As the CEO of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Ann Beeson is leading the charge in the fight for a better Lone Star State for all Texans.
By Ann Beeson, Photo courtesy of Brenda Ladd Photography
As a proud Texan, New York City never felt quite like home during my time there as a social-justice lawyer and philanthropy executive. So, after stomping around the dirty snow in my cowboy boots for several years, I moved my family back to Austin and took the helm at the Center for Public Policy Priorities in 2013. I did so because Texas is the future of America, and our policies have a national impact.
It can be easy for people in Austin to feel disconnected from the state Capitol. Some of the leaders inside that large pink dome don’t represent our Austin values. But what happens inside that building affects every single Texan.
Public policy changes human lives, for better or worse. That’s why CPPP fights every day for policy solutions to help Texans of all backgrounds thrive.
One in 12 Americans lives in Texas. Though we’re a wealthy state, Texas ranks near the bottom in too many areas. We have alarming poverty rates, stubborn income inequality and poor overall health. Why is that? It’s because our policies keep too many Texans in low-wage jobs, underfund our public schools and make college and health care unaffordable.
Our Texas Legislature only meets every other year, and the session just ended. Despite the odds, CPPP was able to work with partners to advance policies that will help change these dismal statistics.
As CEO, my job is to create the conditions and provide the resources needed for our team to excel individually and collectively to advance our vision for Texas. To that end, we’ve worked together to nurture a culture of learning and professional development, deepen our commitment to racial and ethnic equity and strengthen our state legislative advocacy.
Our planning and hard work paid off, and I couldn’t be prouder. This session, we testified 99 times about 87 bills and generated more than 800 letters and 1,300 calls to state leaders. That led to some big wins for education, health care and worker protections.
My son graduated last year from McCallum High School in Austin, so I know money matters in public education. That’s why CPPP has been sounding the alarm about the need to remodel our school-finance system for more than 25 years. We traveled across Texas to engage business and community leaders, share research and analysis, and help lawmakers comb through every word of every draft bill to analyze the impact on Texans. The new school- nance law means every school will get more dollars per student, dollars that help pay for quality teachers and smaller class sizes.
Our team also secured a victory in our yearslong effort to shield Texans from surprise medical bills. Surprise billing often happens when people have a medical emergency and go to a hospital in their insurance network, but then get hefty bills from providers at the hospital who aren’t in their network. CPPP led the charge with the first data study in the nation showing the high frequency of surprise medical bills. Hundreds of thousands of Texans each year were getting surprise medical bills. Our data-driven advocacy created momentum for new safeguards, which means fewer of our friends and neighbors will have to worry about surprise bills devastating their family budgets.
Finally, we scored a dramatic win for Texas workers this session. CPPP was part of the movement that led Austin to guarantee paid sick leave for all our workers, making this the first city in the South to do so. But that win (and similar laws in San Antonio and Dallas) was under threat from state lawmakers who wanted to prohibit these protections statewide, but not anymore. Thanks to hundreds of Texans who testified at the Capitol, hundreds of thousands of Texas workers won’t have to choose between taking care of a loved one or losing a day’s pay.
Public policy changes human lives. I’m proud to call Austin home and grateful to fight for policies that will help every Texan reach their full potential.