It’s almost midnight for civil rights in Texas

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It looks like it’s going to come down to the wire with the Texas legislature. At midnight tonight the 85th legislative session comes to an end. Governor Greg Abbott is playing coy on whether he will call back the members of the House and Senate to continue to work on 2 contentious pieces of legislation. Gov. Abbott says he’ll announce later this week if he’ll call a “Special Session.”

The House has already passed a bill that would keep the Texas Sunset Commission in place for the next two years, the Senate has not. This is a group of 5 commissioners that decides what state agencies to keep in place or remove if they feel they are obsolete. One of the most important agencies in this cycle is the Texas Medical Board which is the licensing agency in Texas. Without this board no new licenses for doctors can be issued or renewed.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is obsessed with passing a “bathroom bill”, is holding the Sunset Commission hostage knowing that if a bill for the commission to continue does not pass, Gov. Abbott will be forced into calling a special session. With no special session the following boards of licensing and renewal would be shut down September 1st. Here are just a few of the critical state boards that would be shut down because of Patrick’s obsession with a “bathroom bill”: State Bar of Texas, State Board of Dental Examiners, State Board of Law Examiners, Texas Medical Board, Texas Nursing Board, Texas Optometry Board, Texas State Board of Pharmacy, Railroad Commission of Texas, Texas Board of Examiners of Psychologists and the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. To see all of the boards at risk of elimination you can go here.

Speaker Straus had offered a compromise to Lt. Gov. Patrick on the “Bathroom Bill” when the House added and amendment to SB 2708 “multi-hazard emergency operations plans” which originally pertained to the regulation of school districts’ emergency response plans in cases of natural disasters, active shooters and other “dangerous scenarios.” The House added the following language that would require K-12 schools to provide single-stall restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities to a student “who does not wish” to use facilities designated by “biological sex.” It’s a measure that would override existing trans-inclusive policies in some school districts that allow transgender children to use the bathroom of their choice.  This dangerous legislation singles out transgendered students who already experience bullying and high suicide rates.

Patrick immediately turned down this compromise saying the amendment’s “ambiguous language” didn’t “appear to do much.” The Texas Senate said a definite NO to the bill. Patrick had said he wanted the “Bathroom Bill” to be part of his legacy when he left office.

Today at a bill signing session which will allow Uber and Lyft to return to Austin, Gov. Abbott said he would make his decision “later this week” as to whether or not he will call a special session. Abbott made it very clear that if a special session is called he will be the one deciding which bills will be looked at stating, “I can tell you this, and that is when it gets to a special session, the time and the topics are solely up to the governor of the state of Texas, and we will be, if we have a special session, convening only on the topics that I choose at the time of my choosing.” So, if and when Gov. Abbott calls a special session he can make it to only include 1. Passing a Sunset Bill to keep this commission in place and 2. To pass a bill on limiting property tax to 5% and requiring a special election if cities/counties want to raise it higher. Gov. Abbott does not have to include a “Bathroom Bill” in the agenda for the special session.

While Lt. Dan Patrick has put pressure on Gov. Abbott at every chance he has had publicly and in interviews to force a special session if no bathroom bill passes Abbott was asked if he felt any pressure to call a special session because of this and his answer was, “none.”

So as of midnight tonight we will know if a bill has been passed by both houses regarding the sunset bill and property taxes. But one thing I can tell you for sure is that Speaker Straus will stand strong on not passing a “Bathroom Bill”. On May 26th Speaker Straus made the following statement: “For many of us — and especially for me — this was a compromise. As far as I’m concerned, it was enough. We will go no further. This is the right thing to do in order to protect our economy from billions of dollars in losses and more importantly to protect the safety of some very vulnerable young Texans.”

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