Our first special session ended not with a whimper, but with the voices of Texans screaming out against a bad bill and the bullying tactics used against them.
The past two weeks have been extraordinary. I’ve never seen anything like it in my six terms in the Legislature.
Read more about the last week of our first special session, and catch up on other important news in this week’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
The People of Texas Have Spoken
I was amazed at the sight of Texans ringing the four floors of the rotunda Tuesday night, yelling out in opposition to a bad bill with horrible consequences.
The groundswell of citizen opposition during this last week makes clear that Republicans should think twice before trying to silence Texas women and the men that stand with them.
I was stunned when my colleague, Chairman Byron Cook cut off testimony from the hundreds of witnesses who gathered to speak against Senate Bill 5, a terrible piece of legislation that would have enacted procedural hurdles designed not, as Republicans claim, to protect women’s health, but instead to prevent them from accessing women’s health services.
Let me be clear. I am pro-choice. Unconstitutional, politically motivated bills that attack the rights of Texas women have no place in our Legislature.
The stories I heard during this process from hundreds of Texans — including those read aloud by Senator Wendy Davis on the Senate floor — make clear why we must protect a woman’s right to choose.
The provisions requiring facilities to upgrade to ambulatory surgical centers are designed with one purpose: to close clinics. If we are mandating that these facilities — which spend 97% of their services on preventative care — rebuild to handle 3% of the medical services that they provide, then we should provide adequate time for these facilities to comply.
These requirements effectively close 37 of the 42 women’s health facilities that provide abortion services in the state. This restricts poor and rural Texas women from having the ability to exercise a constitutional right.
I offered an amendment to postpone the effective date of the requirement that abortion facilities meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers until September 1, 2015. If we are serious about safety improvements, let’s give clinics time to make safety improvements rather than force them to shut their doors.
Unsurprisingly, my amendment was defeated.
This was part of an overall effort by Democrats during the last week of the session to make abundantly clear how bad SB 5 would be for Texas women, and also put the Senate within range of a potential filibuster to kill the bill.
I was proud to offer my own amendment, and stand with my Democratic colleagues and question the amendments they offered to SB 5 — many of which would have actually reduced unwanted pregnancies.
Delays by my Democratic colleagues helped prevent the bill’s passage out of the House until late Monday morning. A mandatory 24 hour waiting period rule prevented the Senate from bringing the bill up until the next day. The rest, as you undoubtedly know by now, is history.
I’m honored to have stood on the floor of the Senate with my colleagues as the clock ticked down to end Senator Davis’s historic effort to block this bill.
The energy in the Senate gallery as the people of Texas yelled and screamed to run out the clock was inspiring. I’m excited to continue working to invigorate the people of our state to elect a government that truly reflects our values.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Our work as Texas progressives continues. Yesterday, Rick Perry called a second special session, requiring lawmakers to return to Austin this Monday. Additionally, this past Tuesday the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, resulting in the Secretary of State’s office immediately beginning to enforce Voter ID. This law was found to have discriminatory effect under the Voting Rights Act.
The Good: Lawsuit Against Photo ID Law
My former legislative colleague and now Congressman Marc Veasey joined other African-American and Hispanic plaintiffs in filing a federal lawsuit to bar enforcement of the required photo ID law. The plaintiffs argue that the discriminatory law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as the First Amendment. Additionally, since the Republican Legislature passed the law with discriminatory purpose, they argue that it violates the 14th and 15th amendments as well.
The Bad: Unnecessary Second Special Session
We don’t need to have this special session at all. It could have been avoided by the Lieutenant Governor calling up SJR 2, the transportation bill, and SB 23, juvenile justice reforms, before Senator Davis began her filibuster on Tuesday. Instead, Rick Perry’s partisan political posturing will cost the taxpayers more than $800,000 and serve to reinforce to a growing audience how out-of-touch our Republican lawmakers are with the people of Texas.
The Ugly: Bill Zedler’s “Terrorist” Tweet
Late on Tuesday as Senator Davis’s epic filibuster wound to a close, my Republican colleague Representative Bill Zedler tweeted, “We had terrorist in the Texas State Senate opposing SB 5.” Whether he is referring to Senator Davis or the Texans who came to watch their government, his comment cuts against the heart of democracy and free expression. Zedler should be ashamed of calling Texans exercising their rights to free speech and assembly “terrorists.”
Community Forum July 13
Please join me for a Community Forum on Saturday, July 13 at Metz Recreation Center from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. I will discuss the latest events happening at the Capitol and important bills I passed during the Regular Session.
Please sign up for the forum online at this link.
Keep Standing Strong
As my Democratic colleagues and I have emphasized throughout the last week, we need all of you to continue standing strong against Rick Perry and his anti-woman agenda. Keep coming to the Capitol, keep raising your voices on social media, and keep spreading the word.
Please LIKE my Facebook Page to stay informed about everything that happens over the next few weeks. My staff and I will make sure you know what you can do to continue standing up for our Texas values.