Coleman’s suicide prevention bill headed to governor’s desk

Texas state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, announced Thursday night, shortly before 7 p.m., that the Texas House has accepted Senate amendments HB 1386, giving the bill final approval and sending it to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for signing.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

The legislation, authored by Coleman and fellow Democrats Reps. Jessica Farrar of Houston and Marissa Marquez of El Paso, is intended to help prevent youth suicide by allowing school districts to implement suicide prevention programs that help school officials recognize the early warning signs of suicide and to notify parents to intervene if necessary, according to a press release from Coleman’s office.

Coleman said, “I’m extremely proud of this bill. This is one of my most important legislative priorities. We’ve heard too many tragic stories of children and teenagers who have taken their own lives due to emotional distress. This loss of life can be prevented. It’s important that we let parents know of any early warning signs in their child’s behavior so that they can prevent a bad outcome. It is the parents who can best care for their children.”

Sen. Rodney Ellis, another Houston Democrat, has sponsored the bill in the Senate. He called the measure “a small step in the right direction to aid school districts in identifying and aiding those students who are at risk of suicide.”

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UPDATE: Amendments targeting LGBT resource centers blocked, but threat remains

Rep. Wayne Christian

After seven hours of debate the House passed Senate Bill 1811 just after 1 a.m. today. SB 1811 is part of a series of “fiscal matters” bills that compliment the state budget. On Friday, Instant Tea reported that Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, pre-filed two amendments to the bill designed to defund LGBT resource centers from Texas universities and prevent schools from housing them on campus. (Read the full text of Christian’s proposed amendments to SB 1811 by going here and here.)

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, sponsored SB 1811 in the House. Before bringing the bill to the floor Pitts met with both the Republican and Democratic caucuses and explained that he would only support amendments that he deemed to be “perfecting” amendments. The sponsor of a bill can “accept” amendments, which usually means that they pass without a vote. The sponsor cannot block amendments, but other members often vote against amendments a sponsor opposes out of respect.

Pitts stuck by his guns, opposing all but 11 “perfecting” amendments. Although the House did pass some mostly Republican-sponsored amendments over his objections, for the most part they respected his opposition. Toward the end of the evening Pitts’ resolve began to fade and several amendments were allowed with the assumption that they would be removed later in the process.

While the House was considering SB 1811 the Senate passed Senate Bill 1581, another of the “fiscal matters” bills — this one dealing exclusively with education. Considering the late hour several of the members, including Christian, removed their proposed amendments to SB 1811 that dealt with education, assuming that the amendments could be offered to SB 1581, which is scheduled to be brought up in the House this weekend.

In addition to SB 1581, there are four additional fiscal matters bills still to be considered by the House: SB 7, SB 8, SB 22 and SB 23; any of which could be a vehicle for Christian’s amendments.

Students for Inclusive Resources is encouraging Texans to call their state representatives and ask them to oppose any attempt to defund or ban state universities’ LGBT resource centers. To look up contact info for your representative, go here.

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Naomi Gonzalez reflects on being gay-baited by Norma Chavez — but still doesn't come out

I’ve left phone messages and e-mails with Naomi Gonzalez’s campaign in the last few weeks trying to get an interview with the next representative for El Paso’s District 76 in the Texas House. If you’ll remember, Gonzalez was called a lesbian by incumbent Rep. Norma Chavez prior to their April runoff, which Gonzalez won.

Gonzalez has neither confirmed nor denied that she’s gay, so you can probably guess what my first question would be, and maybe that’s why she’d rather talk to The Texas Tribune. In the above video interview posted earlier today, the Tribune’s Brandi Grissom asks Gonzalez whether she thinks Chavez’s gay-baiting backfired, and what the response was like in El Paso. But Grissom never asks Gonzalez whether she is in fact a lesbian, and Gonzalez never says, unless you count the “three paychecks” comment in her first answer below. I’ve posted a transcript, as well as a little commentary, after the jump.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Longtime LGBT ally Terri Hodge sentenced to 1 year in jail for tax fraud

Former Texas State Rep. and longtime LGBT ally Terri Hodge has been sentenced to one year in prison in connection with the Dallas City Hall corruption case, The Dallas Morning News reports. Hodge pleaded guilty in February to tax fraud. She faced up to three years in prison and now must report to jail by June 22. Here’s what she said in court today:

“As a public official, my actions have cast a bad light on many other elected official. What I’ve done has contributed to some people’s distrust of the political system. All I can say is I am truly sorry for my mistakes.”

Hodge was replaced in the Legislature by State Rep. Eric Johnson, who was sworn in last week.

—  John Wright

Eric Johnson responds to Hodge's withdrawal from House race

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson, candidate for Texas House District 100, has released a statement in response to incumbent State Rep. Terri Hodge’s announcement earlier today that she is ending her campaign for re-election to District 100 and pleading guilty to a federal criminal charge in connection with the Dallas City Hall corruption scandal. (Read Hodge’s statement here.)

In his statement, Johnson thanked Hodge for her 14 years’ of service to the people of District 14, and promised to “continue to keep Ms. Hodge and her family in our prayers.” He also called on Democrats to “come together as a party, as a district and as a city to achieve the improvements House District 100 so desperately needs,” and vowed to continue to “campaign over the next 27 days exactly as I have over the past eight months.”

Read Johnson’s statement in its entirety after the jump.

—  admin