On January 10, 2023, the Texas Legislature will begin its 88th regular session. Thanks to voter suppression and electoral map gerrymandering, Republicans control both chambers comfortably, meaning Democrats will again have to fight exceptionally hard to intercept the barrage of attacks we’re about to see the far-right inflict on LGBTQIA+ Texans, public school teachers and administrators, voters of color, disabled voters, election administrators, and, weird as it feels to say this aloud, books.
In the last session, extremist lawmakers with help from the governor’s mansion curtailed access to the ballot box through SB1, denied pregnant people their freedom to choose through SB8, and encouraged the distortion and whitewashing of our history through SB3. We know these extremists, emboldened by the results of November’s elections, will double down on their dangerous agenda for our state to satisfy a vocal, hateful minority.
To prepare you for the long and hard fight in 2023, here’s what we know so far and what we think is going to happen.
First, the bad news
As soon as bill filing opened, extremist lawmakers began filing bills that attack transgender and queer people. We’re not surprised that the LGBTQIA+ community is being targeted by hateful bills under the guise of parental rights. One example is a bill that filers have claimed is meant to define child abuse; when actually it is an attempt by dangerous politicians to discourage families from providing life-saving, gender-affirming care for vulnerable members of their households.
There’s a bill to have health insurance cover conversion therapy—clearly an attempt to make it easier for politicians and shady medical professionals to force disputed, unethical practices on LGBTQIA+ Texans.
Some bills seek to dictate how kids play sports. Another poorly-disguised attempt to stop transgender kids from being themselves.
There is a bill that wants to remove voting locations from college campuses, loosely worded as “any public institution, primary or secondary school,” under the guise of protecting “election integrity.” The thinly-veiled, intentional disenfranchisement of this bill cannot be overemphasized. Given that young voters represent the highest number of new voter registrations in Texas in the last year, denying them an opportunity to vote on their campuses is yet another example of far-right attempts at voter suppression. Already this year, we saw the negative impact of these polling place removal tactics at Texas A&M, Huston-Tillotson, and other college campuses. We should be working to expand voting access for young people, not making it harder for them to use their voices.
In addition to that, six different bills seek to raise the penalty for illegal voting. We know that many voters, either overwhelmed or confused by the new voting laws, did not show up in the 2022 elections like they would if lawmakers hadn’t made this civic duty harder to perform. As we’ve seen in the past with SB1, we know these are all attempts to intimidate voters because extremist lawmakers know their policies are unpopular among a majority of Texans and a fair election would reflect that reality. Every Texas voter should be able to cast their ballot without fear of a system designed to confuse.
Now, the good news
TFN will focus on school vouchers, building on our recent victory at the State Board of Education, where members overwhelmingly voted to reject private school vouchers. However, we won’t know the scope of the fight until all committee chairs are selected. But while we wait, we will continue our fight against educational censorship like this bill that would create state-mandated ratings for school library books based on what’s age appropriate. We know such a system only empowers government officials to censor what students and families can read, creating room for politicized decisions in our classrooms.
There’s a bill to repeal the constitutional provision that says marriage is between a man and a woman. If successful, this bill would hedge against any far-right attempt to deny LGBTQIA+ Texans their full freedom within the law. In addition, another bill proposes a constitutional amendment that protects individual privacy. Together, these bills could restrict the legislature from doing further damage to pregnant people’s freedom to make their own choices.
Finally, there’s a bill to create a separate committee on redistricting. If successful, this bill could impact the state’s electoral map for the next election. Redistricting is a critical factor that determines the fate of future elections in a state that is already under-representative of its majority voting population’s interests and will.
While we expect an onslaught of horrible bills in the new year as filing continues, we are prepared and determined to defend Texans of all faiths and backgrounds against extremist lawmakers in the Texas Legislature. It’ll be a long fight and we will need everyone.
We know you’re committed to defending and expanding our progressive values across the state, starting at the Capitol. We are relentless, and our fight continues as we brace for a challenging legislative session ahead. You can join us by signing the #pledgetolege!