Texas Matters is a Thursday evening series focusing on Texas political news while sharing information and strategies with the aim of taking back our state.
Texas Republicans' Assault on Women
It's an important week for reproductive freedom here in Texas. The Senate has already passed SB5, a sweeping anti-choice bill that will essentially close down 42 abortion providers in Texas, leaving only 5 in the state. This evening, the House Committee on Special Affairs is hearing public testimony on HB16, which would ban abortions on or after the 20th week of pregnancy, and HB60, a bill that is identical to SB5 minus the ban on 20th-week-plus abortions (which was removed out of fear that there would not be enough time in the special session to pass it). The bills will be taken up upon adjournment. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
HB60 and SB5 each requires that Texas abortion clinics, which are located mostly in urban areas, meet the same standards as a licensed ambulatory surgical center.
The bills also require that abortion clinic physicians have admitting privileges in a hospital within 30 miles of the place where they perform abortions. And they require that if doctors administer the abortion inducing drug, RU-486, they do so in person.
During the Senate debate, Republicans hailed SB5 as a needed step toward protecting women’s health and cracking down on substandard abortion clinics, but Democrats said the bill would deny health care access to thousands of Texas women by shutting down clinics that provide prenatal and preventive services.
House Democrats said Wednesday that they plan to echo their Senate counterparts in giving the bill an equally hostile reception in the House.
“In general, what the Senate did yesterday was a frontal assult on womens rights,” said Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, the No. 2 member of the Democratic leadership team in the House. “This is partisan, divisive legislation that is completely uncessary, and this is how it’ll be received on the House floor by Democrats.”
Burnt Orange Report issued a call yesterday for everybody to attend the hearing and speak out against the bills, as the best bet at defeating them is running out the clock on the special session. It's too late to issue an action alert for that now, but it's not too late to call your legislator. It's not over until it's over, so let's do what we can to stop this egregious assault on Texas women.
In Other Special Session News...
Redistricting, which I wrote about in my last Texas Matters, still remains unfinished business in the legislature. Hearings were held throughout Texas on the issue, where many expressed their vehement disapproval of the Texas GOP's latest attempt to discriminate against minority voters. The court-drawn interim maps Rick Perry wants the legislature to pass--which were never meant to be permanent--are based on the discriminatory maps previously passed by the legislature and are therefore still discriminatory. Here in Houston, a few of us Kossacks showed up at the House and Senate hearings. nomandates and I attended the Senate hearing, at which many showed up to speak out against the maps.
But on Friday, the Senate approved the interim maps. From the Dallas Morning News:
Texas Senators Friday approved a redistricting plan that would make permanent the electoral boundaries for Congress, the state House and Senate that were used for the 2012 elections.Now the maps are on their way to the House.
Democrats criticized the legislation and offered alternatives, but it was clear from the outset the Republicans had the votes to push through the interim electoral boundaries. The Texas House and U.S. Congressional boundaries were passed on a 16-11 party line vote.
Dallas Democrat Royce West, a member of the Senate Redistricting Committee, offered an amendment that would create a new congressional district in North Texas designed to give Hispanic voters the chance to elect their candidate of choice.
But the author of the bills, Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo, managed to table the amendment.
Meanwhile, the Senate has also passed a bill that would divert revenue from the Rainy Day Fund to pay for transportation. Looks like it's on to the House. From the Texas Tribune:
Despite concerns raised by both Republicans and Democrats, senators on Tuesday tentatively passed a resolution that aims to solve the state's transportation funding woes by diverting future revenue from the Rainy Day Fund.
Senate Joint Resolution 2, which would eventually have to be approved as a constitutional amendment in November by voters, would split a portion of oil and gas severance taxes currently earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund between that fund and the State Highway Fund.
With traffic on Texas roads continuing to rise and transportation funding at a 10-year low, the state's department of transportation "needs a revenue stream that allows for future planning," said Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.
Texas Diary Round-Up
Jack Ryan: Governor Rick Perry Opens Door to Pagan Holiday Kits on eBay (6/14/2013)
ProgressiveLiberal: Texas Governor Rick Perry Now Begging For Government Handouts (VIDEO) (6/15/2013)
poopdogcomedy: TX-Sen: "Deficit Hawk" John Cornyn (R) Collecting Three Different State-Government Pensions (6/19/2013)
Got more Texas news stories or action alerts? Share them in the comments!