Policy Spotlight: LGBTQ Rights / RECAP: County Affairs Hearing / Early Voting Begins MONDAY / ACA Open Enrollment Begins Nov. 1st


On Wednesday, I was honored to be named runner-up to Mayor Sylvester Turner in OutSmart magazine’s Gayest & Greatest 2018 Reader’s Choice Awards for favorite male local politician. I was honored to win the award in 2011 and have finished runner-up numerous times.

In 2017, I was honored by Houston’s Montrose Center in receiving the LGBT Community Vision Award for my LGBT advocacy and policy work. I have always supported Texas’ diverse LGBT community and I will continue to do so. 

Rep. Coleman Receives LGBTQ Community Vision Award by Houston’s Montrose Center in 2017. (For more pictures of this event, please click here.)

I also received an A+ rating from Equality Texas last legislative session, and have been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus for this November’s election. In 2015, I was voted #1 of the Top 10 Texas House members on LGBTQ issues.Equality Texas wrote, “If there were an LGBTQ Caucus in the Texas House, Garnet Coleman would be its dean. Coleman filed the state’s first freedom to marry legislation, the first gender markers correction legislation, the first transgender hate crimes protection legislation… the list goes on. So when the Senate tried to sneak an anti-freedom to marry amendment onto one of Coleman’s bills not only was it particularly insulting, it was laughable. ‘If I can’t get it off, then the bill goes to bill heaven,’ Coleman told the Houston Chronicle. ‘I don’t support that legislation or that language.’ True to his word Coleman worked to kill his own bill to prevent the amendments passage. That’s dedication. That’s a true ally. That’s the action of someone who looks out for all Texans and puts the needs of the people ahead of himself. Which is who Garnet Coleman is.”

I have also been awarded the following awards for my LGBT advocacy:

  • Human Rights Campaign John Walzel Political Equality Award, 2007
  • National HIV/AIDS Partnership Red Ribbon Award, 2005
  • Texas Human Rights Foundation Policy Advocate, 2000
  • AIDS Action Leadership Award, 1998

I am proud to have received these honors from the LGBTQ community becauseLGBTQ rights are civil rights. The last several sessions I have worked diligently in the Legislature to fight against bills that discriminate against the LGBTQ community. I have also introduced legislation to better protect LGBTQ individuals and remove discriminatory laws from the books.

Killing bad legislation is just as important as passing good legislation, because bad legislation can take many sessions to correct. In the last two legislative sessions I killed my own bills because anti-LGBTQ legislation was amended onto them in the Senate against my will.Click here for a Houston Chronicle article from 2017 to read more about how I did it.Additionally, I worked behind the scenes to help kill the “Bathroom Bill” in the House in 2015 and 2017.

As many of you know, the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas (2003) ruled that laws criminalizing same-sex sexual activity are unconstitutional. However, many people don’t realize the exact Texas law the Court ruled unconstitutional in that case is still on books today in Texas. I have authored legislation the last several sessions to remove this statue from law, and last session this legislation made it out of committee for the first time, with help from Chairman of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Joe Moody (D-El Paso). I will continue to fight this uphill battle to remove this discriminatory language from our laws.

In 2001, I was proud to be a co-author of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. There are many remarkable policies in the bill, but one of the more remarkable ones is one that I fought to include protections for sexual preference. Regrettably, the bill did not include protections for transgender individuals. That is why the last several sessions I have introduced legislation to add protections for transgender individuals under the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. I plan to pursue this bill next session once again.

I have also worked throughout my career to gain state funding for education, prevention, and treatment of HIV/AIDS. I passed legislation last session to improve HHSC’s efforts to treat HIV/AIDS patients in Texas’ Medicaid system. But there is still work to be done in the area of healthcare for the LGBTQ community, including requiring private insurers and Medicaid to allow access to sexual reassignment surgery for transgender individuals. Also the Texas’ Medicaid program should also provide care for people with HIV/AIDS, but who currently do not qualify based on their T-cell count.LGBTQ rights are civil rights, and like all civil rights, it is an uphill battle to protect them. But, it is one I am more than happy to take on.

In Our Community: Montrose Center to Break Ground on First LGBTQ Senior Housing Center in the Southwest

A rendering of the Montrose Center’s planned senior housing facility at 2222 Cleburne.

Houston’s own Montrose Center will soon begin construction on the country’s second-largest LGBTQ-affirming housing project for low-income seniors. I am proud to be a leader for this project – the first of its kind in the Southwest. The facility is designed to alleviate the problem of housing discrimination against LGBTQ seniors

As reported by OutSmart Magazine here, half the cost of the project is covered by federal housing subsidies. The “There’s No Place Like Home” campaign that I co-chair along former Mayor Annise Parker will continue to raise money for the senior housing project. 

It will have over 112 independent living units spread across two main four-story buildings and it is tentatively scheduled to open in the summer of 2020. The facility will be less than two miles east of the Montrose Center, in the historic Third Ward. I am proud to represent such a diverse community in District 147.

Click here for more information on this very important LGBTQ-affirming housing project for low-income seniors.

RECAP: County Affairs Hearing

On Wednesday, October 17th, the County Affairs Committee that I chair held a hearing on four interim charges. The hearing was held at the Coleman Tower at Houston Community College John B. Coleman M.D. College for Health Sciences, located at 1919 Pressler Street in Houston.

Thank you to all the Committee members for their thoughtful input and important questions. I would also like to thank Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston) and Representative Valoree Swanson (R-Spring) for attending as well.

The Committee met to hear invited and public testimony on the following interim charges:
Charge #1
Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate.

Charge #2
Evaluate whether counties have the necessary ordinance-making and enforcement authority to deal with flood risk in unincorporated rural and suburban areas of Texas. Additionally, examine whether counties have adequate resources and authority to ensure that new development in unincorporated areas is not susceptible to flooding.

Charge #3
Study how counties identify defendants’ and inmates’ behavioral health needs and deferral opportunities to appropriate rehabilitative and transition services. Consider models for ensuring defendants and inmates with mental illness receive appropriate services upon release from the criminal justice system.

Charge #5
Monitor the agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction and oversee the implementation of relevant legislation passed by the 85th Legislature.

County Judges – Natural Disasters – 00:10
Ed Emmett, County Judge
Harris CountySydney Murphy, County Judge
Polk CountyEmergency Management – Natural Disasters
Panel 1– 01:02
Roy Turner, Emergency Management Coordinator
Chambers County

Panel 2 01:15
Daphne Lemelle,
Harris County Community Services Department

Panel 3 01:53
Russ Poppe,
Executive Director
Harris County Flood Control Department

Jon Steiber, Senior Projects Coordinator
Harris County Engineering Department

Rodney Reed, Assistant Chief
Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office

Indigent Defense – 02:36
Rodney Ellis, Commissioner
Harris County – Precinct 1

Harris County – Behavioral Health in the Criminal Justice System
Panel 1 03:10
Denise Oncken,
Bureau Chief,
Mental Health Bureau of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office

Tommy Shelton, Lieutenant
Harris County Sheriff’s Office – Mental Health Division

Panel 2 04:04
Keena Pace, Chief Operating Officer
The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD

Lillian Ortiz, Chief of Staff
The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD
Click here to watch Panel 1.

Natural Disasters – 04:19
John Braken, Texas State Director
Save The Children

Public Testimony – 04:19
Bee Morehead, Executive Director
Texas Impact


Chairman of the County Affairs Committee Garnet Coleman and Committee members heard testimony regarding behavioral health and services in the Criminal Justice System during the October 17th County Affairs hearing in Houston. This is Charge #3 from House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio). From left to right: Rep. Valoree Swanson (R-Spring), Rep. Shawn Thierry (D-Houston), Committee Director Nicolas Kalla, Chairman Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), Rep. Tomas Uresti (D-San Antonio), Rep, Kevin Roberts (R-Houston), and Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston).

Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett discussed the different needs of urban and rural counties when dealing disasters at Wednesday’s hearing.

Harris County Commissioner Precinct 1 Rodney Ellis testified in front of the Committee regarding indigent defense and the need for bail reform.

Denise Oncken, Bureau Chief of the Mental Health Bureau of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office joined Lt. Tommy Shelton of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Mental Health & Jail Diversion Bureau to discuss behavioral health in the criminal justice system at Wednesday’s hearing.

From left to right: Keena Pace, Chief Operating Officer of the Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual or Developmental Disability (IDD) and Lillian Ortiz, Chief of Staff for the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD speaking on their efforts to divert people with mental illness from jail at Wednesday’s hearing.

Pictured to my right is my sister Kathleen L. Coleman, and to my left is my daughter Evan A. Coleman. Also in the picture are the nieces, grand-nieces, and grandnephews of John B. Coleman M.D., along with dignitaries from the ribbon cutting.

Ribbon Cutting for Coleman Tower at HCC John B. Coleman M.D. College for Health Sciences

I am so thankful that Houston Community College named their beautiful new building in honor of my late fatherJohn B. Coleman M.D.(Pictured below)This project means a great deal to me personally and I am sure he would have loved it. The new Coleman Tower is top-notch in its architecture and design. But, what would be my father’s favorite feature and mine is that it will educate the healthcare providers of tomorrow.

Please see below for a press release from HCC, and pictures of the ribbon cutting ceremony and tower.

This portrait of my late Father, John B. Coleman M.D. is located at Prairie View A&M University. Courtesy of Prairie View A&M.

From left to right: Congressman Al Green (D-Houston), HCC Board of Trustees for District 4 Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), HCC Chancellor Dr. Cesar Maldonado, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston), President of the Coleman College for Health Sciences Dr. Phillip Nicotera, and HCC Board of Trustees for District 9 Dr. Pretta Vandible Stallworth at Monday’s ribbon cutting ceremony at the HCC Coleman College Health Sciences Tower.

HCC cuts ribbon on health sciences tower in Texas Med Center

HOUSTON (Oct. 15, 2018) – Joined by prominent medical professionals and elective office holders, Houston Community College officials cut the ribbon Monday, October 15, on the new 10-story HCC Coleman College Health Sciences Tower in the heart of the Texas Medical Center.

The tower includes floors that simulate hospitals and cutting-edge training facilities for more than 20 health-related fields. The $68 million tower is now the centerpiece of the HCC Health Sciences program, the only community college program of its kind in the medical center.

State Representative Garnet Coleman, the son of the late Dr. John Coleman for whom Coleman College is named, and numerous other members of the Coleman family were on hand for the ribbon cutting. Representative Coleman said that “practicing medicine came first for his father” and through Coleman College his father’s legacy continues. The college is the only facility in the medical center to bear the name of an African American.

“This new Coleman Tower is equipped with 21st century tools to keep up with the changing technology and needs of the healthcare industry and community,” said HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado. “It stands as a monument to HCC’s commitment to provide the best health-related education possible to our students.”

The state-of-the-art building received a 2018 Landmark Award in the category of Educational Facility from the Houston Business Journal. Entries for the Landmark competition were judged on their impact on Houston, including job creation, innovation, amenities and being environmentally friendly.

“What sets this building apart is the true hospital experience it affords our students,” said Dr. Philip Nicotera, president of HCC Coleman College. “Students will work with the very same equipment they will use in medical facilities once they enter the workplace.”

The project, part of a capital improvements bond issue approved by voters in 2013, will take HCC’s rigorous health-related programs to an even higher level. “This facility means new opportunities for student success and growth,” said Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, chair of the HCC Board of Trustees.

For more information on the HCC Health Sciences Center of Excellence, click here.

The new 10-story HCC Coleman College Health Sciences Tower
in the heart of the Texas Medical Center.

Key features of the Coleman Health Science Tower:

  • A pedestrian bridge that connects the existing HCC Coleman building with the new facility and allows for safe passage across a busy road
  • Classrooms and learning stations connected to skills laboratories, simulation laboratories, and biology and biosafety laboratories to support hands-on, active learning
  • Student collaboration spaces on every level
  • A lobby and 800-seat special events and multi-purpose meeting room that can be open to the public without compromising the security of the rest of the building

Inside the new HCC Coleman College Health Sciences Tower, which is
designed to look and function like a hospital, providing students with meaningful experiences that prepare them for their future healthcare professions.

Riverside Hospital Update

Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to the press conference yesterday at Riverside Hospital. I have been working to save Riverside Hospital by rebuilding it as an integrated primary and behavioral health care outpatient facility since 2014.Click here to read about my work transforming Riverside Hospital.

I want to thank Harris County for taking this $39 million project on, especially Harris County Judge Ed EmmettandCounty Commissioner Pct. 1 Rodney Ellis.

Furthermore, Judge EmmettandCommissioner Ellis did a great job in helping to secure this $2.5 million donation from Qatar alongside the $5.3 million grant from the nonprofit Houston Endowment that allowed the Harris County Commissioners Court to purchase the vacant lot.

Riverside Hospital means a great deal to the Third Ward community, the people of greater Houston and to me personally since my late father, John B. Coleman M.D., was named Chief of Staff of Obstetrics/Gynecology in 1965 and was promoted to Chief of Riverside General Hospital in 1974. Please click here to read about the extensive achievements of my late Father.

With Qatar’s help, Harris County to reopen Third Ward hospital

Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar’s ambassador to the United States, left, greets Harris County Judge Ed Emmett as Commissioner Rodney Ellis and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee look on. Photo: Jon Shapley, Staff Photographer.

A $2.5 million donation from the government of Qatar will help Harris County restore an historic hospital in the Third Ward, County Judge Ed Emmett announced Wednesday.

At a morning news conference at the site of the former Riverside Hospital at Ennis and Hollman, Emmett said the site would be redeveloped into a primary care facility with a focus on mental health, to open by 2021. He was joined by Meshal bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Qatari ambassador to the United States; U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; and Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

“Exactly what this hospital is going to be has yet to be determined,” Emmett said. “But we know it’s going to be primary care … because that is what’s been lacking, so people can have medical homes.”

The donation is part of the $30 million the tiny oil-rich Middle Eastern nation, which has fewer residents than Harris County, has donated to help Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey. Qatar gave more than $100 million to Gulf Coast states after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“This commitment from his highness and the state of Qatar, and the people of Qatar, stems from the strong relations that Qatar has with the United States, and particularly with the state of Texas,” said Al-Thani, who was visiting Houston from Washington. Qatar also has a consulate in the Galleria area.

The estimated total cost of the hospital project, which will be part of the county’s hospital district, is $39 million. Harris Health also operates a dialysis center on Hollman and the Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center on North MacGregor.

The inscription in the archway above the officials, “Houston Negro Hospital School of Nursing,” offered a reminder of the facility’s importance to the Third Ward, as well as Houston’s segregated past.

A group of black doctors and oilman-turned-philanthropist Joseph S. Cullinan created the Houston Negro Hospital on the site in 1918, and a nursing school followed in 1931. The facility was the first nonprofit hospital for blacks in Houston, where, like much of the Jim Crow South, they were barred from white hospitals.

The facility was renamed Riverside Hospital in 1961 and later added a substance abuse treatment facility. The hospital closed in 2015 after years of financial instability. The hospital’s former president, son, and two others were convicted of a $158 million Medicare scam in 2014.

Harris County Commissioners Court purchased the vacant four-acre site in March with the help of a $5.3 million grant from the nonprofit Houston Endowment.

On Thursday, the site was empty except for several construction workers laboring over the din of an electric generator. Cracked windows and missing floors are a few of the many needed repairs, but the buildings are structurally sound. Even now, the Spanish revival architecture of the nursing school and main building make them among the most prominent structures in the area. Both will be restored and become part of the new hospital.

Ellis said though Houston boasts the largest medical center in the world, Third Ward residents lack access to local health care facilities. He said a renovated Riverside Hospital will fill that gap, and also may help the nearby University of Houston as it moves forward to create a new medical school.

“You want to figure out what has a client base, and what is important to the community,” said Ellis, who was born at the hospital in 1954.

Hobby Symposium Series
“Better Brains, Better Policies, Better Futures”

Click here to watch the Legislative Roundtable that I was on with Representative Sarah Davis (R-Houston), Armando Walle (D-Houston), and Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood).

I hope you take the time to watch the hour-long discussion we had because it was very insightful. The Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy, University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs, and University of Houston College of Education put on a fantastic event. I am proud to see the University of Houston Hobby School flourishing after I helped create it in 2013 by getting half a million dollars set aside in the Texas budget to create a graduate school of public policy at the University of Houston.

Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) Chair of the County Affairs Committee, and Representative Sarah Davis (R-Houston) Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Article II (the Health and Human Services part of the state budget). I work closely with Representative Sarah Davis on Health Care Policy in the Texas Legislature. We worked together last session to increase the funding and number of screenings for Post Partum Depression under Texas Medicaid (HB 2466 (85R)). The last few sessions I have worked with her on the state budget to make sure we increase funding to better serve vulnerable populations in our state including children, women, and the elderly.

From left to right: Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston), Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood), Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), and Representative Sarah Davis (R-Houston).


Early voting in the November midterm elections begins MONDAY, October 22nd. You can vote at ANY voting locations (see below for locations). I encourage you to vote early, as lines are typically shorter. Don’t forget an acceptable form of ID (see below).

Click here for a list of acceptable photo ID.

Click here for early voting locations in Harris County.

Click here to find your voter specific ballot AND your Election Day ballot.

Need help?
Call the Election Information Line at 713-755-6965
Call my office at 512-463-0524

14 Days Until Open Enrollment for 2019 Healthcare Coverage:
November 1st-December 15th

How to Sign Up:

  • Starting November 1st, you can log in to HealthCare.gov and fill out an application enrolling in a 2019 Marketplace health plan
    • Enroll by December 15, 2018, and coverage starts January 1, 2019.
    • 2019 plans and prices will be available to preview shortly before November 1st

Helpful Links:

Need Help? Call 1-800-318-2596

Cartoon of the Week

Source:Steve Benson | Copyright 2017 | Creators Syndicate

What To Watch This Week

Video: “President Obama Doesn’t Have Time For These 7 Excuses Not To Vote”
“President Barack Obama responds to the 7 weakest excuses for not voting. Get your voting info at Vote.org

Song of the Week

Our song of the week is “A Change is Coming” by Sam Cooke.

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