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Even though Texas Democrats have effectively sidelined State House in hopes of blocking a voting restriction 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 white supremacy is “moral” 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’s Priority Election Restrictions Bill that spurred the departure of House Democrats.
The Senate has also already passed bills that would make it harder for incarcerated people to get out of prison without money and limit student athletes to sports teams that match their assigned sex at birth.
There are two bills left in the Senate that Governor Greg Abbott put on the special session agenda, including a bill to restore funding to the Texas Legislature and one that would teach students how 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,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said before calling for a recess in the Senate on Friday. “We 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 a quorum – the minimum number of lawmakers who must be present to conduct business, which in the House is 100 lawmakers. 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.
“We, as Republicans, are not in the mood to compromise,” 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
The upper house passed Senate Bill 3 in an 18-4 vote on Friday. The legislation removes an upcoming requirement created by the regular session’s so-called “critical race theory” that 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 Senator Bryan Hughes, 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 combats the “pernicious, mistaken and harmful” effects of Critical Race Theory – an academic framework used to examine the structural causes of race iniquity that is not taught in public schools across Canada. Texas. Democrats have argued that the legislation is unnecessary, hinders the work of teachers, and hinders important discussions of racism in history and today.
Sen. Juan Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen, asked if the legislation was really necessary, explaining that he had “never heard of a complaint” from a teacher, parent or voter in the subject of “critical theory of race taught in schools”.
Hughes said: “When 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. “
“I don’t see a fire in the kitchen,” 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.
“Why do politicians ignore professional educators? Said Daniel Santos, executive vice president of the Houston Teachers’ Federation and a 15-year history teacher in Houston. “Why is our program being manipulated by non-historians? “
When Senator Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat from Laredo, asked him if he had involved educators in the process, Hughes said members of the State Board of Education were involved and added: “I don’t know not all 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 the 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,” said Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, author of the Project. law. “I hope we can prevent that from happening here.”
Sen. 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 “backdoor abortions.”
“It’s very difficult to stop someone from doing something to their body,” Whitmire said. “If 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.
“If these bills are sent in the mail, then they will be an unhealthy and dangerous situation for women seeking abortions,” 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.