refresh the Church. The contributions of Native people, as individuals and groups are not more important than the contributions of other Christians. Native people, however, are among the poorest and most marginalized of society and also the Church. The unfortunate fact is that people without "power” of wealth or social status tend to be overlooked.

There are over 554 federally recognized (those with nation-to-nation status with the U.S. federal government) Native tribes, nations and villages in the United States. This does not include state recognized tribes, or those in the process of recognition with states or the federal government. In addition to these, there are over 500,000 people of primarily Native blood who are ineligible for tribal membership for one reason or another. Add these to the numbers of indigenous people from Central and South America and Canada, and one gains a picture of the complexity of cultures and backgrounds that represent Native people in the United States and The United Methodist Church.

Most tribes still retain unique language, culture, religions, government and a physical tribal home. Some have lost original languages and many customs, but have retained a sense of identity as a people. There is simply no one "Indian" way of thinking, feeling, or worshipping. In order to become aware of Native people, one must be intentional in the process of ministering to them.

Native American Ministries Sunday affords the opportunity of Native and non-Native United Methodists across the denomination to become aware of the lives, gifts and ministries of Native people. Conferences are encouraged to develop ministries for and with the Native people who live within them.This special Sunday also allows Native people the opportunity to fully participate in the life of the conference. They cannot do that unless we, the Church, know who they are.

Proceeds from Native American Ministries Sunday offerings support Native ministries within conferences, provide educational assistance for Native Americans in the form of scholarships, and assist with the establishment of urban Native ministries.

Consider making a special gift to Native American Indians. One way is to give to the Native American Comprehensive Plan Advance #982615. You may give online.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


This handout discusses briefly three issues currently being considered in our Texas Legislature. The UMW has discussed one--truancy--and we strongly support reform that would change our current process. I bring the other two issues to your attention for your consideration.  (Two-columns, back-to-back.)




1.Sen. John Whitmire (who has spoken in our Legislative Event) has put forth a Criminal Justice omnibus reform bill that addresses the current school-to-prison path inherent in our truancy laws.
            Currently Texas hands the vast majority of its truancy cases as class C misdemeanors in ADULT CRIMINAL COURT! Convictions can carry a minimum fine of $500 and become part of a permanent, public ADULT CRIMINAL RECORD!
            The Dallas Morning News put it well in the April 6 paper: “Texas needs its kids in classrooms, not courtrooms. Reforming Texas truancy laws is an important step toward that goal.”
            The bill has been sent to the full Senate, so now is the time to contact your senator and urge support of the bill!

2.In-state tuition. We currently have a law that allows in-state tuition for some children in the U.S. illegally. This law sailed through the Legislature in 2001 with bipartisan support. However, the Senate may receive shortly a bill that would repeal the law. Although it isn’t on the Senate floor yet, you may want to contact your senator about this bill.

3.Campus carry. This bill would allow license holders to carry concealed weapons into university buildings and classrooms. Top university leaders statewide have spoken against the bill, and we’ve seen and heard a good bit about it this spring. The Senate has passed the bill; it cleared a House committee last week, and it could go to the floor soon. This is another issue you may want to bring to your representative’s attention right away.


Simply type “Texas legislature” in your browser window.

Select the blue link “Texas Legislature Online.”

This brings you LOTS of options with a great deal of  really good information.

For purposes of contact:

Highlight the link for “Members” under the house you want.

That link will take you to an alphabetical listing of the names of all the representatives or senators.

Highlight the name you want in that list, and the link will take you to a page with phone numbers. It also has a link “Visit Home Page…” which offers an e-mail option.

It really is easy. And everytime you use it, you get better at it!

There are about 65 days left of the regular session, so we need to let our legislators know our thinking on the issues they are considering.

Monday, April 6, 2015


We invite everyone to join us for our Day of Social Action. The attachment is prepared for a two-column, back-to-back handout.

North Texas Conference
United Methodist Women

Day of Social Action
April 18, 2015
Highland Park UMC ~
3300 Mockingbird, Dallas
8:30am to noon

Restoring Relationships: Reconciliation and Forgiveness
Forgiveness ultimately frees us from the pain and prison of revenge and allows us to experience renewal.

Keynote Speaker
Rev. Alice Coder
United Methodist minister and member of the North Texas Anti-Racism Team

Royce Hall—Restorative Justice
Halley Bain—Domestic Violence
                    Genesis Shelter
Rev. Ross Owen—  Immigration
    Pastor, Christ Foundry Church
Peggy Larney—         Anti-Racism
  Urban Inter-Tribal Center of TX

IMPORTANT: Please send number of lunch reservations by April 13 to Beth Weems Pirtle at 972-243-7353; or to

APRIL 18, 2015

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, this act of violence a result of intense and unreasoning hatred for a man who declared himself against bigotry and specifically against slavery: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”

Of the myriad biographical details inscribed on the wall of President Lincoln’s tomb, one—perhaps his most significant contribution to the world—is noticeable by its absence:
No mention is made of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Racism continues to infect our lives all across this country, indeed across the world. We might prefer to call it by other names, thinking that we have made great progress in these 150 years. But sometimes we may wonder if prejudice against people for their color may be part of the “human condition.”
On April 18, North Texas Conference United Methodist Women consider racism, its effects on our lives, and the possibility of restored relationships. We also look at domestic violence and our attitude toward immigration.
Please bring a personal item (such as soap, lotion, etc.) to share with residents of domestic violence shelter.
Join us!