We just sent out the following statement on the end of the 2019 session of the Texas Legislature.
Elections Matter: November Results Made It Harder to Pass Divisive Legislation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2019
AUSTIN – Elections matter, especially after November contests that were more competitive than the state has seen in many years, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said at the end of the legislative session today.
“It seems that just about the only person at the Capitol who didn’t get that message this session was Dan Patrick,” Miller said. “The lieutenant governor and his allies doubled down on the culture wars, but they had a hard time selling that divisive agenda to colleagues rightly worried that they are now more vulnerable in general elections than in the past.”
Miller pointed to a number of important wins for equality and economic justice in Texas. Lt. Gov. Patrick’s efforts to undermine local nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Texans helped derail bills killing ordinances on earned paid sick time from working families. Just one of a raft of other bills allowing religion to be used as a legal justification for anti-LGBT discrimination made it through the Legislature, and that single bill – SB1978 – was substantially watered down by the end. In addition, lawmakers for the first time in decades made no serious effort to defund public education through a private school voucher scheme.
Even so, the years-long legislative assault on abortion and access to reproductive health care services continued. A few examples:
- Lawmakers passed legislation barring cities and counties from working with Planned Parenthood to provide birth control and services like screenings for sexually transmitted infections and cancer for low-income Texans.
- In a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation, the Senate refused to approve a House-passed bill allowing low-income teens to obtain birth control through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The Senate even toyed with legislation making it harder to teach sex education in public schools.
- The Senate passed a shocking bill forcing women to carry to term pregnancies involving severe and nonsurvivable fetal anomalies. The bill failed on the House side.
- Hundreds of anti-abortion activists celebrated at a House committee hearing a proposed bill that would have banned abortion and made women who have one subject to execution.
The session will also be remembered for failed efforts by Republican leaders to deal with an expanding and more diverse electorate by limiting access to the ballot. A Senate-passed bill that would have undermined efforts to increase turnout among eligible voters didn’t make it through the House. In addition, Secretary of State David Whitley failed to win Senate confirmation after his bogus “voter fraud” claims threatened to purge tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls.
“There was a sense of desperation in these efforts to change the electoral rules to lock in majorities for a while longer and to pass as much culture war legislation as possible in the meantime,” Miller said. “They know the clock is ticking. But so many of their efforts during the session will alienate the young, diverse generation of voters who are coming of age right now and seeing that their votes do matter and can make a big impact in the next election.”
The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization building an informed and effective movement for equality and social justice.