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/

SB6: “Bathroom Bill” Action Item Update – Public Hearing March 7th

SB6 Public Hearing

On Tuesday, March 7th, the Legislature has a public hearing scheduled on SB6, Dan Patrick’s wildly unpopular, and utterly pointless “bathroom bill”.

The hearing begins at 8 a.m. in room E1.012 (in the Capitol Extension, underground). Click here for a map of the Capitol complex and here for a map of the Extension so you know exactly where you’re going. Testimony will run through most of the day. We need to fill the gallery.

Make a plan for how you’re going to get there, and give yourself a good 10 to 15 minutes to find parking.

Book Drive

Actions for Americans has organized a book drive to educate our lawmakers on what life is actually like for transgender people and their families, and to buy a copy of the extraordinary book Becoming Nicole for Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and every member of the Texas Legislature.

We need to hit this goal so that the books can be handed out at the Capitol on Monday, March 6th, during Trans Lobby Day.

Overcoming the fear of people who are different from us has always been one of humanity’s greatest struggles, but the fact is, all human beings deserve justice and dignity. That goes for everyone–black, white or brown; male, female or transgender; Muslim, Jewish or Christian. That respect for basic dignity is what our Constitution is based on, and that is what makes this country great.

The book drive is a vitally important step toward educating those who remain willfully ignorant–our Texas state legislators.

Donate now.

Action Item

Again, Dan Patrick and the GOP keep trying to use a widely debunked “bathroom predator myth” to nominally support this bill. There is 0 evidence for this claim. None. This is an absurd defense. You can’t isn’t even call it a logical fallacy. In reality, this bill is really a pretext to give the state and autocrats like Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott more power than local governments, but that is another discussion.

Right now it’s time for action.

  1. Call your State Senator, and call your State House Representative. They need to know that you are vehemently opposed to this legislation, and that you are watching them closely, with an eye on the 2018 Texas State elections. Click Not sure who that is? Click here.
  2. Call a friend or family member who lives in another Texas county. Discuss this issue with them. Ask them if they know who their state rep is. What has their legislator done for them lately that has really improved their financial situation? Are they aware that their legislator is probably bought and paid for by an industrial special interest? (I’ll be posting on dark money in TX politics later). It’s important that the culture of fear and disinformation our lawmakers willfully deploy is addressed in real time, with friends, family members, and neighbors. This is our state, not theirs. Don’t let them pit us against each other.
  3. Donate to the book drive. Texas legislators have tried to hide behind their own ignorance for long enough.

Click here if you’d like to read a the text of the SB6 bill itself with plain English annotations.

Click here to find your state rep.

SB21 Update: Convention of States Senate Vote Tuesday, February 28th

In addition to facilitating mass deportations and terrorizing hard-working immigrant families, another one of the “emergency items” that Governor Greg Abbott has pressured GOP loyalists in the legislature to fast-track to approval is that of adding Texas’ name to the roll call for a “Convention of the States”; recall that Article V Conventions are one of the mechanisms whereby the Constitution may be amended.  And on Tuesday, the upper chamber of the Texas Legislature is expected to approve Senate Joint Resolution 2 and Senate Bill 21 and send them to the House.

38 of the 50 states’ legislatures would be required to call such a Convention, and it’s important to note that in U.S. history, every single state except Hawaii has applied for an Article V Convention at one point or another. There’s no official count, but one private estimate has the count at somewhere around 700 attempts.

The author of the bill is State Sen. Brian Birdwell, a Granbury Republican; that’s US Congressional District 11 for those of you keeping track at home. (There’s no Indivisible chapter for District 11–yet.) In an interview in today’s Houston Chronicle, Birdwell defended the resolution by saying:

“I believe we’re at the precipice of history that we’ve not seen before. For years, we have watched the executive, judicial and legislative branches usurp more and more power from the states, issuing dictates that become de facto law.”

Before the Trump era, Greg Abbott and the Texan far-right used the perception of federal over-reach to rally the far-right against their perceived foe, President Obama. Now that their agenda aligns perfectly with Trump’s, why vote to have the Convention of States? When pressed on the issue, Abbott said it’s because “term limits.” We are extremely skeptical.

In other words, this could give Trump the power to amend the Constitution. That would be very, very bad.

(Editor’s note: Our initial characterization of Article V was inaccurate–if a Convention were called, Trump would have no official say, since 3/4 of the 38 voting members would have to vote for a Constitutional amendment to be made, and it would be the state legislature reps doing the amending. Nevertheless, call your reps anyway. As we’ve pointed out before, Abbott and the Texas Legislature are looking to outdo even the brazen stupidity and ignorance of the Trump administration. A Convention of States would give them that platform.)

In normal times, maybe we would probably just dismiss this as another crackpot scheme to grab headlines and stir up the base. These are not normal times.

Use this tool, call your State Senators and Reps, and just make sure they oppose Senate Bill 21 and Senate Joint Resolution 2.


UPDATE, February 28th: 

The Texas Senate gave its initial approval to a call for a Convention of States to consider amendments to the U.S. Constitution by a 20 to 11 vote on Senate Joint Resolution 2  today and this is now headed to the House.

The Senate also agreed to impose a state jail penalty on a legislator who violates his or her oath as a delegate to a potential national Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution.

We’ll keep monitoring it and are working on an automated tool that tracks the status of bills in the Texas legislature.

In the mean time, use this tool, call your State Representatives, and voice your opposition to Senate Bill 21 and Senate Joint Resolution 2.

SB6: Action Item Update for Monday, February 27th

Donate to Help Educate Texans on Trans Issues

Throughout history, one of the ongoing struggles we have always faced is overcoming fear of people who are different from us.

Our Texas lawmakers have a long way to go on that front. So Indivisible is helping to raise funds to buy 185 copies of a book called Becoming Nicole, to distribute to each of our Texas state legislators, Lieutenant Governor, and Governor.

The book tells the story of a family with a transgender child, their journey, and the science behind gender.

The book is outstanding, and we hope that it will educate both our elected officials and that Texans will hear about it and read it for themselves. If people actually understand some of what Trans people experience, they surely will oppose SB 6, the bathroom bill.

Don’t let Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and the members of this legislature hide behind their ignorance. Please help us reach our goal.

Donate & Share: Help Texans Learn About Trans Issues

Show up: The books will be distributed as part of Trans Lobby Day on March 6 in Austin. More info here: Trans Lobby Day 2017

New data on the Trump effect in Texas legislative districts

This morning the Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek published a fascinating look at how district-by-district data suggests that Texas State legislative districts that traditionally elect GOP representatives all went to Clinton in the 2016 election, based on some newly available statistics.

District-by-district data suggests Dems might be able to go on the offensive in 2018 legislative races

From the article:

The question in those districts, like so many surrounding Trump’s election across the country, is whether the dramatic swings in 2016 were meaningful shifts that could have implications in future elections. That question is particularly pressing for the 11 Texas Republicans now representing districts that voted for Clinton, all of whom are up for re-election in 2018.

What this ultimately means going forward is that it is up to us. Yes, Texas is traditionally thought of as a deep-Red state. In reality, Texas would be more accurately described as a non-voting state.

If Donald Trump’s historical unpopularity doesn’t drive us to raise awareness of how crucial a role the state legislature and Texas state government is going to play is going to play–in gerrymandering Congressional districts, passing racist voter suppression laws, deporting millions of people and herding them into modern day internment camps, and doing away with basic civil liberties–then this will all have been a moot point. We have got to step up at the state level and fight back.

So my challenge for each visitor to this page is: talk to 3 people a day, in person, about voting for in the Texas state elections in 2018. Talk about where your representative stands on the issues.

Now is the time for Texans to demand that our state government listens to us, not wealthy GOP campaign contributors, not lobbyists, and certainly not the Trump administration.

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?

 

Sen. Kirk Watson Introduces Bills to Protect Sexual Assault Victims

In response to the ongoing scandals at Baylor University, State Senator Kirk Watson (District 14) has introduced a suite of bills aimed at strengthening sexual assault laws and protecting victims.

SB 967: Closes several loopholes in the Penal Code’s definition of “consent” for sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault.

SB 970: Requires an affirmative consent standard across all institutions of higher education.

SB 966: Protects minors who report sexual assault to health care providers, law enforcement personnel, or Title IX coordinators from being prosecuted for underage possession or consumption of alcohol.

SB 969: Provides amnesty to students who commit a student conduct code violation ancillary to a sexual assault incident if they are a victim of that sexual assault or a reporting witness.

SB 968: Requires institutions to provide an option to students and employees to electronically report an incident of sexual assault, family violence, or stalking. The electronic option must include the option to report anonymously.

Read Senator Watson’s Statement Here.