Texas lawmakers just finished their 87th Texas Legislature session which ran from January 12 to May 31, during which they passed some crazy laws, half of which are likely to face legal challenges.
It included restrictions on abortion and even talking about race. But guns got off easy, no restrictions there, and so did cruelty to animals.
In a summary called "Red Meat, Broken Promises, and More of the Same Old Shit," the Texas Observer said Gov. Greg Abbott was posturing because former tea party senator Don Huffines and ex-GOP party chair Allen West are both going to try and run against him.
Here's some low points:
Declaring election integrity to be a priority, Abbott tried to add a slew of restrictions in Senate Bill 7 on early voting, after-hours, and drive-thru voting. The White House called it "un-American."
Trying to fight its passage, Democrats staged a walk-out, so Abbott retaliated by cutting funding/salaries. Representatives only get $600 a month plus a per diem but their staff is screwed.
Abbott was foiled, but supposedly he's going to call a special session to get it passed.
Critical race theory
Abbott signed off on a Texas law limiting what teachers can say about critical race theory, which studies how race affects culture and society. It's become a rallying cause for Republicans who are pushing to have it banned, even though grammar and high schools aren't actually teaching it to begin with.
According to Media Matters, the Republican party is working behind-the-scenes to make this non-thing a toxic thing.
"A sophisticated, nationwide network of conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, media outlets, and GOP officials have seized on the term and ... sought to render it 'toxic' ... Republicans have proposed or passed a slew of legislation restricting 'critical race theory' and hope to use it as a core part of their political strategy in upcoming local, state, and federal elections.
Media Matters looked at the background of a dozen so-called "concerned parents" who went on Fox News to say they were against it, and found that the "parents" were actually Republican strategists, conservative think-tankers, or right-wing media personalities.
Abbott is squandering $250 million on a downpayment on the construction of a border wall, including hiring a program manager and contractors.
He claims that "property is being destroyed, deadly drugs and illegal weapons are being smuggled into communities throughout the state, law enforcement is having to redirect their resources, and county judges and mayors are facing skyrocketing expenses."
Building a wall will cost anywhere from $26 million to $46 million per mile. Sen. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, said that a wall is "the most expensive and least effective way to do border security and it's a huge waste of taxpayer money."
"Texas will always be the leader in defending the Second Amendment, which is why we built a barrier around gun rights this session," Abbott said. The list of newly liberated gun laws includes:
- Senate Bill 19 prohibits any governmental entity from contracting with any business that discriminates against firearm and ammunition businesses or organizations.
- Senate Bill 20 allows guests to store firearms in their hotel rooms.
- Senate Bill 550 removes the shoulder or belt holster requirements, allowing Texans to carry firearms in whatever kind of holster they choose.
- House Bill 957 repeals the criminal offense of possessing, manufacturing, transporting, or repairing a firearm silencer. It also ensures that any firearm suppressor manufactured in Texas, and that remains in Texas, will not be subject to federal law or federal regulation.
The legislature passed the heartbeat bill, banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. This includes cases of rape or incest. It's basically a sneaky ban on abortions since fetal heartbeats can be detected as early as six weeks, which is before some women even know they are pregnant, and it allows almost anyone to sue abortion providers and others.
It's expected to be challenged in court, which means it will cost the state — IE taxpayers — money in legal proceedings.
Abbott also signed a bill that will outlaw abortions if Roe v. Wade, the national law that protects women's right to choose, is struck down. There would be no exception for rape or incest, for women at risk of suicide or self-harm, or in the case of severe or potentially lethal fetal abnormalities. Doctors who perform abortions could face life in prison or $100,000 fines.
One bill that Abbott did not pass is one that would provide more protection for dogs left outdoors and from animal cruelty.
Senate Bill 474, AKA the Safe Outdoor Dogs Act, would prohibit the use of heavy chains to restrain a dog, and punish owners for leaving dogs without drinkable water or shelter.
Some Texas cities including Dallas and Plano already prohibit tethering. This would make the rule statewide.
The bill was loved by all: passed by the Senate 28-3 and the House 83-32. But Abbott said, "Texas is no place for this kind of micro-managing and over-criminalization."
There's now a fun campaign called #AbbottHatesDogs on Twitter, with people posting photos of their pups, that's now been covered by the Houston Chronicle, Yahoo, The Hill, and more. (Abbott tried to counterattack by posting a photo of his dogs.)
"I have to hand it to the governor, 'Anti-voting rights, pro-animal cruelty' is a bold re-election message," said San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.
Texas has a line-item veto system, where the governor can kill items on any bill if state money is involved.