HIV criminalization bill to be voted on in House today


Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, left, and Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, right.

A bill that would use a crime suspect’s HIV status against them if they knowingly infected the victim will be voted on the House floor today.

SB 779 by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, passed a key hurdle on Sunday, May 24, to some advocates’ surprise.

The bill passed in the Senate despite witness testimony against it earlier this month but was considered dead without a House companion. The House voted to suspend the rules and swiftly passed it in committee. Should it be voted on the House floor today, advocates concede it will pass.

Texas would join 37 other states with laws using a defendant’s HIV status against them – laws that opponents say criminalize HIV.

SB 779 was filed at the recommendation of the Brazoria County District Attorney’s office. Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who represents the area, is the House sponsor.

The bill was one of four HIV criminalization bills introduced this session, which has seen mixed results for advocates of those living with HIV and AIDS. Rep. Stuart Spitzer, R-Kaufman, successfully moved HIV prevention and testing funding to funding for abstinence but it was later restored.

The legislative session ends Monday, June 1.

—  James Russell

LEGE UPDATE: Senate flirts with trans marriage ban; LGBT youth removed from suicide bill

Daniel Williams

An attack on opposite-sex marriage, movement on anti-bullying bills and the removal of protections for LGBT teens from a suicide prevention bill marked this, the 15th week of the Texas Legislature’s 20-week regular session.

On Friday morning , April 15, urgent alerts went out from state and national transgender advocacy groups asking Texans to call Democratic members of the Senate and urge them to oppose Senate Bill 723. The bill would remove a court-ordered “change of sex” from the list of identifying documents which Texans can use to obtain a marriage license, potentially voiding all opposite-sex marriages in Texas where one partner has changed their legally recognized sex.

The alert was caused by the placement of SB 723 on the Senate’s “intent calendar” for Monday, April 18.

Senate rules require bills to be considered in the order they are filed, but the Senate hardly ever follows that rule. Instead they file a bill at the front of the line (the “blocker bill”) and everyone agrees not to vote on it. In order for the Senate to consider a bill filed after the blocker bill they must vote to “set aside” the Senate rules and take the bill “out of order.” Senate Rule 22.02 says that setting aside the rules requires a two-thirds majority of the members present. The intent calendar is a list of bills that Senators intend to bring up out of order that day. The Senate creates an intent calendar each week, and any bill not taken up on Monday rolls over to Tuesday and then to Wednesday. They then start a new intent calendar the following week.

There are 31 Senators: 12 Democrats and 19 Republicans. In order for a bill to receive the required two-thirds (or 20) votes it needs, at least one of the Democrats must support it. Thus the urgency of the alert.

—  admin