Category: Bills

Texas Legislative Black Caucus Introduces the George Floyd Act

Today, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives held a virtual press conference to announce their plans to file the George Floyd Act during the upcoming 87th Legislative Session.

The act is a comprehensive piece of criminal justice legislation named in honor of George Floyd, a native of Houston who died by a police officer’s use of unnecessary force this past May. The George Floyd Act is the product of a series of town halls the TLBC held following Floyd’s tragic death to discuss dismantling the systemic racism written into our state laws and policies. The legislation is authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and will be sponsored in the Texas Senate by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas).

During the press conference, members of the TLBC discussed the specifics of the legislation (which can be read in more detail here). In brief, the act would eliminate qualified immunity for police officers, limit the use of force and require bystander intervention by other officers in cases of excessive force.

“Today, we are here to open up that road to equal justice for all Texans, including black Texans and brown Texans,” said Rep. Harold Dutton (Houston), chair of the TLBC. “These dead ends have got to go.”

The George Floyd Act would also pick up where previous criminal justice reform legislation left off last Session. For example, this bill will limit arrest and jail for fine-only violations, a key item for reform from Rep. Garnet Coleman’s 2017 Sandra Bland Act.

“The fury we all feel over this is, in part, because of the crime for which George Floyd died,” said Coleman (D-Houston), a long-time Democratic representative from Harris County. “This bill will finally limit an officer’s ability to arrest (for something so minor).”

Several individuals outside of the Caucus were present at the conference to show their support for the bill. Tezlyn Figaro joined as a representative of the George Floyd Foundation. Attorney Benjamin Crump, who has represented the families of many killed by police brutality, was there. Members of Floyd’s family also attended to honor George’s memory, and speak to the need for legislation like this.

“I wish you guys could have met (George). … He was a great man,” said Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s youngest brother. “I know he’s going to see this and be cheering us on.”

Bill author, Rep. Thompson, noted the Caucus plans to collaborate with other organizations, coalitions and state leaders to ensure the bill gets passed.

“I have not had the privilege yet (to speak with Gov. Abbott about the legislation),” she said. “I hope I have the opportunity, and I look forward to the opportunity.”

The event closed out with final remarks from Chair Dutton.

“We recognize there’s opposition,” said Dutton. “Some of the opposition is simply because this is the Black Caucus. But that’s never stopped any one of us from doing what we think is right.”

 

The Texas HDC live-tweeted the press conference. Catch up on what you may have missed by checking out our Twitter thread.

Texas House votes to extend life of maternal mortality task force

Legislation that would extend the life of a state task force studying Texas’ high maternal morbidity rates was tentatively approved by the Texas House late Sunday night.

Under Senate Bill 17, the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity would continue its work until 2023. The task force, launched by the Legislature in 2013, found that between 2011 and 2012, 189 Texas mothers died less than a year after their pregnancies ended, mostly from heart disease, drug overdoses and high blood pressure.

To continue reading this story go to the Texas Tribune.

Howard: Amendment would make Texas shoulder more school funding (Op-ed)

Upon receiving their property tax notices, Texas homeowners seem ready to channel Peter Finch in the 1976 movie “Network” by throwing open their windows and yelling, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” But at whom should that ire be directed?

Some wolves in sheep’s clothing at the Texas Capitol are pointing their fingers at your locally elected officials and pursuing legislation to tightly restrict cities. But don’t be fooled; it’s the wolves themselves who have driven up your property taxes.

To continue reading this story go to the Austin American-Statesman.

House Democrats, business groups push for repeal of ‘sanctuary cities’ ban

AUSTIN – Texas House Democrats on Tuesday vowed to use “every conceivable tool” at their disposal to fight discriminatory legislation during the special session, including the so-called bathroom bill and a ban on ‘sanctuary cities.’

Members of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and other House Democrats wasted no time targeting the legislation.

To continue reading this story go to the El Paso Times.

Texas Democrats lay out their own special session priorities

House and Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled their priorities for the upcoming special legislative session, including some measures that fall in line with the agenda Gov. Greg Abbott laid out in his call and some that depart entirely from it.

In a joint press conference, Democratic leaders in both chambers vowed to champion the issues “that matter to all Texans,” and to fight for legislation that will protect “our kids, our economy, our health and our communities.” Priorities for the Democrats include school finance reform and reducing maternal mortality — both of which are on Abbott’s list in some capacity. Several other issues, including criminal justice reform and equal pay, are not — and are unlikely to make it to the floor for a vote.

To continue reading this story go to the Texas Tribune.

Five New Laws that Will Likely Get Texas Sued (Or Already Have)

Infighting, red-meat politics and parliamentary revenge characterized this year’s Texas Legislature. Amid the fray, legislators failed to reauthorize basic state agencies such as the Texas Medical Board, which is why Texans now face the gloomy fate of another 30-day session beginning next week.

With all the dysfunction, you might conclude the Lege is simply incompetent, but it turns out they’re still aces at one thing: provoking lawsuits.

In 140 days, the Lege passed at least five bills that the state will likely be (or already is) defending in court at the taxpayers’ expense. Courts have already ruled repeatedly against Texas in recent years over voter ID, redistricting and abortion access.

To continue reading this story go to the Texas Observer.

Rafael Anchia: Six times since 2011, federal rulings found intentional discrimination by Legislature

After federal judges in April 2017 ruled that Texas Republicans had intentionally diluted minority voting strength when they redrew U.S. and Texas House districts, a Democratic legislator said it wasn’t the first time — or even the fifth.

Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas, who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, posted a tweet saying: “How many federal rulings have NOW found intentional discrimination by #Txlege since 2011? 6.”

Six rulings? We wondered.

To continue reading this story go to PolitiFact Texas.

Surprise: Senate tacks ‘bathroom bill,’ property-tax reform onto House measure

AUSTIN — In a surprise move, the Texas Senate early Wednesday tacked its controversial version of the ‘bathroom bill” and property-tax reform measures into a catch-all House bill.

But it was a trap, the House author of the so-called “Christmas tree” bill confirmed, and the measures added to it are now dead.

Among the 48 amendments the Senate tacked onto House Bill 4180 were the Senate-passed versions of Senate Bill 6 and Senate Bill 2, two measures the House had watered-down greatly before approving them in recent days.

To continue reading this story go to the Houston Chronicle.

Franchise Tax Bill Could Be Disastrous

This headline from the Texas Tribune says it all: “Texas House votes to cut business tax that funds public schools.”

Last Thursday, Texas Republicans brought forward a bill that would eventually phase out the franchise tax. Built upon the idea of a fake surplus, the bill would count GR-dedicated funds as “extra” money, and use those calculations to create a total by which the state would cut the franchise tax. The Legislative Budget Board analysis found that the bill could create as much as a $3.5 billion hit to our state’s general revenue fund and, thus, our public schools in just a few years.

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Statement on Passage of Sanctuary City Bill

SB 4, the  so-called “sanctuary city” bill, passed the House on a party-line vote in the dead of the night. The bill was bad enough to begin with, but Republicans managed to make it even worse by turning it into a “Show-Me-Your-Papers” bill. This Arizona-style legislation will discriminate against millions of Texans, and marks one of the darkest days in the Texas House in my four terms.

Make no mistake, SB 4 is a discriminatory bill that represents politics as its worst. It’s a tragic irony that the passage of this bill comes on the heels of three consecutive federal court rulings this year that have found the Legislature engaged in intentional discrimination in its adoption of redistricting and photo ID laws.  As the passage of SB 4 demonstrates, the Legislature’s zeal to do harm to minority Texans continues unabated.

The children who stood at the entrance of the House chamber yesterday, pleading with House members to oppose SB 4, are rightfully scared of what may come next. But as Rep. Giddings said on the House floor this afternoon, they need to know there is a much higher power than the Texas Legislature, a power that will never forsake them.