The Texas legislature only meets every other year. So, with the last day of session rapidly approaching, the past few days – yes, even including the weekend – have been wild. The result: A lot of harmful policies are closer to becoming law. Here’s a roundup of the legislature’s troubling actions over past couple of days:
Private School Vouchers. After the Senate passed a school voucher bill, the House adamantly rejected the idea, barring funding for vouchers in its budget proposal. Unbowed, the Senate has moved two more voucher proposals, including tacking vouchers onto a popular school finance bill. This weekend, the Senate approved the newly voucher-laden bill and sent it back to the House. Now, with time short, the House needs to decide what to do. Public funds should be for public schools. Vouchers weaken our public schools where 90 percent of children attend. Taxpayers can’t afford to fund two different education systems – one public and one religious. We’re weighing in and if you live in Texas, you should too. Urge your representative to oppose any voucher provision, including what was added to school financing House Bill 21.
Discrimination In Adoption And Foster Care Services. The Senate gave final approval to a bill that would allow taxpayer-funded child welfare service providers to use religion to justify treating families unfairly and ignoring the best interests of children. Religious freedom guarantees us the right to believe or not as we see fit. But it does not give taxpayer-funded service providers the right to refuse to place a child with an otherwise qualified same-sex married couple or with her grandparents because they are Jewish; to deny family support services to a child and his family because his father had been previously divorced; or to withhold access to reproductive health care from a teen in foster care who has been sexually abused. If you live in Texas, take action now and urge Gov. Greg Abbott to veto this discriminatory bill.
A lot of harmful policies are closer to becoming law in Texas.
Stoking Anti-Muslim Sentiment. The Senate also approved HB 45 (which passed the House earlier this month) that is aimed at interfering with the religious practice of Muslims. The motive behind HB 45 and bills like it in other states is clear: disparage one religion and those who practice it. But no one should be singled out for discrimination because of their religious beliefs. We’re urging Abbott to veto this harmful bill.
Yes, There’s More. As part of what folks called Discrimination Sunday, the House tacked on a provision to an unrelated school bill that would sanction discrimination against transgender school children. The Senate is expected to approve the measure this week. In addition, the Texas House amended and passed SB 8, banning the most common abortion procedure used for miscarriages and abortion care after 13 weeks of pregnancy on top of the host of abortion restrictions already in the bill. The bill goes back to the Senate for final approval.
The Texas legislature managed to do an awful lot of bad things in just a few days. But we should all watch out because there’s time to do more – the legislature doesn’t adjourn until next week.