Anti-bullying bill clears Texas House

HB 1942, the anti-bullying bill by Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, cleared the Texas House today on its third and final reading, by a vote of 94-41. According to Equality Texas, which now lists Patrick’s bill as its top priority in this year’s session, no Democrats voted against the measure, which now proceeds to the Senate. From Equality Texas blog:

The Texas House of Representatives today passed anti-bullying legislation supported by Equality Texas on a final vote of 94 to 41. HB 1942 by Rep. Diane Patrick (R-Arlington) is the collaborative product of Rep. Patrick and members of the House Committee on Public Education, including Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin), Rep. Mark Shelton (R-Fort Worth), Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), and Committee Chair Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands). The House had tentatively approved HB 1942 on Tuesday night on a 102 – 34 vote.

HB 1942 is the single best opportunity this session for the Texas Legislature to address the problem of bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment in Texas schools.

HB 1942:

• For the first time, includes the definition of bullying in Chaper 37 (Discipline) of the Texas Education Code,

• Updates the definition of bullying to include that through electronic means (cyberbullying),

• For the first time, provides for the transfer of the student who engages in bullying. Currently, only the target of bullying may be transferred.

• Allows staff development to include training on preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting incidents of bullying.

• Mandates that each board of trustees of each school district adopt a policy, including any necessary procedures, to address the prevention, investigation and reporting of incidents of bullying.

Upon final passage by the House, HB 1942 must now begin the process in the Texas Senate. The bill must be secure a Senate sponsor, secure a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Education, be passed out of committee, and then be passed by the full Senate.

We must not let up in our efforts to secure passage of this bill into law.

Watch for Advocacy Campaigns upcoming to secure the support of your Texas State Senator.

—  John Wright

Texas House committees and pro-LGBT bills

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Legislative Queery

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has finally announced the committee assignments for the 82nd Texas House. As I predicted last month the partisan breakdown of the committee chairs roughly reflects the distribution of party control in the House with 11 Democratic chairs and 25 Republicans (not including the four select and joint committee chairs, all Republicans).

House committees that queer Texans will want to watch very carefully:

Public Education — Will get the anti-bullying bills. Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, scheduled the hearing for HB 1323 (last session’s anti-bullying bill) very late last session, but he did schedule a hearing and the committee eventually voted to send the bill to the floor for a vote of the whole House. Unfortunately, time ran out last session (more info on HB 1323 is here). Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, whose HB 224 is expected to be the water bearer for anti-bullying bills, is on the committee this session.

Public Health – Will get HB 405, which would allow same-sex parents to get accurate birth certificates for their children. Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Austin, was visibly moved by testimony last session on this bill. Let’s hope that causes her to schedule it for an early hearing.

Criminal Jurisprudence – Will get HB 604, the repeal of Texas’s unconstitutional sodomy law and HB 172, the study of the effectiveness of the Texas Hate Crimes Act. Chairman Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, has a solid record of voting in the best interest of queer Texans, but repealing the unconstitutional sodomy law, however common-sense, is going to be a hard sell. Plus, with virulent homophobes Wayne Christian, Bill Zedler and Will Hartnett on the committee, it seems unlikely that common sense will beat out bigotry. The Hate Crimes study has a better chance. It made it out of committee last session, but it’s hard to predict what will happen this session.

Insurance – Will get HB 208 prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Chairman John Smithee, R-Amarillo, hasn’t let this bill through in past sessions, and I’d be shocked if he lets it through this session. Smithee takes every chance he can get to hurt queer Texans. He’s not likely to pass this chance up, either.

State Affairs – Will get HB 665, which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This bill, or a version of it, has been filed every session for over a decade, and it never gets a hearing. While new Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, is an immense improvement over old Chairman Burt Solomons, it’s unlikely that this bill will go anywhere.

Now that we have committees, bills are going to start moving left and right. The 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature is finally getting going!

—  admin