May 31, 2021/Media, Press

Texas Democrats’ Official Wrapup: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly From Texas’ 87th Legislative Session

AUSTIN, Texas — After last night’s heroic eleventh hour walkout by Democrats to block anti-voter bill SB 7, sine die has finally arrived in Texas’ 87th legislative session — and with it, Texas Democrats’ official wrapup of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the last five months in the Texas legislature.

With horrific Republican attacks on just about every Texan, this session ushered in new lows from the Texas GOP. Faced with Republicans’ unrelenting nastiness, Democrats moved heaven and earth to block the worst of Republicans’ assaults on the rights, health, and safety of Texans — and logged some key successes in the process. Join us as we look back on the high highs and remarkably low lows of Texas’ 87th legislative session. Without further ado:

The Good

Capping the Price of Insulin (HB 40/SB 827)
With persistence and hard work to build bipartisan support, Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) did what countless advocates across the country have been trying to do: cap the price of insulin. Having the means to pay for insulin is a question of life and death for millions of adults and children across Texas. For people with diabetes, the cost for their daily medication can easily be over $1,000 for each 30-day supply — regardless of whether they have health insurance. Now, for folks with insurance, that out-of-pocket cost is capped at $25 a month — a major achievement in protecting Texans’ right to healthcare.

Fighting Police Brutality with the Botham Jean Act (HB 929)
The Botham Jean Act, or “Bo’s Law,” filed by Rep. Carl O. Sherman (D-DeSoto), was named in honor of Botham Jean, the 26-year-old accountant who was shot and killed in his Dallas apartment by an off-duty police officer. The legislation will make it against the law for a police officer to turn their body cam off during an active investigation. This is a key step toward police reform and advancing racial justice — combating police brutality by promoting accountability in law enforcement.

Combating Domestic Violence and Supporting Survivors of Sexual Assault (HB 2706, SB 1109)
Championed by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), HB 2706 will increase access to healthcare for survivors of sexual assault by expanding access to community-based SAFE (sexual assault forensic exam) programs. Meanwhile, thanks to Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas) and Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), SB 1109, known as the Christine Blubaugh Act, will help protect students from dating violence and domestic violence.

Protecting Seniors Through Stronger Nursing Home Data Rules (SB 930)
After families across Texas were left with little information while nursing homes were overrun with COVID-19, Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) championed this bill requiring Texas nursing homes to release data on outbreaks of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, with this data subject to Texas Public Information Act requests.

A for Effort: Democratic Attempts to Make Life Better For Texans That Republicans Blocked
Thanks to Republicans, Texans are struggling with serious issues that this legislative session has done nothing to resolve. However, that’s not for lack of effort on the part of Democrats, who introduced legislation addressing the major challenges facing Texans, including:

  • The George Floyd Act, championed by the Texas Legislative Black Caucus with the leadership of Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston). This bill represented a key step to end police brutality, advance racial justice, and keep Texans safe, including by reducing use of force and prohibiting chokeholds, enacting a duty to intervene in instances of excessive force, and strengthening protocols for investigating officer misconduct. Despite the nationwide protests against racial injustice last summer, Republicans in the Texas legislature decided not to take action to address any of the problems with Texas’ criminal justice system, letting the status quo continue for the next two years.
  • HB 1808 from House Elections Committee Vice Chair Jessica González, which would have allowed Texans to register to vote online on a secure website run by the Secretary of State’s office, did not even receive a hearing in the Republican-led House Elections Committee. This bill would have brought Texas in line with the vast majority of other states — including those across the South — that allow their citizens this quick, convenient and secure option to register to vote.
  • A slew of bills aiming to restore and safeguard Texans’ abortion rights and expand access to reproductive healthcare, including: Rep. Donna Howard’s (D-Austin) Abortion in Health Care Act (HB 4389), repealing all medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion in Texas; Rep. Jon Rosenthal’s (D-Houston) HB 627 and HB 698, protecting abortion providers from harassment and prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of reproductive health decisions; Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos’ (D-Dallas) HB 3369, allowing teens to consent to their own contraception; and Rep. Ramos’ Free Choice of Provider Act (HB 3825), undoing funding restrictions to help more Texans access reproductive healthcare.

Unfortunately, because Republicans don’t care about Texans, none of these important bills passed.

A Whining Dan Patrick
Sometimes when the attacks are really ugly, all you can do is hold the line. That’s exactly what Democrats did in the legislature — so successfully that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went whining to Gov. Abbott to try to get a special legislative session added later this year. Apparently, despite setting the agenda for half the legislature, Patrick couldn’t get his pet legislation passed. We’d call that a victory, thanks to Democrats’ tireless efforts to block Patrick’s extremist agenda.

The Bad

Honestly y’all, Republicans have got us here. They’ve been such dedicated participants in and proponents of the Horrible Legislation Olympics that when it comes down to it, it’s impossible to sift the harmful from the horrifying. Given this depressing but on-brand reality from Republicans, we feel it makes the most sense to skip right ahead to…

The Ugly

Heartless, Cruel Attacks on Trans Kids
This spring, instead of focusing on the myriad of pressing issues facing Texans — from winter storm recovery to getting through the pandemic — Republicans spent precious legislative hours trying to make life harder for trans kids. The horrific list includes SB 29, which would have banned trans kids from playing sports on teams that match their gender identities, a spate of bills that would have labeled parents’ and healthcare professionals’ provision of lifesaving gender affirming healthcare as child abuse, as well as a number of other anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Republicans persisted despite hearing widespread testimony about how these bills would pose serious mental health risks, including increased risk of suicide, among trans kids. Thanks to the tireless work of trans activists, kids and parents, advocates, health professionals, and Democrats, the full slate of Republicans’ anti-trans, anti-child bills has been blocked — but as advocates have noted, these bills have already caused untold harm to kids across the state. Shame on Republicans.

Setting Up Texans To Die By Allowing Anyone To Carry A Handgun, No Questions Asked
Another infamous piece of legislation to come out of Republicans’ twisted imagination, permitless carry (HB 1927) will allow anyone to carry a handgun — without a license, safety training, or background check requirements. In a country beset by the scourge of the gun violence epidemic, this bill will cause more suffering, loss, violence, and heartache. Police officers oppose permitless carry. Families and advocates oppose permitless carry. The passage of this bill was one of the darkest moments this session. It’s currently on the Governor’s desk, and he has promised to sign it.

Gutting Abortion Access In An Already Highly Abortion-Restrictive State
This session, disgraced Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law the most damaging six-week abortion ban (SB 9) in the country — one that is blatantly illegal, as well as deeply harmful and exceptionally cruel. Set to take effect in September, the bill illegally bans abortion around six weeks — before most people know they are pregnant — but also allows anyone, including people from out of state, to take legal action against any individual who has helped someone else get an abortion. On top of this brazen assault on Texans’ right to abortion and to healthcare, Republicans also pushed forward a “trigger ban” bill (HB 1280), which would ban abortion outright across the state in the event that federal abortion protections are rolled back. This one is on its way to the Governor.

Blocking Nearly A Million Texans From Getting Healthcare
That’s right, folks: more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Republicans blocked Medicaid expansion — forcing almost a million Texans who would be eligible for health coverage to instead continue going without healthcare. Texas is already the most uninsured state in the country, with some of the worst health outcomes, especially in Black maternal health. Despicable.

Zero Meaningful Action In the Aftermath of the Winter Storm
Despite a horrifying projected death toll upwards of 700 Texans in February’s winter storm disaster, Republicans dragged their feet all spring on fixing Texas’ power grid — all but paving the way for another similar catastrophe to strike again. Republicans finally allowed bandaid legislation to move forward in the form of SB 3, but this bill doesn’t go nearly far enough to resolve the underlying issues and guarantee weatherization to keep Texans safe.

Censoring Education on Racism and Sexism
With HB 3979, Republicans sought to whitewash education, censor teachers, and stop students from learning about the realities of our history. This bill was a shameful bid to police classrooms and play political games at the expense of our kids’ learning about their history and the way it shapes our society today — denying the lived realities of Black and Brown families, and women, girls, and non-binary Texans, and making schools less safe for a majority of Texas kids. Thanks to the efforts of Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock), this bill was blocked through a point of order with just days left in the session. However, Dan Patrick then used an unconstitutional move to revive the bill, sending this anti-child, anti-education bill to the Governor for signing.

Last But Not Least: Republicans’ Rotten Anti-Voter Bill SB 7 and Its 80+ Evil Siblings
Racist, ableist, anti-voter bill SB 7 was one of the most harmful bills put forward by Republicans this session. However, Democrats’ efforts to block it — culminating in a late-night walkout that denied Republicans the quorum needed to pass the bill — were nothing short of heroic. Like Republicans in state legislatures around the country, Texas Republicans spent this session leading a coordinated attack on Texans’ constitutional right to vote. Amidst more than 80 anti-voter bills filed by Texas Republicans this session, Senate Bill 7 is the most notorious bill to come out of that assault on our rights. SB 7, a Frankenstein’s monster combined with extremist anti-voter bill HB 6, represented a blatant attempt to plunge Texas back into Jim Crow era voter suppression, flagrantly targeting people of color, voters with disabilities, and working people.

Republicans flouted procedural norms and relied on shady dealings to jam this bill through the legislature — ignoring testimony from people across the state on the harm this bill will do to their communities — because the only way their failing political party can cling to power is by stopping people from voting. However, those underhanded tactics were not enough, because Democrats refused to allow Texans to be silenced this way. Sunday, on the final night of voting in the Texas House, Democrats arrived ready to ask questions and raise points of order to slow SB 7 down. But when Republicans played dirty and collected enough signatures to end debate on the bill, Democrats chose to fight back with everything they had, rather than be complicit in the GOP’s sham vote and shady processes. House Democrats used the last tool available to them, and walked out — denying Republicans the quorum they would have needed to pass the bill. Thanks to their efforts, SB 7 is dead, and Texas’ democracy is intact.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:

“The 87th Texas legislative session will be remembered as one where Republicans left Texans to fend for themselves in the midst of multiple, overlapping crises. While ignoring the pandemic, the winter storm, economic struggles, and a lack of healthcare, Republicans advanced a spate of unrelentingly harmful bills this session — sparing nothing and no one, from voting rights, to abortion access, to kids health and safety, to the few common-sense gun safety measures we had in place.

“Meanwhile, Democrats fought tooth and nail for Texans every step of the way. From pushing for Medicaid expansion to provide healthcare to one million more Texans to advocating for necessary reforms to our criminal justice system, Democrats went to the Capitol every single day fighting to help our communities and make life better for each of us. Last night, House Democrats blocked the worst assault on voting rights in our state since the Jim Crow era. That’s what leadership looks like.

“Hundreds of Republican bills filed this session should never have seen the light of day. I thank our Democratic lawmakers, who stood shoulder to shoulder with advocates and fought tirelessly to block Republicans’ assaults on our rights, our communities, and our state. The only way we can protect Texans from suffering more of these attacks is by defeating Republicans and electing more Democrats. For the next 17 months until the 2022 elections, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Summer is here and Texas Democrats are organizing to take back our state.”

###