The 87th Legislative Session was called “the most conservative session of all time” by Governor Greg Abbott, and on that point he and I agree. This was the session in which Texas made national news several times – unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons.
Only a month after the start of the session, we made national news when our electricity grid failed us during the polar vortex in February. And even in the final hours of the Legislature, we made headlines when an omnibus election bill – which received many last-minute and substantive changes crafted behind closed doors – resulted in a walkout and an inability to establish the quorum necessary to pass the bill.
The legislature meets every two years for just 140 days, and during that precious time we had two big issues that we needed to tackle: the pandemic and the energy crisis. Rather than focusing on these questions, the House and Senate have been distracted by red meat questions meant to be answered only to the Republican primary voter. After a year in which our teachers and parents made countless adjustments to teach our children at a distance, the legislature thanked them by prioritizing legislation simply dictating how to teach American history, banning the teaching “critical race theory” and monitoring teachers’ ability to address current social events.
We have also become another state requiring you to have a license to fish, but you are not required to have a license to carry a firearm or to receive training on how to use it safely. After losing Texans in several mass shootings during this last period, including 23 people in the Walmart in El Paso and seven in the Odessa shooting, the legislature removed legislation designed to ensure gun safety. fire. Sadly, more prayers and condolences are in our future.
Amid COVID, Texas remained one of the few states that chose not to expand Medicaid. In a year in which tens of thousands of people were denied health insurance because their jobs were lost during the pandemic, the expansion of Medicaid could have provided vulnerable Texans with strong health care and reliable. While a majority of House members indicated support for a Texas expansion plan, the concept lacked bipartisan support in the Senate and was not passed.
The legislature has passed anti-abortion legislation that essentially makes a constitutionally protected, safe and legal abortion unavailable in Texas, even in cases of rape or incest. This same bill also allows anyone to sue a doctor for performing an abortion, even if they have no connection with the individual or the doctor. In practice, a foreigner can sue another foreigner because an abortion is performed. The case will surely be appealed and linked to a costly litigation. In fact, similar legislation passed in Mississippi will be heard in the United States Supreme Court this summer.
And finally, the legislature also attempted to pass SB 12 which, if passed, would have restricted the ability of major social media companies to protect themselves against hate speech, anti-vaccine misinformation, and theories of. conspiracy. I am proud to have successfully raised a point of order on this bill while it was before the House, which in fact killed the bill this session. Social media companies have a responsibility to protect public safety, but it is not a public place – it is private property that we all use knowing the good and the bad of its use.
In the final form of SB 7, the omnibus electoral reform bill would have ended the practice of voting after church (known as “souls at the polls”), would have allowed elections to be canceled without proof of fraud and would have banned the use of locked drop boxes. for postal ballots. The changes made by the Senate in the middle of the night justified the drastic measure of breaking the quorum to kill the bill. It will return in special session this year, I have no doubt, but it will be done in the light of day with the scrutiny that this subject deserves.
I am so proud to be a woman from Texas. Raised in El Paso, forged at the University of Texas, then shaped by life in Austin. It is because of this pride and love for where we live that I always expect more from Texas than we have seen this legislative session.
Representative Celia Israel represents House District 50, which includes Pflugerville. Follow her on Twitter @celiaisrael, or like her on Facebook at fb.com/CeliaIsraelTX.