Just to Clarify

Why is there a definition of “sex” in a bill about ride-sharing services?

House Bill 100 creates a new chapter in the Occupations Code to regulate drivers hired by ride-sharing services, which the bill calls “transportation network companies” (TNCs).  The bill specifically states that regulating TNCs “(1) is an exclusive power and function of this state; and (2) may not be regulated by a municipality or other local entity . . . .”

This is yet another move on the part of the Republican-dominated state government to take power away from cities (many of which Republicans do not carry in state-wide elections), counties, and school districts.  In the bill analysis supporters say this:

The bill would be an acceptable infringement on local control because current municipal regulations are eroding, not protecting liberty. Local control is a tool to increase freedoms, rather than an end goal in and of itself. Unlike the state’s relationship to the federal government, Texas municipalities are creations of the state, which grants their powers, so it would be acceptable for the state to limit local control of TNC rules.

In other words, the Legislature thinks they should get to decide if your community’s decisions protect liberty and freedom in the way the State wants it protected and for the benefit of those the Legislature wants to protect. (How exactly the inherent rights of home-rule cities, including the right to referendum, fits into this is a subject for another day.)

This power grab is evidenced by this bill, the sanctuary cities bill, the bathroom bill, the short-term rentals bill, and the plastic bags bill, just in this session.

So what does HB 100 have to do with sex or gender?

HB 100 requires TNCs to adopt anti-discrimination policies that prohibit drivers from “discriminating on the basis of a passenger’s or potential passenger’s location or destination, race, color, national origin, religious belief or affiliation, sex, disability, or age . . . .”  Rep. Tony Tenderholt offered an amendment to this section to clarify that “ ‘sex’ means the physical condition of being male or female.”

As Tenderholt himself said, “The bottom line is there’s no huge reason behind it. I just wanted to clarify.”

The author of the bill, Rep. Chris Paddie, said he didn’t think the amendment would affect transgender people because “if you’re transitioning from a male to a female, you’re still one or the other.” I guess that’s one reading of the amendment.  https://www.texastribune.org/2017/04/20/house-democrats-disavow-ride-hailing-bill-after-addition-sex-amendment/

The amendment was approved and the bill was passed.  The companion bill in the Senate, SB 176, is pending in committee.  The text, analysis, and history of HB 100 can be found here: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=85R&Bill=HB100

In case you are lucky enough to have forgotten about some of Tenderholt’s other work, he’s the one who introduced HB 948, which made abortion the legal equivalent of murder.  His reasoning was, to quote him clarifying things for us again, “Right now, it’s real easy. Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’ Now, we both know that consenting adults don’t always think smartly sometimes. But consenting adults need to also consider the repercussions of the sexual relationship that they’re gonna have, which is a child,”  https://www.texasobserver.org/texas-lawmaker-no-abortion-access-would-force-women-to-be-more-personally-responsible-with-sex/   In spite of his language about “consenting adults,” Tenderholt does not support allowing abortion for pregnancies resulting from rape nor does his bill make the father an accessory to the “crime” of abortion.

Daily Resistance at the Capitol

Far-right extremists in the Legislature are waging an all out war on Texas’ rural familiesmothers, people of color, workers, women, retired teachers, and schools. The harm they have done to our communities are not because of just one bill, or even a few. The oppressive state of voting rights, worker rights, women’s rights, health care, education, and basic services for Texans in need is the cumulative effect of thousands of bills passed over decades.

Our Chapter has aligned with a broad coalition of progressive advocates to focus on building the collective power of our movement in Texas and in the state legislature. Whether you can join us for a few hours on one day, or every day, your support matters, and it will make a difference.

Every Monday through Thursday, we’re asking anyone who’s able to join us at the Capitol to register FOR, AGAINST OR NEUTRAL ON EVERY BILL that is scheduled for a hearing on that day.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up to get emailed the next day’s bill list here. The next day’s bill list will go out the night before. 
  2. Every night, you’ll get a bill list with Committee hearing times. Keep in mind that hearings are generally in the morning, with the latest hearings usually starting in the afternoon, at 2:30pm. Generally, you can register your position electronically on every bill or issue at a kiosk, but for some bills that won’t be the case.
  3. Hearings are generally in the Capitol Extension. Sometimes, for some of the more controversial bills, the State Affairs committee will hear testimony on the Senate or House floor. If that’s the case, you can just walk in, ask a clerk where the form to register your position is, and wait your turn to testify. But mainly you’ll be in the Extension. To get to there, Walk through the Rotunda, towards the elevators, and go to E1 or E2. There are also staircases leading down into the extension behind the large staircases that go up to the Senate gallery. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone you see–they’ll tell you how to get to where you need to go. Here’s a map.

If you plan to testify, but are unsure about the process, don’t worry! We’ve got an informative, easy-to-understand how-to here. There’s really nothing to it.

Even if you don’t plan to testify, we hope you’ll get to the capitol to register your opposition or support for the bills we’re tracking. It takes two minutes. You step in, sign onto public wi-fi, navigate to , register your position on a bill, and that’s it. Super easy. NB: The Senate is not as electronically savvy as the House, so you’ll need to register your position on Senate bills at a kiosk.

To help inform positions on bills, we’ve asked numerous progressive organizations to share their legislative agendas, as well as drawn from our own priority bill list. Based on that information, daily bill lists of every bill scheduled for hearing will be emailed and available at the Capitol for advocates to reference.

We’ll be at the capitol as a point of contact. You can reach us most easily via DM on Twitter. The packets will also be posted in the private Facebook Group here.

You can also receive the packets via email by signing up at http://bit.ly/txlegeresistance.

The goal and strategy of the #txlege resistance is to harness and leverage the mobilization power of the various organizations and issues we support to 1) increase our impact on bills that matter most to each our communities and 2) make sure elected officials know we are watching every bill, not just a few.

Now it’s time to let politicians know that we’re paying attention, we’re united and we’re fighting for all Texans, all the time.

Every step of the way our communities are committed to resisting. We will persist and we will participate in democracy to the fullest extent.

Join us at the capitol.

Actions for the week.

 

How to Make a List of Bills to Track in the Texas Legislature

The Texas Legislature only meets for 5 months every 2 years. Due to the condensed time frame, the sheer volume of bills can be dizzying, and covering them and knowing what fresh hell the Texas GOP and the mega-wealthy lobbies behind them are trying to push through can be hard to keep track of.

We’re doing our best to keep the process out in the daylight. First, have a look at our Intro to the Texas Legislature Online here, get familiar with the site, and create an account.

Once you’ve created an account, create a list of bills you’d like to track. Here’s how:

1. Navigate your web browser to the Texas Legislature Online:

http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/

2. Click on “My TLO”.

3. Click “Bill List”.

4. You’ll be prompted to sign in. If you haven’t already, create an account – it’s simple to do, just make sure you use a secure password and that the email account you use has Two-Factor Authentication enabled.

5. Enter a name for your Bill List and a brief description. Then click “Create”. You should then be able to Edit your Bill List.

6. Enter the numeric name of the bill you’d like to track in the left field and a brief description for your own reference (Such as, “HB1261” and “We support-would prohibit charter schools from discrimination against students on basis of their discipline history in admission policy”)

7. Once you’ve entered your desired bills, click “Save”, then click “Run”. You may then download your list of bills as a pdf if you’d like.

And that’s it! You’re up and running. Let us know how it goes in the Comments!

As always, be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

How to Testify at a Texas Legislative Committee Hearing

In Texas, mega-wealthy industrial lobbies have bought and paid for most of the GOP candidates at every level of our state government. This is a fact. These lobbies install hard-right extremists who vote the way they are instructed to by the lobby think tank, the shadowy industrialists get their rich friends rewarded, and their political arm–the Texas GOP, which exists only to do the bidding of the rich and powerful–stays in power.

But things are changing. And citizen activists terrify these people. Participation is fundamental in taking Texas back. But we can’t win if we don’t show up.

A huge component of showing up entails physically going to the capitol and testifying at a committee hearing. We’ll be doing this a lot.

However, most people have never provided testimony before a Senate or House Committee. Many of us are conditioned to equate things that are new with things that are uncomfortable or scary. Not to worry!

Donna Howard put together a wonderful infographic with steps on how to testify at a Texas Legislative Committee Hearing, and we thought we’d post on this subject and help demystify what this process is like and what you can expect. You can do it! In fact, you must.

For quick reference, you can quickly find upcoming Committee Hearings page at the Texas Legislature Online, under Committees. The most controversial bills are typically sent to the State Affairs Committee in both the House and the Senate.

Before the Hearing

  1. Know when to testify – Track bills, issue areas & committee hearings by signing up for alerts at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us. We keep track of harmful legislation here, and we’ve got a post that walks you through how to use the Texas Legislature Online here if you’d like to make a list of your own bills to track. You should also follow us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates about what’s going on with certain bills, and when we’ll be at the capitol to testify, where committee hearings are taking place, etc.
  2. Make sure you can testify – Many committee hearings allow public testimony, but some only allow invited witnesses. Check the hearing notice!
  3. Practice your speech – Testimony is generally limited to 3 minutes. Prepare 2-3 minutes of comments, and run through it a few times.

Getting to the Capitol

  1. Parking near the building – The Capitol’s Visitor Parking Garage is located at 12th & Trinity, but it’s just as easy to park on the street around the capitol. We use an app called ParkX whenever we have to park downtown in Austin–you can just link a debit card to the app and “feed the meter” from your cel phone, without having to go back to your car. There’s metered street parking around the capitol, so you might consider bring quarters. We haven’t had any problem finding a spot on the street lately (even during SXSW), but it’s a good idea to give yourself a good 15 minute cushion before registration begins to find parking.
  2. Getting to the capitol – There are entrances on the north, south, east, and west sides of the capitol. The security checkpoints are there for everyone’s safety; don’t let the state troopers carrying machine guns intimidate you! The troopers are really quite friendly. I mean, it’s Texas y’all.
  3. Find the kiosks – You’ll find electronic kiosks–essentially iPads in a black plastic frame–near each of the committee hearing rooms. This is where you will register to provide testimony. The interface is simple–it’s a web-based form that you enter your name, address, and then you’ll denote whether you’re testifying “On” (neutral), “For”, or “Against” the bill.

    You can even log on to the public Wi-fi and register your position on the bill on your own device, by navigating to http://hwrs.house.state.tx.us/ and just following the instructions on the screen.

  4. You don’t have to give spoken testimony – Remember that the kiosks will give you the option of registering support or opposition without providing testimony. So even if you aren’t planning on staying through the entire Committee hearing, it’s always good to get down to the capitol and register your support for or opposition to a bill.
  5. Get comfortable – Arrive early, but expect to stay late. The sessions are unpredictable. Some hearings are short, but some can be very long.

When It’s Your Turn

  1. How it works – Generally, your name will be called and you’ll be invited to the podium. State your name, who you’re representing, and whether you are for, against, or “on” (neutral) the bill. For example, “My name is Mary Ross, I’m representing myself, and I’m here to testify against the bill.” Simple, we know, but many folks forget this part only to have the committee chair interrupt them.
  2. Be nice – Your testimony can be passionate, but always be respectful.
  3. Be concise – You’ll probably only have 2-3 minutes, so make it count!
  4. Be personal – Tell the Committee how this legislation will impact you, your family, and your friends. Tell your story.
  5. Bring copies – If you’re providing written copies of your testimony (for example, you may have data and supplemental material that backs up the points you’re making in your testimony), the Committee will ask for 20 printed copies. At the beginning of your testimony you can just say “I’ve provided written copies for all the members of the Committee to supplement some of the points I’ll make in my testimony today and I’ll be glad to distribute those” and a page will distribute.
  6. Follow up – Email the committee members to provide additional information. You can find them here: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/Committees/Membership.aspx

You did it!

Thanks to Donna Howard and her team for making this excellent infographic! Here’s the original infographic. Let us know how your testimony goes in the comments below.

Hang in There; Friday is Coming

Tomorrow, March 10th, is the sixtieth day of this Texas Legislative Session. That makes it the last day most kinds of new bills can be filed.  In other words, the flow of fresh hell in the form of shockingly bad legislation should slow way down.  And both the Texas House and Senate have adjourned until 2 pm on Monday. (There are committee meetings scheduled for Monday morning.)

Of course, you can still call their offices tomorrow.

And you should.  Several bills you may care about have been moved out of committee and to the Senate as a whole for second reading on Monday.  In lege talk, this means that these bills are up for debate and amendment on the Senate floor for the first time.  (First reading is when bills are introduced and then sent to a committee for review.)  The following bills are on the “Notice of Intent,” the agenda, for Monday.

SB 6 (the so-called bathroom bill)

SB 8 (bans most donations of fetal tissue for research; bans some forms of abortion by dilation and extraction, sometimes dishonestly called partial-birth abortion)

SB 258 (adds a new notice form on the option of burial or cremation for the “unborn child” as part of the already existing notices a woman seeking an abortion must be given; requires doctors to keep the notice for seven years)

SB 415 (bans abortion by dilation and evacuation, dishonestly called a dismemberment abortion)

When you do call your senator, you may want to remind him (all but eight of them are men) that women have a Constitutional right to abortion; both dilation and extraction and dilation and evacuation are very safe procedures; and the decision on which form of abortion is best is one that should be made by the doctor caring for the patient, not a bunch of senators who don’t even know the right names for things.

More on all of these bills can be found here: http://txlege.indivisible.blue/act-now/actions-for-the-week/

SB25: “Eliminating the Wrongful Birth Cause of Action”

Quick take: If this is an issue you care deeply about, by all means call your representatives or testify at the hearing. There will be bigger battles ahead.

On Monday, Feb. 27 there is a public hearing at 9 a.m. in the Senate Chamber on Senate Bill 25 “Relating to eliminating the wrongful birth cause of action.” (“Cause of action” is a legal term which basically just means grounds for filing a lawsuit.)

This is an anti-abortion bill, no question. But it’s going to affect a very small percentage of women. The vast majority of abortions take place before information about potential fetal abnormalities would even be available. And SB25 doesn’t prohibit a doctor from providing information, nor does it completely protect one for withholding information.

It does shield a health care provider from one possible cause of action, but there could still be a cause of action for medical malpractice for any consequence other than abortion—like failure to provide proper prenatal care if the woman were at higher risk as a result. (For example, some spinal defects can be treated in utero.)

In other words, this bill is bad but not as bad as lots of them. Also, a woman has a legal right to an abortion with a few limits. A creative lawyer could sue on some version of denial of civil rights.

There is an argument based on fiscal responsibility to made against any bill that is almost guaranteed to lead to litigation. Huge amounts of taxpayer money has been spent on lawsuits because of legislation that is unconstitutional on its face.

Further reading:

Texas Senators Consider Wrongful Birth Law

Should wrongful birth lawsuits be permitted in Texas?