Senate OKs 2 Equality Texas-backed bills targeting bullying, suicide in same day

Posted on 23 May 2011 at 8:35pm
Rep. Garnet Coleman

When was the last time the Senate passed two bills backed by Equality Texas in one day? Probably never.

Earlier we told you that the Senate voted unanimously this afternoon to approve HB 1942, an anti-bullying bill by Rep. Diane Howard, R-Arlington, that is Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s session.

Tonight, the Senate voted 28-3 to pass a suicide prevention bill by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.This is the bill that was originally called Asher’s Law in honor of Asher Brown, the 13-year gay youth from the Houston area who took his own life last year in response to bullying at school.

Neither bill in its final form contains specific references or protections for LGBT youth. But the fact is that if they did, they wouldn’t have had any chance of passing the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports on Coleman’s bill:

HB 1386, the teen suicide prevention bill by Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has passed the Texas Senate on a 28 to 3 vote. The bill instructs the Texas Department of State Health Services to develop resources designed to prevent teen suicide, including mental health counseling, crisis prevention tools and suicide prevention eduction. Schools would then have the option of implementing those programs, but would not be required to do so.

The Senate Education Committee made some substantial changes to the bill the House sent over, most notably adding provisions that prohibit a child from seeking counseling without their parent’s knowledge. For queer teens who may not be out to their parents this is a particularly cruel change that may prevent some kids who need help from seeking it. Since the Senate version of the bill is different than the House version the House must concur with the changes. If they do not a “conference committee” of 5 House members (appointed by the Speaker of the House) and 5 Senators (appointed by the Lieutenant Governor) will be formed to to work out a comprimise between the two versions.

When he laid out the bill in the Senate Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), the bill’s Senate sponsor, made what he called a “suicide pact” with the rest of the Senate to oppose any attempt by the conference committee to allow students to receive anonymous counseling. By tradition the Senate sponsor of House bills is one of the chairs of the conference committee so Ellis will be in a position to keep his pact.

Considering Ellis’ commitment (however much his choice of words may be in poor taste) and the ticking clock of a session that has less than a week left in it Coleman may choose to simply concur with the changes the Senate made and send the bill to the Governor’s desk for signing.

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