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Headshot of Texas State Representative James Talarico
A Democrat who fights back and gets things done.
Texas State Representative James Talarico on the Floor of the Texas House of Representatives.

Together, we’ve accomplished big things in a red state. 

We reformed the school finance system, dramatically reduced prescription drug costs, improved the quality and affordability of child care, capped Pre-K class sizes, helped schools fight teen fentanyl overdoses, banned harmful reality TV policing, and gave incarcerated minors a chance to earn a high school diploma. For these achievements, I was named one of the 10 Best Legislators by Texas Monthly magazine.

As a former middle school teacher and one of the youngest elected officials in Texas, I’m not afraid to stand up to Republican extremism. I’ve led the fight against their efforts to bully trans kids, ban books, whitewash our history curriculum, gut public education with a private school voucher scam, and force their Christian Nationalist agenda onto the people of Texas.

Former public school teacher and Texas State Representative James Talarico talking to a child in a Texas public school classroom.

I was born in Central Texas to a single mom who fled abuse to protect me. My mom was a fighter and she taught me that Democrats fight for the people; for the many against the powerful few—whether they’re bullies, bigots, or billionaires. That's why I fight for Texans every day in our state Capitol.

Together, we can keep putting people over politics to move Texas forward.

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- State Representative
James Talarico



After Javier Ambler was killed by police officers filming a reality TV show, we partnered with Javier’s family and criminal justice advocates to pass the Javier Ambler Act––banning police departments from contracting with reality TV programs.

Quality and Affordable Child Care

We dramatically expanded our state’s early childhood quality improvement program, passed Texas’ first-ever cap on Pre-K class sizes, and provided historic tax relief to child care centers — reducing child care costs for working families.

Progressive Legislation

I’m committed to building momentum for bold, progressive ideas — no matter how long it takes. I’ve introduced ambitious legislation to give every Texas teacher a $15,000 raise, legalize marijuana, combat climate change, and repeal anti-union laws that keep workers from organizing.

Youth Justice Transformation

We passed legislation to give every incarcerated minor the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and to increase accountability within the scandal-plagued Texas Juvenile Justice Department. And we’ve introduced bold legislation to close Texas’ remaining child prisons and build a system focused on true rehabilitation and, therefore, true public safety.

Fighting the Fentanyl Crisis

While some politicians are exploiting the fentanyl crisis to fearmonger, we’re taking action. We passed legislation to equip every Texas public school with Narcan—the life-saving opioid reversal medication—to fight teen overdoses with real solutions instead of failed war-on-drug policies.


Two years ago, an overnight fire killed 75 loyal companions at a dog kennel in our community. Many of the pet owners had no idea their pets would be left unattended overnight. To prevent this tragedy from ever happening again, I passed legislation to improve kennel safety across the state of Texas.





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  • Strengthen Public Schools
    I’m a former public school teacher. I taught 45 kids in one classroom, in a school so underfunded we didn’t have enough chairs for all the kids. Changing the education system to help students like mine is what inspired me to run for office in 2018. I’ve passed sweeping legislation to reform the school finance system, place the first-ever cap on pre-K class sizes in Texas, improve early childhood education across the state, fund mental health care in schools, and require all incarcerated minors in Texas be given the opportunity to graduate with a high school diploma. Most of my legislation at the Capitol is designed to create a more humane education system—one that treats children as human beings first and students second. That’s why I’ve championed mental health services in schools, scientifically-acurate sex education, restorative justice practices, arts education, wrap-around services, civics education, social-emotional learning, and universal full-day early childhood education. Healthy students need healthy teachers. That’s why I introduced legislation $15,000 across-the-board teacher pay raise with a 25% raise for school support staff. I also support robust benefit plans and pay raises for other school staff, as well as honoring our commitments to retired teachers. We must continue working to provide a sustainable revenue stream for our public education system. I believe we must close tax loopholes that allow commercial property owners to unfairly reduce their taxes, passing the responsibility of funding our schools to residential property owners. From silencing teachers to banning books, our schools are the latest target in the Republican culture wars. But the lesson I took from the classroom to the Capitol remains the same: progress happens when we put kids over politics.
  • Guarantee Universal Health Care
    Health care is a human right, and it should be guaranteed to every Texan. The best way to reduce our state’s high uninsured rate is by expanding Medicaid, but the Texas Legislature refuses to accept billions of our own federal tax dollars available to expand health coverage. That’s putting politics over people. I have supported legislation to expand Medicaid in our state and will continue to work towards its passage. But we must go further: I’ve proposed legislation that would allow every Texan to buy-into Medicaid—creating an affordable public option for the entire state of Texas. I know the failures of our health care system personally. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Even with health insurance, I paid $684 for my first 30-day supply of insulin. I had to put it on a credit card. In the last 20 years, pharmaceutical companies have increased the price of insulin 1200%. Putting profits over people has deadly consequences—Texans with diabetes use GoFundMe pages or the black market to get insulin. And in the richest country in the world, 1 in 4 diabetics risk their lives by rationing their insulin. Insulin should be free, because insulin is a human right. That’s why I passed historic legislation capping insulin copays in Texas at $25 per prescription and major legislation to import low-cost prescription drugs from Canada—saving Texans 60-70% on commonly used medications. These are historic progressive wins, but they’re only a step toward our eventual goal: guaranteed healthcare.
  • Restore Abortion Rights
    I was born to a single mom who relied on Planned Parenthood for her health care. Reproductive justice, health care access, and gender equity are deeply personal issues for me and for many Texans. A person’s decision to have an abortion should be left up to them in consultation with their doctor. The government should not police these decisions. With the radical Supreme Court decision removing the protections of Roe v. Wade and Texas’ extreme no-exceptions abortion ban, our state government is endangering the lives of millions of Texans. Ensuring that women have complete access to health care requires long-term investments in available, affordable, and judgment-free preventative care for all people. My colleagues in the Texas Legislature insist on dictating their radical ideology, I trust Texans to make their own health care decisions. That’s why I filed a bill to let the people decide and put restoring abortion rights on the ballot in Texas. I will continue fighting for women’s health care, expanding family planning services, protecting Planned Parenthood, and restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade.
  • Protect Voting Rights
    Our right to vote is sacred. That’s why—in the wake of Texas Republicans’ blatant voter suppression bill—I led my Democratic colleagues in leaving the state to break quorum. Our quorum break shined a national spotlight on the voter suppression bill and pushed Congress closer to passing federal voting rights protections. Voting is how we shape our destinies. Voting is the first step in funding our schools. Voting is the first step in improving our health care. Voting is the first step in cleaning our air and our water. The goal of voter suppression is to trip us before we take the first step. I support policies to make voting easier, not harder—policies like online voter registration, expanding early voting, increasing polling locations, and repealing voter suppression laws.
  • Combat Climate Change
    Just in the last decade, Texas has endured: historic droughts, devastating wildfires, record high temperatures, five 500 year floods, and the worst winter storm in our state’s history. The Texas Blackout was not our first climate disaster, and it won’t be the last. Texas is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the nation, which means we can lead the country and the world to a safer, cleaner, greener future. Fighting climate change will create new jobs, new businesses, new technologies, and new industries. I filed the Texas Climate Action Act to comprehensively combat climate change by establishing greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, energy efficiency standards, and a resiliency plan with a framework for local involvement. As a former teacher, I have worked alongside environmental activists to file legislation that would institute air and water quality standards in public schools and require teaching climate change in schools. I am committed to continuing to work to set these safety standards to protect and educate Texas kids. By teaching climate change in our schools, we can inspire a new generation of climate activists.
  • Transform Criminal Justice
    In 2019, Javier Ambler—a father of two—was pulled over in North Austin by Williamson County Sheriff’s deputies for not dimming his headlights. The deputies were followed by a camera crew for Live PD, a reality TV show that relies on violent police encounters to boost their ratings. Cameras rolled as deputies tased an unarmed Ambler while he begged for his life. Deputies continued to tase him until he died of congestive heart failure. Live PD destroyed the footage. In the wake of Javier’s murder, I worked with his family to pass one of the only police reform bills in the 87th Legislature—Javier Ambler’s Law—which banned police departments from contracting with reality TV programs. Police violence and mass incarceration disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities. Meanwhile, as a society we have used our law enforcement officers to address poverty, mental illness, and homelessness—all issues we have heard directly from law enforcement they are not equipped to handle. The only way to achieve true public safety is to invest directly in communities—particularly communities of color. We must reform our criminal justice system to center rehabilitation and restoration. Some good first steps would be legalizing marijuana, reforming bail bonds, and divesting from privately-owned prisons. I’ve authored and supported legislation to decrease the use of incarceration and civil penalties, as well as increase rehabilitation and restorative justice programs. I am proud to have supported critical criminal justice reforms like the Sandra Bland Act and George Floyd Act and will continue to fight for their passage. As a former teacher, I know this shift towards restorative justice starts in our public education system. That’s why I’ve passed legislation to disrupt the school to prison pipeline.
  • Expand Affordable Housing
    I was born to a single mom who fled abuse to protect me. One night she packed all our stuff into her Ford Escort and took me to the hotel where she worked. The manager let us stay in one of the rooms until we found an apartment in North Austin. If that happened today, I worry that mom wouldn’t be able to find an apartment she could afford. Housing is a human right. In the richest country on earth, every person should have a place to call home. The housing affordability crisis in Central Texas hurts all of us—apartment dwellers, homeowners, renters, and particularly our un-housed neighbors. It is time for our state government to dramatically step up its efforts to encourage new affordable housing as well as provide relief to homeowners. I voted to raise the statewide homestead exemption from $25,000 to $40,000, netting the average homeowner about $176 in savings. I joint-authored a bill to create a state low-income housing tax credit and will continue to support legislation that will increase the supply of affordable housing and treat this crisis with the urgency it demands.
  • Promote Gun Safety
    I respect the Second Amendment rights of our constituents and believe that Texas should lead the way in promoting safe firearm regulations. The last thing we should do is make it even easier for the wrong people to get a gun—like the Republicans’ permitless carry bill did. The vast majority of Texans agree we need to make our communities safer through common-sense gun safety measures. This means ensuring universal background checks, banning the sale of assault weapons, and restricting gun purchases for people convicted of felonies or violent misdemeanors. I’ve made clear to my colleagues that they can’t get away with offering “thoughts and prayers” rhetoric while loosening gun laws the next day. After more mass shootings in Texas than we can list, I will keep fighting to make our communities safe.
  • Fix the Power Grid
    Texas experienced a humanitarian crisis during Winter Storm Uri. People burned furniture to heat their homes, melted snow to flush their toilets, and risked carbon monoxide poisoning to protect their children. More than 700 Texans died. But this was not a natural disaster; this was a man-made disaster. Texas politicians have tried to throw ERCOT under the bus to deflect attention from our state’s failed policies of deregulation and privatization. That’s why our grid still isn’t prepared for another serious winter storm. Not only are fossil fuels the cause of climate change—which is why we're seeing more severe winter storms in Texas—but the natural gas industry is directly to blame for last year's blackout. A dramatic decrease in natural gas supply was the first domino to fall. Many power plants get their energy from natural gas, so when the natural gas industry refuses to pay the extra money to winterize their equipment the entire system collapses. The cascading failures during the blackout began with the natural gas industry’s greed. After the blackout, Governor Abbott took $4.6 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, including a $1 million check from Kelcy Warren whose energy company made $2.4 billion off the disaster. That's why Abbott went on Fox News during the blackout to absurdly pin the blame on renewable energy. It's also why during the last legislative session, Abbott and Republicans watered down proposed reforms to the natural gas industry. In Texas, we don’t have a limited government, we have a corrupt government. A corrupt government doesn’t build critical infrastructure. A corrupt government doesn’t regulate the natural gas industry. A corrupt government doesn’t tackle climate change. A corrupt government doesn’t keep us safe.
  • Legalize Marijuana
    I support the full legalization of marijuana. Last session I filed a bill to legalize cannabis in Texas, expunge past marijuana convictions, and use the resulting revenue to fund early childhood education. Marijuana legalization is part of ending the racist war on drugs that continues to target Black and Brown communities. Black Americans are 4 times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for marijuana possession even though both groups consume marijuana at the same rate. Marijuana is not a “gateway drug.” Most people who use marijuana do not go on to use harder substances. In fact, medical research suggests alcohol and tobacco are far more dangerous to our health than cannabis. Marijuana has health benefits and can be used to treat ailments like chronic pain, depression, and addiction. That’s why human beings have been using cannabis for more than 3,000 years.
  • Grow the Economy and Jobs
    The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how much our economy works for the few at the expense of the many. For too long, the Texas Legislature has slashed funding for health care, education, and other necessary programs in favor of massive tax incentives for giant corporations. I’m committed to building shared prosperity by increasing the state minimum wage and ensuring equal pay for equal work. I filed bills to enact statewide paid family leave and provide real inflation relief through paused car registration and toll road fees and a new sales tax-free weekend. We can rebuild the Texas economy by guaranteeing safe, good-paying, fulfilling jobs for every Texan who wants one. We must continue strengthening workers’ position in our economy. I believe in the power of collective bargaining and labor unions. That’s why I filed a bill to repeal Texas’ anti-worker “right-to-work-for-less” laws that keep Texans from organizing. To build a 21st century economy in Texas, we must protect worker rights and advance workplace democracy.
  • Advance Social Justice
    I honor the dignity and civil rights of every Texan, including people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, undocumented people, and religious minorities. I work every day to be an ally to underrepresented groups in the Texas Legislature, and I’m committed to always growing and learning how to better represent the diverse communities I serve. For example, Texas has the largest population of Muslims in the country so I introduced legislation to add Imams to the list of religious officials who can perform marriage ceremonies in our state. As a Christian, I try to use my religious privilege to pass inclusive policies. I vocally opposed efforts to require posting the Ten Commandments in every Texas classroom and allowing religious chaplains to replace school counselors. On the floor of the House, I led the fight against Texas Republicans’ racist social studies bill, book banning bill, and hateful anti-trans bill. As a former teacher who taught children of color and trans kids, I found these bills to be personally offensive.
  • Humanize Immigration
    Our immigration system is broken and in desperate need of reform. We make it too difficult for hard-working folks to come to our country legally, which leads them to take desperate measures to chase the American Dream. I believe immigrants are invaluable members of our communities. Regardless of party affiliation, we can all agree that the treatment of children and families at the Texas-Mexico border has been inhumane and indefensible. After reports of abuse and neglect at detention facilities, I traveled to the border myself to inspect the conditions and demand immediate family reunification. In addition to reuniting families, I support empowering our DREAMers, ending indefinite detention, and repealing Senate Bill 4 (the “Show Me Your Papers” bill) that passed during the 85th session. I will fight back against any efforts to force undocumented youth to pay out-of-state tuition or to waste state funding on an expensive and unnecessary border wall. We must empower immigrants in Texas, not demonize them or put up barriers to their success.
  • Lower Property Taxes
    The main driver of rising property taxes is our broken school finance system. Our state government and local school district used to split the cost of public schools evenly, 50-50. But, over the last decade, the state government’s share of public education funding has dropped significantly. Because the Legislature doesn’t pay its fair share of school funding, local districts are left to pick up the tab, raising our property taxes year after year. In 2019, I helped pass property tax buy-downs as part of our school finance reform package, but many Texans are still struggling under the weight of large property tax bills. I’ll make sure the state government pays its fair share of school funding, meaning lower property taxes for all of us.
  • Reform Redistricting
    In 2021, Republicans used their anti-democracy tactics to gerrymander my district. They tried to get rid of me by dividing the communities of color in my district; by silencing their voice; by robbing them of their power. The people I swore a sacred oath to represent. But I refused to let them win that easily. I moved back home to the district where I grew up—and the voters had the last word. Immediately after winning re-election, I filed legislation to create a citizen-led independent redistricting commission to draw fair district lines that allow for equal electoral representation for all Texans. Gerrymandering is bad for Republicans and for Democrats—it is bad for democracy.
  • Support Retirees
    Our state government has a moral responsibility to provide security to public sector retirees like teachers, state employees, and first responders for their years of committed public service to the people of Texas. Rising cost-of-living expenses have made it more difficult than ever to retire. For our retirees, we must strengthen defined benefit plans and ensure affordable health insurance. As a former public school teacher, I am working to protect and improve the benefits owed to teachers and administrators after they leave the classroom. I was proud to support legislation that increased the state’s contribution to the Texas Retirement System (TRS) and gave retirees a “13th check.” While this was a much-needed step in the right direction, there is much more work to be done to ensure we keep our state's promise to our educators and public service employees.
  • Respect Local Control
    During past sessions, state leaders overruled local communities—particularly Austin—on a variety of issues from tree ordinances to property tax caps. As a state lawmaker, I believe we should be listening to city council members, county officials, police chiefs, and school board trustees about what their communities need. No one wants the Texas Legislature to become the City Council of Texas. I will continue partnering with the local leadership in my district to represent their interests at the state capitol.
  • Prioritize Traffic Solutions and Infrastructure
    Texas needs to invest in the infrastructure necessary to reduce traffic without relying on tolls. Our outdated roads and highways threaten to slow growth and make commuting to work take longer and longer. It’s time the Legislature take seriously the idea of a high-speed rail system and robust public transportation systems in urban and suburban areas, and work to rebuild Texas’ vast network of highways, toll-free.​
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