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Even though the Texas Democrats have effectively sidelined the State House in the hope of blocking a Voting Restrictions Bill, the Senate is nearing the end of its work on Republican priorities for the special legislative session. Senators on Friday passed a bill that would remove requirements that students learn that white supremacy is ‘morally wrong’, and another that would ban medically induced abortions after about seven weeks of pregnancy.
Unless enough Democrats return to Texas to once again allow the House to pass laws, passing the bills through the Senate will do little to help the measures become law. But since the special session began last week, the upper house has swiftly passed twelve bills, including the GOP Priority Election Restrictions Bill which spurred the departures of House Democrats.
The Senate has also already passed bills that would make it more difficult to of incarcerated people released from prison without cash and restrict student-athletes to sports teams that correspond to the sex assigned at birth.
Two pieces of legislation Gouv. Greg Abbott on the agenda of the extraordinary session remain for the Senate, including a bill to restore funding to the Texas Legislative Branch and one that would teach students how to prevent child abuse, family violence and dating violence.
Some of the pasts the bills are similar to those the Senate passed in the ordinary legislative session, but died before the end of that legislative period in May.
“We have passed these bills, the bail bills and other bills, now for the second time,” said the lieutenant governor. Patrick patrick said before asking for a recess on the Senate floor on Friday. âWe will pass the third time and the fourth time, and the fifth time and the sixth time. We will stay until quorum is reached in the other room.
When more than 51 House Democrats left the state on Monday, they left the house without quorum – the minimum number of legislators who must be present to conduct business, which in the House is 100 legislators. They have vowed to stay out of state and block the proceedings of the House until the end of the special session on August 6.
In an interview with Texas Standard earlier this week, Abbott said he would convene “special session after special session” until his priority pieces of legislation are passed.
âWe, as Republicans, are not in the mood to compromise,â Abbott said. “It is time for people to get back to work and vote on the issues that are on the agenda.”
The battle over ‘critical race theory’ continues
On Friday the upper house adopted Senate Bill 3 in an 18-4 party line vote. The bill removes an upcoming requirement created by the so-called ordinary session “Critical theory of race” The bill that says students learn white supremacy is “morally wrong.”
The previous bill also lists documents, figures and events that must be included in the social studies curriculum. But SB 3, written by State Sen. Bryan Hugues, removes most of the references to women and people of color in this section. This includes over two dozen demands that include Native American history, the work of civil rights activists Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, historical documents related to the Chicano movement and women’s suffrage, and writings by Martin Luther King. Jr., Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass.
SB 3 also extends restrictions on how current events and the history of racism in the United States can be taught in schools, from social science teachers to all teachers.
On the ground, Hughes, a Republican from Mineola, said the purpose of the bill is to expose “general concepts” and not to dictate the curriculum.
The senators’ debate on the chamber floor echoed arguments over the ordinary session’s bill that will come into force on September 1. Hughes said he is combating the “pernicious, mistaken and harmful” effects of critical race theory – an academic framework used to examine the structural causes of racial inequality not taught in Texas public schools. Democrats have argued that the legislation is unnecessary, hinders the work of teachers, and hinders important discussions of racism in history and today.
Senator Juan Hinojosa, a McAllen Democrat, asked if the legislation was really necessary, explaining that he had “never heard of a complaint” from a teacher, parent or voter about “the critical race theory taught in schools “.
Hughes said: âWhen a fire starts in the kitchen, we don’t wait for it to spread to the living room and bathroom, but we start to put it out. “
âI don’t see a fire in the kitchen,â Hinojosa retorted.
The bill’s passage by the Senate came a day after teachers, students and education policy experts overwhelmingly opposed the legislation, citing teachers’ lack of input into its creation and what they wanted. saw efforts to reduce the necessary discussion of racism in the classroom.
âWhy do politicians ignore professional educators? Said Daniel Santos, executive vice president of the Houston Teachers’ Federation and a 15-year history teacher in Houston. âWhy is our program being manipulated by non-historians? “
Questioned by the senator Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat from Laredo, if he had involved educators in the process, Hughes said members of the state’s education council were involved and added, “I don’t know all of the groups involved.”
No more limits to abortion
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 4 on Friday, which would ban medically induced abortions after about seven weeks of pregnancy. The 19-3 vote on this bill came just two months after Texas passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
It has been criticized by abortion rights organizations and abortion providers, who believe the bill will further eliminate the options available to those seeking statewide abortion procedures.
“This is just one example of how members of the Texas legislature are ignoring science, ignoring doctors, and trying to take us back and restrict our rights to abortion,” Drucilla Tigner said. , which serves as a reproductive rights policy and advocacy strategist for the ACLU. from Texas.
Currently, obtaining a prescription for a medically induced abortion requires an in-person doctor’s visit, as current Texas law defers to FDA rules. The FDA is considering allowing such a prescription to be obtained through online delivery services. So Republicans want state law requiring in-person consultation for such drugs in case the FDA changes its rules.
“If the federal government decreases its authority to allow drug companies to give drugs to the patient, we don’t want that to be the case in Texas,” the senator said. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, who drafted the bill. “I hope we can prevent that from happening here.”
Senator John whitmire, D-Houston, said the bill, in addition to the recent restriction on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, could cause individuals to resort to “back alley abortions.”
âIt’s very difficult to stop someone from doing something to their body,â Whitmire said. âIf they are desperate, if they have been raped, they are victims of incest. You don’t all speak as if you are dealing with real life issues.
Lucio fired back, echoing claims from other Republican senators during the hearing that medical abortions are dangerous. Medical and legal experts have challenged this notion.
âIf these bills are sent in the mail, then they will be an unhealthy and dangerous situation for women seeking abortions,â he said.
During Friday’s public debate, other lawmakers argued, contested by abortion advocates and legal experts, that medically induced abortions could lead human traffickers or abusive partners to use these services. .
Medical abortions have become the most common method of terminating a pregnancy in Texas, accounting for more than 50% of abortion procedures since 2020, according to data from Texas Health and Human Services.