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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has promised to bring up a number of priorities embraced by social conservatives in a special session of the Texas legislature, including several bills dealing with hot-button issues such as a ban on transgender athletes.
On Wednesday, Abbott placed several items on the agenda, such as an “election integrity” bill designed to place more restrictions on when and how Texans can vote; a measure restricting what public school teachers can say about “critical race theory”; a ban on social media censorship of conservative viewpoints, allowing those banned from platforms to bring legal action against platforms; a bill seeking to prohibit people from providing abortion-inducing drugs via mail or delivery service; and a bill prohibiting transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that match their gender identity.
In a written statement, Abbott claimed the regular legislative session had been a “monumental success,” but that lawmakers have “unfinished business to ensure that Texas remains the most exceptional state in America.”
The 30-day-long special session is estimated to cost taxpayers an additional $1 million. reports The Dallas Morning News.
The biggest roadblock to passage of several of Abbott’s agenda items during the regular session was the decision by House Democrats to “walk out” in protest of the elections bill, which they claimed will simply restrict the franchise to voters of color, thereby denying the House the two-thirds quorum needed to consider legislation. In retaliation, Abbott vetoed state funding for the legislature, its staff members and support agencies.
A bill to restore that funding has been introduced during the special session, in the hope that it will compel Democrats not to walk out so the Republican majority can pass more controversial legislation and send it on to Abbott for his signature into law.
Democrats have criticized Abbott for not including legislation to shore up the state’s electricity grid — which left millions without power earlier this year after the state was hit by severe winter storms, due to widespread deregulation of the state’s electricity market, as well as insufficient measures to winterize the grid to protect against inclement weather, which led to further disruptions when energy sources — including uninsulated gas lines and nuclear reactors, as well as wind turbines — froze and stopped functioning.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) said Abbott should focus on big issues, such as improving the state’s infrastructure or providing insurance coverage for Texans.
“Instead, Abbott wants to pick on children, tell teachers they can’t talk about slavery, prevent women from accessing reproductive health care and infringe on Texans’ freedom to vote,” Turner said in a written statement, referring to the conservative “wish-list” of priorities.
Former State Sen. Don Huffines (R-Dallas), one of two Republicans challenging Abbott in next year’s gubernatorial primary, criticized Abbott for failing to push border security measures and for not including a bill — proposed earlier this year — to prohibit transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care, which would have declared parents who consent to such treatments as child abusers and put them at risk of having their children removed from their custody and placed in foster care.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who presides over the State Senate, tweeted that the upper chamber will resume on Thursday and is “ready to pass all of the legislation” proposed by Abbott, beginning with the elections bill. He said hearings on that bill will begin on Saturday.
House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), who has been less enthusiastic about passing potentially controversial bills, such as those dealing with LGBTQ issues, was more subdued, tweeting: “Members, I’ll see you [Thursday] at 10 AM.”
Equality Texas, the state’s top LGBTQ organization, put out a call to supporters asking them to donate to its “special session fund” and to become part of its Rapid Response team, where individuals may be called on to testify with little advance notice.
In a subsequent Facebook post, Equality Texas wrote: “A special legislative session works a bit differently from a regular session. With only 30 days to complete the work, the urgency to show up and speak out is heightened. In addition, the regular deadlines we count on to stop some bills do not apply in a special session. A committee meeting can be called with only 30 minutes notice and a hearing will be announced only 24 hours in advance. We need you to become part of our Rapid Response Team to help us push back against the bill to ban trans youth from sports and any other anti-LGBTQ+ bills that may resurface during the special session.”
Social media is celebrating U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) after she corrected a right-wing newspaper that tried to shame her for using trans-inclusive language.
British tabloid The Daily Mail highlighted conservative backlash to Ocasio-Cortez's recent appearance on CNN, where the New York congresswoman criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for a new law banning abortion after six weeks.
During the interview, vocal LGBTQ ally Ocasio-Cortez ensured that she used gender-inclusive language while discussing the law and biology with CNN host Anderson Cooper.
J.D. Vance, one of the Republicans seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R), put his foot in his mouth while trying to attack U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) on Twitter for supporting transgender rights.
Vance is a Yale Law School graduate and self-acclaimed populist who wrote Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir centering on his upbringing in Appalachia, the cultural values of the region, and the financial distress and high levels of poverty that have resulted from the loss of blue-collar jobs like factory work.
The 37-year-old Vance has sought to style himself in the mold of former President Donald Trump by appealing to cultural conservatives and blue-collar white voters. Vance often trolls or criticizes his political opponents on social media, blaming them for all of America's ills in an effort to rally Republican base voters behind his campaign.
Last week, California lawmakers passed a bill that would launch a pilot program focused on tracking the gender identity and sexual orientation of victims of violent deaths.
The bill, which was approved overwhelmingly by both chambers, now heads to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who is expected to sign it into law.
Under the bill, the California Department of Public Health will establish a three-year pilot program in up to six counties that agree to participate, from various regions of the state -- including urban, rural, and suburban communities -- that will teach coroners and medical examiners how to identify and compile information about a victim's sexual orientation and gender identity in cases of violent death, including suicides, homicides, and instances involving deadly use of force by police.
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