Remarks by Peggy Venable to the Texas Federation of Republican Women State Convention: Houston, Texas

I am excited and enthusiastic to be here today. We are on the cusp of a new century and I am in a hall filled with women who are helping shape the new millennium. You have had a tremendous impact on Texas politics as this century comes to a close. You have worked in campaigns across the state and are largely responsible for Texas having all 29 statewide office holders Republicans. You are a powerful group, and I am grateful to be here.

Many of you are members of Citizens for a Sound Economy and still others of you have worked with us in public policy battles. CSE was started in 1984 as a think tank created to promote free-market public policies. Today, we have a membership of over 250,000 nationwide and ten percent, over 25,000, are in Texas.

Though CSE is a non-partisan organization, we share many objectives. We both want limited government, lower taxes, and fewer government regulations that impede our marketplace.

We thank the TFRW members who have helped CSE in our grassroots efforts, joining us in getting our policy information to voters and policymakers. Our goal at CSE is to make good policy good politics.

I should thank Rep. Pete Sessions who spoke before me for framing the topic I want to discuss today. Those of us who fight for a limited government need to better communicate our message. We need to, in Rep. Sessions’ own words make our argument.

To highlight our agenda, here are some of the issues CSE is working to see enacted:

Tax cuts that provide for: elimination of the marriage penalty tax, which costs couples an average of $1,400 a year; elimination of the most inequitable tax, the death tax which requires families to visit the funeral home, the IRS and often then the realtor; and let’s remember this isn’t a rich man’s tax; it’s a tax that hits small business owners, farmers and ranchers hardest. And an across-the-board tax cut for all Americans … not just for segments of the society.

Common sense civil justice reforms are on the taxpayer’s agenda. Gov. Bush championed tort reform in Texas in 1995 and consumers are benefiting to the tune of over $3 billion in liability insurance savings alone. Yet the five Texas Tobacco Trial lawyers (the Tobacco Five) were awarded by the federal arbitrator an outrageous $3.2 billion in contingency fees from the tobacco companies; and have held Texas taxpayers hostage by not releasing the State of Texas from its contingency fee contract, which could give them an additional $2.3 billion.

We at CSE commend Attorney General John Cornyn for fulfilling his responsibilities to the taxpayers of Texas and for his questioning whether these five tobacco attorneys acted in the Texas taxpayers’ best interest. Tobacco trial lawyers began investing their windfall early – and their investments have included political parties and campaigns. Interestingly, most of it went to the Democratic Party. The Tobacco Five funded fully 76% of all funds that went in to the Texas Democratic Party. And all trial lawyers’ giving funded fully 85% of the Texas Democratic Party last election cycle. CSE released these findings several months ago.

On the health care front, let’s not forget that Hillary-Care, government-run health care, was defeated several years ago, and yet we have allowed government-run health care to be enacted in bits and pieces. In Texas, we have over 63 mandates – mandates that cost consumers more in health insurance and drive more consumers form the private marketplace. That is largely why we have one-quarter of our population in Texas uninsured – that and the sheer demographics of our state. We need to seek and support free-market ways to address health care issues.

Education is a top issue to voters. It is our challenge to find ways to put parents in control; parents should be empowered to select the educational environment that best serves their children.

Environmental issues will be hot this election cycle. We need to work to make sure sound science is used and not scare tactics; we can’t let groups with hidden agendas play politics with the environment. Issues like global warming will be hot. Let’s not succumb to the “chicken little” scare tactics. Global warming is not a threat to society – but giving the UN authority to regulate our energy use is! Let’s know that the air in Texas is getting cleaner, though you wouldn’t know it if all you hear is the environmentalists who have a political agenda, which is focused on clouding not only Texas air issues, but also Gov. Bush’s record on environmental issues. They want to turn regulation of environmental issues in Texas over to the EPA!

Texas CSE staff and volunteers have traveled the state since June, visiting over 76 communities, addressing thousands of Texans. We organized events and whistle stops in communities large and small, taking the message of lower taxes, less government, and tort reform, to the citizens. Across the state, we found citizens interested and engaged.

We are working to meet the challenges of promoting limited government, using common-sense approaches to protecting individual freedoms and liberties and protecting family pocketbooks.

One of our most popular bumper stickers is, “All I want for Christmas is lower taxes and limited government.” What we need is a Congress that will enact those and a president who will sign them into law.