Saturday, 31 January 2015


                BLACK      SOCIAL    HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Rodney Ellis

Rodney Ellis
Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, May 2014.jpg
Ellis in May 2014
Member of the Texas Senate
from the 13th district
Assumed office
February 27, 1990
Preceded byCraig Anthony Washington
Member of the Houston City Council from District D
In office
January 2, 1984 – December 28, 1989
Preceded byAnthony Hall
Succeeded byAlfred Calloway
Personal details
BornApril 7, 1954 (age 60)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Licia Green Ellis
ResidenceHouston, Texas, U.S.
Alma materTexas Southern University(B.A.)
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs (M.P.A.)
University of Texas Law School (J.D.)
WebsiteRodney Ellis on Twitter
Rodney Ellis on Facebook
Rodney Glenn Ellis (born April 7, 1954)[1] is the state senator for Texas' 13th state senate district. The district contains portions of Harris County, including downtown Houston, and Fort Bend County. He is a member of the Democratic Party.
Ellis was elected to the Texas Senate on February 13, 1990, and sworn into office on February 27, 1990.[2] Ellis is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Open Government, which looks at measures to improve transparency and efficiency of state government.[3] He also sits on the Senate State Affairs, Transportation, and Natural Resources Committees.[4] In previous sessions, Ellis chaired the Senate Finance, Jurisprudence, Government Organization, and Intergovernmental Relations Committees.[5]
Ellis chairs the Board of Directors for the Innocence Project and chairs the Commission to Engage African Americans on ENERGY, Climate Change, and the Environment. He also serves on the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, the University of Texas School of Law Foundation Board of Trustees, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Board of Directors.[6]

Early life and education

Ellis was born and raised in HoustonTexas. Growing up in Houston’s Southeast district, he is one of three children of Eligha and Oliver Teresa Ellis. His father worked as a yard man and his mother a maid, and each worked as HEALTH CARE assistants. In the summers, Ellis served as his father's assistant.[7]
Ellis attended B.H. Grimes Elementary and Carter G. Woodson Middle School and is a graduate of Evan E. Worthing High School, where he was president of the student council. He enrolled at Xavier University in Louisiana before returning to Texas and graduating from Texas Southern University with a Bachelor of Science degree in political science. Ellis EARNED his Masters in Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and then a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law. Ellis also studied at the London School of Economics.[8]
While in Austin, Ellis got experience in Texas government, working as an aide to Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby and as Law Clerk to Chief Justice John C. Phillips on the Third Court of Appeals. Ellis also served as legal counsel to Texas Railroad Commissioner Buddy Temple before moving to Washington, DCto become chief of staff to U.S. Representative Mickey Leland.[9]
It was through Congressman Leland that Ellis first met his future wife Licia. They were married in 1997. Their family includes four children: Nicole, Maria, Leland, and Alena.[10]

City Council record

Ellis and Congressman Mickey Leland, for whom Ellis served as chief of staff
In 1983, at age 29, Ellis was elected to the Houston City Council, where he served three terms representing District D.[11]While on Council, Ellis worked on efforts to tear down abandoned buildings that had attracted criminals and the drug TRADE[12] He worked to SECURE more funds to raze these dangerous buildings, and drove a front-loader to help clean up drug-ridden Houston neighborhoods.[13] To combat rising drug crime, Ellis pushed to increase funding for anti-drug efforts in the city,[14] but also called for greater community oversight of the Houston Police Department through a citizen's review board.[15]
Ellis worked to increase funding to expand low-income housing projects across Houston,[16] preserve Allen Park Village,[17]and strengthen policies for the city's use of federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure a greater percentage is devoted to low and moderate-income Texans.[18] Ellis also worked to seize abandoned properties and sell on the MARKET to raise funds for housing and other vital needs.[19]
Ellis served as chair of the Economic Redevelopment Committee, where he advocated policies to spur economic development in Houston. He called for the creation of a new think tank and city Department of Commerce[20] to coordinate and streamline city economic development policies, worked to save city and taxpayer INVESTMENTS in projects such as the Palm Center and Mercado del Sol shopping center, and pushed to expand low-interest loans to small businesses.[21]
Ellis pushed to rename Houston Intercontinental Airport after Mickey Leland, following his death on an anti-hunger mission to Ethiopia. Controversy ensued after comments were made about the effort by a fellow council member.[22] In the end, the newest terminal at the airport was named in honor of Leland.[23]
In the battle against apartheid in South Africa, Ellis helped convince the University of Houston to become the first university in the south to divest from companies doing business in South Africa.[24] He also helped defeat efforts to merge the University of Houston–Downtown with Texas Southern University, protecting the historically black college's history and mission as a stand-alone institution.[25]

Texas Senate record[edit]

Budget & economy[edit]

In 1997, Ellis authored legislation creating the Texas Capital Access Fund providing up to $140 million in private lending to small businesses and nonprofit organizations.[26] The program was designed to help small businesses that do not qualify for conventional financing to access the capital they need through a public-private partnership.
In 1999, Ellis introduced and passed a $506 million tax relief package which created a three-day sales tax holiday, eliminated the sales tax on over-the-counter medicines, and cut business taxes.[27] The tax holiday was designed to give Texans a tax break on items such as back-to-school clothing. In 2012 alone, the sales tax holiday was estimated to save Texas taxpayers over $64 million.[28]
As the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance in 2001, Ellis authored the $113.8 billion budget bill.[29] The population of Texas had grown 25 percent in the prior ten years and the pressure of that CONTINUED growth was reflected in a budget that raised funding $11.8 billion, or 11.6 percent over the previous biennium.[30] As chair of the Finance Committee, "Ellis managed in spite of the tight budget to fund four priority items: a major Medicaid expansion, state employee pay raises, teacher HEALTH INSURANCE, and financial aid for college students."[31]
The Texas Green Jobs Act of 2009, authored by Ellis, was amended onto House Bill 1935, establishing the first statewide green jobs program in Texas.[32] The program set up a framework for training workers for skills in the CLEAN ENERGY economy.

Civil rights[edit]

Texas Governor Ann Richards, His ExcellencyNelson MandelaDominique de Menil, and Ellis, 1991
In 1993, Ellis introduced the Motor Voter program to allow citizens to register to vote when they renew their driver’s licenses.[33] To further increase PARTICIPATION in the democratic process, Ellis introduced legislation to implement the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 in Texas in 1995 in order to bring Texas up to federal standards by requiring government agencies to afford citizens a chance to register to vote each time they seek state services through government agencies.[34]
In 2001, Ellis authored and passed the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, legislation to clarify and strengthen the state’s hate crimes statute by defining a hate crime as one that has been proven in court to have been motivated by “the race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry” of the victim.[35] The Act bears the name of James Byrd, Jr., an African American who was TARGETED and murdered in one of the most brutal hate crimes of the post-Civil Rights Era. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law a federal hate crimes bill also bearing Byrd’s name.[36]
In 2007, Ellis introduced and passed the Stop the Genocide Act, requiring state pension funds to divest from companies doing business in Sudan.[37] Over the four years prior to the bill's introduction, the Sudanese government and their allied organizations had killed more than 400,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million in Sudan’s Darfur region.[38]
Ellis helped pass the Free Flow of Information Act in 2009 to protect journalists from being forced to testify or disclose confidential sources.[39] The law aimed to balance the public’s right to know the truth from an independent press and the state’s ability to uphold justice.
In 2009, Ellis introduced and passed legislation creating the Holocaust and Genocide Commission, a volunteer commission that serves as a conduit of information to public schools, private schools, and organizations regarding the Holocaust and acts of genocide.[40]

Health care[edit]

Ellis and other legislators at the 2011 National Conference of State Legislatures Bipartisan Bike Ride in San Antonio, an event that Ellis has sponsored since 2005
In 1993, Ellis authored and passed legislation requiring private nonprofit HOSPITALS to provide a certain amount of charity care to uninsured patients.[41]
In 2001, under Ellis' leadership as Chairman of the Texas Senate Committee on Finance, the legislature increased funding for HEALTH and human services by $5.1 billion.[42] The budget simplified Medicaid eligibility by eliminating face-to-face interviews and allowed families to apply through the mail or over the telephone. The budget also allocated $197 million to increase reimbursement rates for doctors, dentists, and hospitals; provided $63 million to maintain current services at MENTAL HEALTH & Mental Retardation state schools, hospitals, and community centers; provided $1.025 billion for theChildren's Health Insurance Program; and allocated $104 million to improve care in state schools and nursing homes.[43]
In 2011, Ellis amended the Texas Department of Insurance sunset legislation to include a provision that will increase access to individual HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS in order to expand the availability of coverage to children under 19.[44]
In 2011, Ellis sponsored legislation that ensures a voice for advocates and individuals infected with HIV in the state’s HIV Medication Advisory Committee.[45]

Criminal justice

In 2001, Ellis authored and passed the Texas Fair Defense Act, overhauling the Texas indigent defense system by focusing on four critical issues: timely appointment of counsel, method of counsel appointment by the courts, reporting of information about indigent representation services, and minimum standards for counsel. The legislation required all criminal courts in Texas to adopt formal procedures for providing appointed lawyers to indigent defendants.[46]
The Texas Fair Defense Act also created a new state indigent defense commission, the Task Force on Indigent Defense (now called the Texas Indigent Defense Commission), to oversee the implementation of the Texas Fair Defense Act and administer a new state PROGRAM for awarding indigent defense grants to counties.[47]
In 2009, Ellis sponsored and passed legislation to establish the Tim Cole Advisory Panel to identify and study the factors that contribute to wrongful convictions.[48] The panel was named in honor of Tim Cole, a young man who died in prison after being wrongfully convicted of rape.
As a result of the work of the Tim Cole Advisory Panel, in 2011 Senator Ellis authored a package of legislation to reform and improve the reliability of the Texas criminal justice system, which included eyewitness identification reforms to address the leading cause of proven wrongful convictions, and legislation to ensure that if there is DNA evidence available to prove someone’s innocence, it can and will be tested.[49]

Ellis, Michael Morton, staff, and supporters after Senate passage of the "Michael Morton Act," April 2013
In 2009, Ellis authored and passed legislation to create the Office of Capital Writs, the state's first statewide public defender office, to manage death penalty appeals.[50] Texas has the highest number of executions since 1979 - over four times the next state with the second highest number. Texas also has a high number of wrongful convictions relative to other states in the U.S.[51] The Office of Capital Writs is "entrusted with advocating on behalf of indigent individuals sentenced to death in Texas. The office works within the judicial system to safeguard the Constitutional rights of the individual through high quality legal representation."[52]
Ellis has "led legislative efforts to increase compensation for the wrongfully imprisoned."[53] In 2001, Ellis authored and passed legislation that increased the amount of compensation, increased the statute of limitations for claiming compensation, and allowed convicted persons found to be innocent to seek relief and compensation from the courts, rather than by pardon.[54] In 2011, Ellis sponsored and passed comprehensive exoneree compensation reform legislation, which provided HEALTH CARE to the wrongfully convicted, established standards for attorney’s fees in compensation claims, and helped exonerees to receive compensation.[55]
In 2013, Ellis authored and passed the "Michael Morton Act," legislation creating a uniform, statutory open file criminal discovery policy in Texas.[56] With the bill's passage, Texas law now explicitly states that every prosecutor has a duty to disclose documents or information that could raise questions about a defendant’s guilt or lead to a lighter sentence if there is a conviction.[57] Prior to the bill's passage, Texas’ criminal discovery laws had not changed since they were initially adopted in 1965.[58] The bill was named after Michael Morton, who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife and subsequently spent almost 25 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence.

Higher education[edit]

In 1999, Ellis sponsored legislation that created the TEXAS Grant PROGRAM.[59] The TEXAS Grant program provides tuition and fees to qualified students to make sure that well-prepared high school graduates with financial need could go to college.[60] Since its creation, more than 300,000 students have taken advantage of the program.[61]
In 2011, Ellis cosponsored legislation to help the University of Houston and other Texas universities become Tier One institutions of higher education.[62]

Efficient government & ethics

In 1995, Ellis introduced a constitutional amendment to abolish the Office of State Treasurer. Texas voters endorsed the measure, and the Office of the Treasurer closed its doors on September 1, 1996, transferring its duties to other state agencies.[63]
In 2003, Ellis sponsored comprehensive ethics reform for state and local elected officials. The legislation required any contribution greater than $500 be reported to the Ethics Commission. It also prohibited legislators from representing people for compensation before state agencies; required a legislator to file notice with his or her legislative body before introducing, sponsoring, or voting on a measure for which a close relative is lobbying; requires disclosure of all referral fees for legal services; requires disclosure of legislative continuances; and required office holders to show campaign fund balances. The bill also required annual filing of PERSONAL FINANCIAL disclosure statements by municipal candidates and officeholders in cities greater than 100,000 and all members of sports and port and authority boards.[64]

Served as Governor, Lieutenant Governor

Ellis and the TLIP class of 2013
In 1999, Ellis was named President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate.[65] Normally only a ceremonial position, Ellis served while Governor George W. Bush was running for President of the United States. When Bush traveled out of Texas, Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry was elevated to governor, and Ellis acted as Lieutenant Governor of Texas. If the Governor andLieutenant Governor are both out of the state, the President pro tempore is acting governor in their absence.[66]
In 1999 and 2000, Ellis served as Acting Governor of Texas for a record fifty days and was the Lieutenant Governor of Texas for 7 days, 7 hours and 31 minutes.[67] Upon Bush's election as president, Ellis presided over the Texas Senate as it chose Bill Ratliff to serve as its presiding officer.[68]

Texas Legislative Internship Program (TLIP)[edit]

In 1990, Ellis founded the Texas Legislative Internship PROGRAM (TLIP).[69] Administered by the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace at Texas Southern University, TLIP provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to serve as interns in the Texas Legislature, various state agencies, and local government.[70] Students receive a minimum of six and a maximum of fifteen academic credit hours for PARTICIPATING in the program, which combines academic study and research with supervised practical training. A TLIP internship lasts for one academic semester and affords students an opportunity to experience public service firsthand.[71] In 2011, three members of the Texas House of Representatives were TLIP graduates.[72]

Business career & personal[edit]

Ellis is a partner in Rice Financial Products, Inc. and vice chairman of the Tagos Group.[73] Ellis co-founded Apex Securities, Inc., an INVESTMENT banking firm which merged in 1998 with Rice Financial Products Company, and is of counsel for Reaud, Morgan & Quinn.[74][75] Ellis served as an advisor to the Mexican government during the ratification of the NAFTA Treaty.[76] He also advised the buy side on the $1.3 billion privatization of Telkom South Africa, to date the largest privatization in Africa.[77]

Ellis in his Austin office, 2014
Ellis chairs the Board of Directors for the Innocence Project and chairs the Commission to Engage African Americans on ENERGY, Climate Change, and the Environment. He also serves on the LBJ Foundation Board of Trustees, the University of Texas School of Law Foundation Board of Trustees, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Board of Directors.[78] Ellis previously served on the board of the National Commission on Energy Policy, the U.S. Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, and the Center for Policy Alternatives.
Ellis helped to negotiate bringing Lucy (Australopithecus), a natural history exhibit, to Houston. Ellis led a delegation to the National Museum in Addis AbabaEthiopia, to bring Lucy's bones to the United States and the Houston Museum of Natural Science.[79] Lucy, who lived 3.2 million years ago and is perhaps man's earliest known ancestor, was discovered in 1974.
Ellis is an avid cyclist who has authored "Complete Streets" legislation[80] to improve safety for motorists and cyclists and sponsored or taken part in numerous cycling events, like the MS 150, in Texas and across the country.[81] Ellis has sponsored the annual National Conference of State Legislatures Bipartisan Bike Ride each year since 2005.[82]
Ellis is an art collector and has a collection of African art.[83]
Ellis was listed as a bundler for President Barack Obama's reelection campaign in 2012.[84]


In 1995, Ellis was featured in the PBS documentary "Vote for Me."[85] He was filmed on the floor of the Senate during the 74th Legislative Session in 1995 with a live microphone, unknown to his fellow Senators.[86] Ellis apologized to his colleagues for the breach of protocol.[87]
In 2001, following George W. Bush's election to the presidency and Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry's promotion to Governor, Ellis — by virtue of serving as President Pro Tempore — became the official presiding officer of the Texas Senate. He drew fire from Texas media for ensuring the Senate vote to replace Perry was done with a secret ballot and without a record vote.[88]
In 2013, Ellis assisted Senator Wendy Davis with a back brace during Davis' 11-hour filibuster of Senate Bill 5, a bill to add and UPDATE abortion regulations in Texas.[89][90]Ellis' assistance resulted in a point of order being called against Davis, effectively the second warning that her filibuster could be forced to end.[91] Even though Davis' filibuster was eventually cut off, Senate Bill 5 failed to pass later that night, as parliamentary inquiries from senators and cheering from the Senate gallery caused the session to run past the midnight deadline.[92] Later, in remarks to the National Press Club, Davis said that "Texas women know that Senator Ellis has our back."[93]
In 2013, Ellis wrote to Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier and requested the district begin the process of changing the Lamar High School mascot, which at the time was the Redskins.[94] Despite some opposition, the HISD Board of Trustees later voted unanimously to adopt a new district policy that banned the use of offensive mascot names.[95]

Election history

Election history of Ellis from 1992.[96]


Texas general election, 2012Senate District 13[97]
DemocraticRodney Ellis (Incumbent)181,866100.00
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 2010Senate District 13[98]
DemocraticRodney Ellis (Incumbent)113,15578.17
RepublicanMichael Mauldin31,59621.82
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 2006Senate District 13[99]
DemocraticRodney Ellis (Incumbent)90,148100.00
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 2002Senate District 13[100]
DemocraticRodney Ellis (Incumbent)107,897100.00
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 1998Senate District 13[101]
DemocraticRodney Ellis (Incumbent)86,631100.00
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 1994Senate District 13[102]
DemocraticRodney Ellis (Incumbent)89,832100.00
Democratic hold


Texas general election, 1992Senate District 13[103]
DemocraticRodney Ellis (Incumbent)135,26291.41
LibertarianJohn Persakis12,7138.59
Democratic hold