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With trans sports bill on chopping block, Texas House inches toward midnight deadline

With trans sports bill on chopping block, Texas House inches toward midnight deadline

May 25, 2021
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AUSTIN — Facing its last major deadline Tuesday at midnight, the House had not yet debated several red meat bills scheduled for an 11th hour debate, giving Democrats hope they could kill them by running out the clock. On the chopping block Tuesday night is contentious legislation sought by […]

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AUSTIN — Facing its last major deadline Tuesday at midnight, the House had not yet debated several red meat bills scheduled for an 11th hour debate, giving Democrats hope they could kill them by running out the clock.

a large clock tower next to a tree: A general view of the Texas Capitol during the 87th Texas legislature on Friday, May 7, 2021, in Austin.

On the chopping block Tuesday night is contentious legislation sought by conservative Republicans that would target transgender student athletes. Any Senate legislation that doesn’t receive a vote in the House on Tuesday is effectively dead.

While the House whipped through a number of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s most divisive priorities on Monday — including requiring pro teams that get public funding to play the National Anthem and barring hotels from banning guns in guests’ rooms — Democrats slowed debate considerably Tuesday in the hopes of dooming legislation they oppose.

Republicans also postponed debate on two of the most divisive bills left on the calendar, targeting taxpayer funded lobbying and social media censorship, putting their futures in doubt.

Tensions are running high with only a few days left in the 2021 legislative session, which ends Monday. A rift that opened up between the two chambers last week only continued to widen as lawmakers fought for last minute passage of their bills.

The impasse began when the House did not meet Friday and Saturday in retaliation for the Senate refusing to to take up bipartisan priority health care and criminal justice bills backed by Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont. And the Senate, which must pass House bills by Wednesday, began slowing their own work over frustrations with the other chamber.

“On this side, we’re actually still obviously passing some very good House bills,” Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, said during floor debate over a bill that would limit the source of animals sold at pet stores. “It’d be nice if we could get some good Senate bills passed as well.”

“Because we don’t want it to be a dog eat dog world, right?” Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, responded.

In the House, Democrats were gearing up to do battle with one of their own over the transgender sports bill. The bill, another Patrick priority, would limit the students’ ability to compete on sports teams that align with their gender identity. It is sponsored in the House by Reps. Harold Dutton, a Houston Democrat, and Ken King, R-Canadian.

Earlier Tuesday evening, the House passed a bipartisan bill that would ban the police use of chokeholds unless the restraint was used to protect the safety or life of the officer or another person. While Democrats said the bill didn’t go as far as they would have liked — to ban neck restraints, full stop, or ax laws that allow officers to avoid civil litigation — they said it was a step in the right direction.

“Today is the one year anniversary of the brutal death of George Perry Floyd and if this bill is enacted into law, it would have possibly prevented his death,” said Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City.

Democrats also used the passage to urge the Senate to vote on the House’s many bipartisan criminal justice bills that are stalled in that chamber.

“We will pass this bill today, but I would encourage all of us to demand that the Senate pass the remainder of the bill that we’ve worked on,” Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, said.

Late in the evening, the House members continued to debate a bill to block municipalities from adopting local ordinances that go beyond or conflict with state or federal employment laws. The measure was filed in response to local governments requiring businesses to offer specific benefits to their workers, like mandatory minimum wage or paid sick leave.

Rep. Phil King, the sponsor in the House, assured Democrats the bill would not negate local nondiscrimination ordinances protecting the LGBTQ community. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal law bans workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, King said the bill would not bar cites from adopting these protections.

“Does Senate Bill 14 have any language that would modify, amend, repeal or alter any current nondiscrimination here in Texas?” Rep. Julie Johnson, a Carrollton Democrat and member of the House LGBTQ+ Caucus, asked King.

“Ordinances that prohibit LGBTQ employment discrimination do not exceed federal law,” King, R-Weatherford, said. “This bill does not prohibit that.”

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