The brinksmanship of the Texas Legislature grew even more contentious this week as Lt. Governor Dan Patrick threatened not to restore the pay of the legislative branch if the Texas House does not pass two bills high up on the conservative agenda.
To call the 87th Texas Legislature and the subsequent special sessions tumultuous would be to vastly understate the partisan fight. When the Democrats found themselves unable to water down or stop the draconian election bills that severely restrict voter rights and access, they first walked out and then staged a mass exodus that kept the lower chamber out of session for more than a month. Governor Greg Abbott responded with arrest warrants for the Democrats as well as vetoing Article X of the budget, which pays the legislature and staffs salaries.
Funding for more than 2,000 staffers was set to be restored in the current special session, but apparently, Patrick will not allow the necessary bill to come to a vote unless he gets his way on two bills that are considered a high priority for the conservative movement. One is the so-called “critical race theory” bill, in reality, an attempt to limit how public-school teachers are allowed to discuss the role of race in history. The second would mandate that transgender students only play sports as their gender assigned at birth.
According to Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), who chairs the Public Education Committee, he confirmed that Patrick was threatening to hold up restoring the funding if the lieutenant governor did not get his way. Dutton suddenly adjourned his committee on Monday without taking votes on them in response.
“We have gotten to the point now where the Senate has adopted certain principles and practices that I don’t think bode well for this Legislature. I think that what’s happened is we have allowed them to do certain things and they disrespect the House in certain fashions,” Dutton said as he adjourned the session. “It has gotten worse to the point where today, what I am told, is that if we don’t pass these two bills — the [critical race theory] bill and the transgender bill — the Senate is not going to consider trying to fix the funding in Article X. So, I want to see if he has his big boy pants on.”
Patrick has not responded to the accusation.
The two bills are major sore spots for progressives and are seen as an unnecessary overreach by Texas Republicans eager to throw red meat to their base ahead of the 2022 midterms. Both the “critical race theory” bill and the transphobic ban have been widely opposed by progressive groups. The Human Rights Coalition released a blustering statement when the anti-trans bill came up over the summer.
“Every session, Texas lawmakers recycle the same discriminatory playbook to generate fear. But this time, it’s aimed at children,” said Rebecca Marques, Human Rights Campaign Texas State Director. “It’s been four years since the infamous ‘bathroom bill’ made Texas a laughingstock and was ultimately defeated. After his efforts to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ Texans failed in the regular 2021 legislative session, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is again pushing anti transgender legislation on the taxpayer’s dime. Advancing these two bills — knowing full well they harm Texas children and families — is unconscionable…[and] are opposed by educators, sports organizations, and medical professionals. Collegiate and professional sports organizations have had trans-inclusive policies for years without incident, and there is no reason any state would need a ban on transgender participation in sports at the K-12 level. Transgender kids are kids who just want to play, and they deserve that chance. Pacifying a far-right base by targeting the health, safety and welfare of transgender children is heartless and cruel — Texas children and families deserve better.”