A marathon session in the Texas House on that chamber’s version of the state budget ended in the wee hours of this morning with a big victory in our fight against school voucher schemes but distressing actions in the continuing war on women’s reproductive health care.
Big Defeat for Voucher Schemes
On the positive side, the House overwhelmingly rejected Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s reckless crusade to take money from neighborhood public schools and use those funds to subsidize private and religious schools instead. House members voted 103-44 for a budget amendment by state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, barring any state funding for private school voucher schemes — including so-called “education savings accounts” and “tax credit scholarships” championed by Lt. Gov. Patrick. Even better: a later effort to carve out a voucher scheme in the House budget also went down in flames.
Those votes sent a clear message to Lt. Patrick and the Senate: stop attacking neighborhood public schools that educate more than 5 million Texas schoolchildren. The Legislature has no business funding private and religious schools that aren’t accountable to taxpayers and don’t have to meet the same standards as our public schools.
Women’s Health and LGBT Equality
On the other hand, the far right used the House budget bill to continue its war on women’s reproductive health care, including access to family planning services and abortion.
In an appalling deal toward the end of the debate last night, religious-righters in the House traded a vote on an amendment requiring discrimination against transgender people in public restrooms in exchange for barring any state funding for family planning and other health care services Planned Parenthood provides to low-income women.
Pitting the rights of transgender Texans against women’s health care was despicable. Worse still, the House also voted to continue pouring millions of dollars into “crisis pregnancy centers” and other so-called “alternative to abortion” organizations. Rather than providing real medical services to pregnant, low-income women, those outfits exist largely to keep women from seeking an abortion. Once gain, anti-abortion politics trumped women’s health care.
So now what?
The deal by religious-righters to hold off for now on a vote to discriminate against transgender people is only a temporary delay in their attacks on LGBT Texans. It’s critical that supporters of equality continue to contact legislators to oppose any anti-LGBT discrimination bills and amendments in the last two months of the session — including the 17 bills that would allow government, private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate.
It’s also important to continue demanding that the Legislature stop its attacks on women’s health care and instead protect the right of women to make their own reproductive health care decisions. And TFN and our coalition partners still need your help to stop any further efforts to pass a voucher scheme in the last two months of the legislative session.