Special Session Ends Strong on Election Integrity and Pro-Life, Disappoints in Women’s Sports and Protecting Children
The Second Special Session of 2021 ended last week with some good legislation passed, but much to be desired. Update: A 3rd special session has been called by Governor Greg Abbott; click here for more details and see that Save Women’s Sports bill has been added to the call and gender modification was not.
Good legislation passed: Election Integrity and Chemical Abortion
You may recall that the reason a second special session was called was because the Texas House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. to avoid voting on a bill to address election integrity. However, the legislature was able to successfully pass SB 1 on Election Integrity. The bill simply put “makes it easy to vote, but harder to cheat.” Election Integrity legislation has been introduced for several sessions. Some of the common-sense safeguards in the bill include:
• Voting locations must be inside a building. A vote cannot be cast inside a motor vehicle unless there are circumstances that could affect the voter’s health.
• Voting cannot exceed the hours of 6a.m. to 9pm.
• A video surveillance system that retains a record of all areas containing voted ballots must be made available to the public by livestream in a county with a population of 100,000 or more.
• Prohibiting the solicitation of mail-in ballot applications.
• The bill would also make sure that poll-watchers can reasonably conduct their jobs without having their view obstructed or told that they cannot observe activities that they have a right to observe.
As expected, SB 1 passed the Senate successfully without any issue. Once the bill arrived to the Texas House, the vote fell amongst party lines with the exception of Republican Representative Lyle Larson joining the Democrats in voting against the bill.
Another success was passage of legislation known as the no mail order abortions bill, known as SB 4. The passage of this bill equates to another pro-life victory as chemical abortions have become the new frontier of the taking of a baby’s life, especially during the 2020 pandemic. Before the Heartbeat law took place, it is estimated that nearly over half of abortions are performed through chemical abortions. As in the first special session, Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) authored the bill and was able to pass it successfully out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee and on the Senate floor. However, the House author of SB 4, Representative Stephanie Klick, took a more strategic approach in getting the bill passed.
As Chairwoman, of the House Public Health committee, Klick held a formal meeting on the bill where members were allowed to discuss the bill and ask questions, but no public testimony was taken. The hearing lasted a little over an hour and the committee successfully passed the bill with enough time in the session to have the bill be placed on the House floor and voted on. Pro-abortion Democrats presented 18 amendments to SB 4 in order to slow the process on the House floor. Nevertheless, the bill passed with a few days left in the special session and is headed to the governor’s desk to be signed.
Major Disappointments in Save Women’s Sports and Gender Modification
Legislation to protect female athletics from being dominated by biological males has been presented in both the Regular 87th Legislative Session and the first special session. The Senate successfully passed two Save Women’s Sports bills in the special session: one bill that would address UIL sports and another that would address both high school and collegiate sports. Both bills failed to make progress in the first special session because the Texas House lacked a quorum, which was needed to hold a hearing or vote on the bill.
Thankfully, Governor Greg Abbott added the Save Women’s Sports bill to the 2nd special session call. Senator Perry’s, SB 2, that sought to address biological males competing in female UIL high school and middle school sports successfully passed the Senate chamber without any problems. However, the bill met obstacles once it was sent to the Texas House. The Save Women’s Sports bill was sent once again to the antagonistic Public Education committee, chaired by Democrat leader Representative Harold Dutton. You may recall that the bill was reduced to a study thanks to the Chairman and a few wayward Republican members in the Regular session. Nevertheless, the Chairman still held a public hearing for SB 2, the Save Women’s Sports bill.
The testimony in favor of the bill seemed to outperform the opposition. During the 20-hour hearing, the committee heard from strong supporters such as: Beth Stelzer of Save Women’s Sports, Representative Barbara Earhardt who successfully passed a similar bill in the Idaho legislature, Concerned Women for America, a professed liberal democrat from another state, the Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Hispanic Action Network, and several members of the Texas Values team including our President and attorney Jonathan Saenz. The representative from the UIL even admitted during the hearing that he is receiving calls from parents concerned about their daughters competing in sports against males. Despite the bill needing to be passed with only a week left in the special session, Chairman Dutton left SB 2 pending in the committee with no known scheduled meetings for Public Education in the special session.
But hope was restored the following Monday when the House Public Education committee met again to discuss two bills on Covid restrictions in public schools. After spending nearly four hours on testimony on two bills, Chairman Dutton proceeded to give a speech instead of taking up pending business. Chairman Dutton responded to a rumor that Article X funding for the state legislature would be cut if the Critical Race Theory Ban Bill, SB 3 and the Save Women’s Sports Bill, SB 2 were not passed. Despite this being a rumor, Dutton remarked that he would like to see the Lieutenant Governor “put his big boy pants on” and threatened him to cut funding if the committee did not move the two bills. With Dutton gaveling out the meeting at 11:15 p.m. that Monday night with only a few days left in the 2nd special session, the bill seemed dead.
To the surprise of many, the Public Education committee announced a formal meeting for the next day at 4p.m. to take up pending business. Chairman Dutton reluctantly presented SB 2, the Save Women’s Sports bill as the last bill to be voted on after telling members that he does not want to offend them by forcing them to vote on a bill. In an attempt to repeat mistakes, Republican Representative Ken King shouts at SB 2 bill author Representative Valoree Swanson that she must accept the bill as a study or else he will kill the bill. Another Republican member, Dan Huberty, presents an amendment to SB 2 that would add a required study of biological males competing in female sports in Texas and a provision that would keep the bill from being enacted until the year 2023. Representative Huberty told the committee that Speaker Dade Phelan told him personally that he must get SB 2 passed and waved at the speaker’s staff in the room who nodded in agreement. The Public Education committee voted unanimously to accept Huberty’s amendment. LGBTQ Caucus founder Mary Gonzalez then presents her amendment, which is the same amendment from the previous session that reduced a bill to a study only. Chairman Dutton responds that it makes no sense to pass a bill for a study, then he bangs the gavel and adjourns the meeting. The Save Women’s Sports bill died once again in the left-leaning Public Education committee.
Childhood Gender Modification
Once again, the Governor did not put the issue of protecting children from gender modification on the special session. Instead, Governor Abbott chose to formally ask the Department of Family and Protective Services if genital mutilation for the purpose of child gender transition is considered child abuse. The director of DFPS responded favorably, saying that genital mutilation of children is considered child abuse. However, the question posed by the governor was lacking in some ways. Those familiar with the topic of gender transition know that there are a number of steps and procedures doctors take to transition a child to the opposite gender which include puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones and other surgeries like mastectomies. When Representative Bryan Slaton submitted his own formal question to DFPS as to whether these other procedures also amount to child abuse, DFPS responded that this was a question for the Texas Attorney General. Governor Abbott’s efforts to engage with DFPS are still valuable but there still needs to be a law in place to fully protect children from all forms of gender modification and we need the Governor to make this a priority for the Texas legislature.
The second special session gave Texans some disappointing losses on protecting children and girls’ sports, but wins on election integrity legislation and another pro-life law. However, Texas Values is pleased that the Heartbeat law that was passed in the regular session still stands strong and is in full effect. Victories in passing great pro-life legislation are reasons to continue to support the work we do at Texas Values. For more information about the Texas Heartbeat Law: TexasHeartbeatLaw.com