Legislature promises a very special session

The special session of the legislature begins on Tuesday, July 18. Dallas Voice will be there for the opening and for the protests that are planned in Austin.

Legislators are preparing for the special session by filing a variety of bills that prevent cities from passing ordinances to self-govern and to make the lives of transgender people miserable. Equality Texas is tracking those bills. Here are four of the worst that have been filed so far:

HB 46 by Rep. Simmons would prohibit all political subdivisions, including municipalities, school districts, and state colleges and universities, from adopting or enforcing any ordinances or policies that protect transgender people in bathrooms or changing facilities.

HB 50 by Rep. Simmons is similar to HB 46, but relates only to school districts, prohibiting them from adopting or enforcing policies that protect transgender students in bathrooms or changing facilities.

SB 23 by Sen. Hall is a statewide pre-emption bill that would prohibit counties, municipalities, and other political subdivisions from adopting or enforcing laws or ordinances that prohibit discrimination on a basis not protected in state law, and would void all current nondiscrimination ordinances such as those adopted by Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Plano.

The links will help track the progress of these bills as they make their way through the special session. Speaker of the House Joe Straus is on record opposing wasting time with these types of bills and said he is not willing to be responsible for a single suicide that might result from passing any of these bills. He’s not likely to place these bills in committees that would be sympathetic to them.

If want to know what you can do, here are some options.

—  David Taffet

Equality Texas offering legislative update at Cedar Grove; Patrick threatens special session over bathroom bill

Steve Rudner

About 10 days before the scheduled end of the 85th Texas Legislature, Equality Texas, the statewide LGBT lobbying organization based in Austin, will give a legislative update on Thursday, May 18, from 6-8 p.m. at Cedar Grove, 4123 Cedar Springs Road, #110.

The event begins at 6 p.m., with remarks starting at 6:45 p.m. Equality Texas Board President Steve Rudner will talk about the status of LGBT-related bills and issues in the legislature, and then take questions from the audience.

The event is free, sponsored by Alan H. Levi, CPA, Jones Day Law Firm and Littler Mendelson, PC. and each attendee’s first drink is complimentary. (A cash bar will be available.)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — titty baby supreme of Texas (Trump holds the national title) — has threatened to force the Legislature into a special session unless Speaker of the House Joe Strauss falls into goose-step line and gets both an anti-transgender bathroom bill (Patrick’s special interest issue) and a specific tax bill passed out of the house.

Texas Tribune reports: “Patrick deemed Senate Bill 2, a property tax bill from state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, and either Senate Bill 6, the “bathroom bill” from state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, or similar language amended to another bill, as must-pass measures to avoid a special session. Both bills have passed the Senate and are currently in the House.

—  Tammye Nash

Dangerous bills are moving through the legislature

Equality Texas warns that this might not be a very good week for equality in the Texas.

While several bills — including the heinous bathroom bill — have been sent to the State Affairs Committee, where, usually, bills are sent to die, several that have passed the Senate are getting hearings in the House of Representatives where they could pass.

A replacement bill for SB 6 — HB2899 — will be heard in the State Affairs committee on Wednesday and Equality Texas urges anyone who is available to be in Austin that day for the hearing. The bill would invalidate local non-discrimination laws, such as those in place in Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano. Sexual orientation was first added to Dallas city code in 1993 for city employees.

More from Equality Texas:

Religious Refusal by child welfare agencies

On Wednesday, April 12, the House State Affairs committee voted out HB 3859, a religious refusal bill that would provide child welfare providers the right to refuse to service clients if doing so conflicts with a “sincerely held religious belief”. The bill is currently being considered by the House Calendars Committee, which will meet next week to discuss placing on the general floor calendar.

Religious Refusal

On Tuesday by a vote of 21-10, the Texas Senate voted out SB 522, a religious refusal bill that would allow clerks to discriminate and refuse to issue marriage licenses based on a “sincerely held religious belief”. Like many of the religious refusal bills filed in the legislature this session, SB 522 radically redefines religious liberty in Texas and seeks to use religion as another way to discriminate against same-sex couples. Sen. Sylvia Garcia said this about SB 522:“Each county clerk and judge in Texas said they would ‘faithfully fulfill their duties and follow the laws of this state and this country so help me God’ and that includes their duties to process eligible marriage certificates for same-sex couples.”

SB 522 now moves to the House, where it has not yet been referred to a committee.

Also in the legislature:

Sanctuary Cities

In addition, SB4, the sanctuary cities bill, cleared committee with this ominous provision: Local police would be deputized as federal immigration law officers and leaders could be jailed for up to a year for failing to assist federal immigration.

At the Mega March, County Judge Clay Jenkins spoke and said our police are already short-staffed and overworked. Their job is to protect the public by fighting crime and no one — not victims or witnesses — should be afraid to call police because of fear of deportation.

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a target of this bill, said she has cooperated with federal immigration officials when someone in Dallas County custody has a criminal record.

And for the record, Texas has no sanctuary cities.

—  David Taffet

Whereas and be it resolved …

Prince performing in the Super Bowl halftime in 2007 — a good show, yeah, but Texas House resolution worthy?

We’re about halfway through the 85th Texas Legislature, and so far, lawmakers have not sent a single bill to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.

Of course, considering some of the trash some folks are trying to turn into Texas law — Dan Patrick’s ridiculous, unnecessary, economically devastating and highly discriminatory bathroom bill, for one, and the “doctors can lie to pregnant women” bill already passed by the Senate and getting a hearing today in the House, for another — the fact they haven’t sent anything to Abbott yet could be a real blessing.

But, as the Houston Chronicle points out, that doesn’t mean legislators haven’t been busy. In fact, as of Sunday, April 2, the Senate and the House together had passed more than 1,500 resolutions.

The Chronicle notes that some of the resolutions were housekeeping-type things having to do with rules and inviting Abbott to come deliver his State of the State speech in January. And, as usual, there were tons of resolutions commemorating sports championships, 100th birthdays, anniversaries of people and events, other special accomplishments.

And that’s perfectly fine with me. These men and women were elected to represent their constituents, and recognizing the accomplishments and milestones of those constituents is, I think, part of the job.

Why would anyone have a problem with a resolution congratulating a constituent on his retirement (House Resolution 116 by Rep. John Frullo, R-Lubbock, congratulates Joseph Ralph DeWitt IV on his retirement as proprietor of Ralph’s Records in Lubbock), or one commemorating a business’ 15th anniversary (House Resolution 52 sponsored by Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, and Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond commemorates the 15th anniversary of Snappy’s Cafe and Grill in Katy).

And I can understand House Resolution 172, by Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas at El Paso’s NCAA national basketball championship in 1966. And House Resolution 394, by Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogcohes, marking the 80th anniversary of the New London School explosion in north Rusk County is without a doubt worthy.

Others — well, I’m not sure I care about Mexican Fruit Fly Awareness Month, or Javelina Day or Texas Homemade Pie Day (except, you know, pie).

But a Texas House of Representatives Resolution commemorating the 10th anniversary of Prince’s Super Bowl halftime concert? Yeah, I’m gonna have to call bullshit on that one.

And if you read the actual wording of Houston Democratic Rep. Jarvis Johnson’s House Resolution 234, it becomes even more ridiculous:

“WHEREAS, Prince designed a unique, tightly choreographed, impeccably rehearsed spectacle and then surprised the audience of millions with an unconventional set list as well; it commingled some of his own hits, including ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘1999,’ with a mind-boggling mash-up of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Proud Mary,’ Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower,’ and Foo Fighters’ ‘Best of You;’ undeterred by a torrential storm over the stadium, he closed with a searing ‘Purple Rain,’ seeming to command the elements as well as the crowd with his epic guitar solo…

“RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 85th Texas Legislature hereby commemorate the 10th anniversary of Prince’s Super Bowl concert and pay tribute to the memory of this incomparable artist.”

I mean, I am a Prince fan and all, but really?

Check out the Chronicle’s resolutions fun facts here.

—  Tammye Nash

HEADS UP: TFN warns that CPS reform bills could include anti-LGBT discrimination

 

The Texas Freedom Network today warned that conservatives in the Texas House of Representatives are likely to try to amend bills aimed at reforming the states Child Protective Services agency to allow discrimination against LGBT foster and adoptive parents.

Ali Gorczynski, outreach and field coordinator for TFN, said that there is “a concerted effort behind the scenes to amend legislation reforming CPS with language that would permit discrimination against LGBT individuals in the state’s child welfare system,” and that HB 4 and HB 5, both scheduled for debate today, are being targeted.

According to a warning posted on the TFN website, “We understand there may be an effort to amend the bills to allow child welfare providers contracting with the state to use their religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBT families wishing to adopt or offer a foster home to a child in need.”

HB 4, authored by Mesquite Republican Rep. Cindy Burkett, would allow the Department of Family and Protective Services, “subject to the availability of funds, [to] enter into a caregiver assistance agreement with each relative or other designated caregiver to provide monetary assistance and additional support services to the caregiver,” based on the family’s need.

HB 5, authored by Wichita Falls Republican Rep. James Frank, would, in part, amend the Texas Family Code so that rules governing adoption decisions would fall under the purview of the Family and Protective Services commissioner, rather than the executive commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission.

TFN urged Texans to “call your state representative and tell them to oppose any amendments permitting discrimination” as soon as possible.

“This effort is being masked as ‘religious freedom.’ But no matter what they call it, allowing faith-based child welfare providers that receive taxpayer funds to refuse to serve same-sex couples is discrimination. Let’s stop this before it goes any further,” Gorczynski wrote.

If you aren’t sure exactly who represents you in Austin, check here for names and contact information.

—  Tammye Nash

Tony Tinderholt wants to jail women for having abortions

Arlington Republican state Rep. Tony Tinderholt has filed legislation that would make abortion a felony in Texas, allowing for health care professionals who perform abortions and women who get abortions to be charged with murder.

As Texas Observer reports, Tinderholt’s bill, HB 948, orders state officials to ignore “any conflicting federal laws,” classifies a fetus as “a living human child” from the moment of conception, with the same rights and privileges as “any other human child,” and makes no exception for cases of rape or fetal abnormalities. It also removes the exception for abortion in the state’s penal code for criminal homicide.

It does allow an exception for cases in which the mother’s life is at risk due to complications from the pregnancy.

Tinderholt defended his bill by claiming that it would “force” women to be “more personally responsible” with sex, Texas Observer reports. He told the Observer: “Right now, they don’t make it important to be personally responsible because they know that they have a backup of ‘oh, I can just go get an abortion.’”

Neither Tinderholt nor any of the other self-righteous dicks in the Texas Legislature have filed legislation to jail men who get a woman pregnant and then abandon her.

HB 948 is, of course, patently unconstitutional. But Tinderholt and his ilk don’t give a rat’s ass about that because they are white men, and they get to tell everybody else what to do and how to live because they are better and more important than the rest of us.

Tinderholt, elected in 2014, is 46 years old, Roman Catholic and a military veteran, having served in both the Air Force and the U.S. Army. He went in to his first term in the Legislature, in 2015, with guns a’blazin, declaring himself to be a defender of traditional family values. He’s so Christian and family values oriented that in 2015 he filed a complaint against a Texas probate judge after a lesbian couple was allowed to marry in Austin in February that year (before Obergefell). As it turned out, Tinderholt’s hand-written complaint was filed against the wrong judge. In his first term in office, he passed no legislation.

Bethany Tyler-Tinderholt, promoting family values — and condoms — at a Playboy party in 2015.

It also turns out that he believes so strongly in the sanctity of  “traditional” marriage (between one man and one woman only), that he’s been married five times. As Dallas Voice Senior Staff Writer David Taffet noted in 2015:

“Wife No. 5, Bethany, was also wife No. 2. On her Twitter account, Bethany Tinderholt says she is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, adding, ‘I believe in God, family and conservative values.’ 

“Apparently, going by these photos that were sent to Dallas Voice Wednesday, March 4, believing in ‘God, family and conservative values’ includes going to Playboy parties wearing cleavage-baring dresses and posing with similarly-dressed women and a Playboy Bunny or two, while waving around condoms.

“We think the pictures were taken last year at the Aloft Hotel in downtown Dallas when the hotel became the Bud Light Hotel for Final Four weekend — at a time that Tony and Bethany Tinderholt were already proclaiming their Christian faith and conservative values to prove he was qualified to serve in the Texas Legislature.”

If you wanted to send a message to this God-appointed protector of purity, here’s his contact info. And here’s his campaign website. And here’s his Facebook page.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Rep. Cecil Bell uses big words in statement about Kim Davis

Bell-Cecil

Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia

Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, and author of numerous bills this past legislative session that would’ve barred Texas from recognizing marriage equality, issued a statement today, Friday, Sept. 4, condemning the arrest of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk for refusing to issue marriage licenses.

Davis, a Democrat who refused to issue licenses on religious grounds and was arrested yesterday, was a victim of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalizing marriage equality nationwide, Bell said.

The text, found below, speaks for itself:

The lawless, unconstitutional edict of the US Supreme Court in Obergefell striking down state constitutional marriage amendments does not place the antithetical into law as the judiciary branch does not hold the authority to make law. SCOTUS, in striking down DOMA, ruled that the lawmaking authority regulating and defining marriage is held by the legislatures of the separate states.

Of the fifty states in our Union…

– eleven have laws enabling the licensing of same sex marriage

– in three of those states, the people voted to enable same sex licensing

– in eight of those states, that was done without a public vote, by legislative action. 

Thirty nine states (78%) have no laws to grant officials the authority to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals and I will continue to stand for our sovereignty and against federal overreach. 

Kim Davis and the other clerks who have stood for their religious freedoms and for state and citizen sovereignty are not guilty of violating any state or federal law. Again the Court’s ruling does not create law or an ability to force conformity to the will of the Court. We are not a krytocracy which is a people governed by Judges. The US Supreme Court’s wanton abandonment of law and constitutional authority in the reprehensible act of “striking down” state marriage amendments where law abiding citizens exercised the sovereign power of the ballot and of the separate states does establish a conundrum. Absent enabling legislation within a state, except as defined under current law, no marriage license, death certificate, birth certificate or other such document can be legally issued. No constitutional authority exists to force the Court’s vile and decrepit will on the people. Conversely, in cases like that of Ms. Davis, the absence of law leaves these overreaching federal judges clearly guilty of legislating from the bench.

The efforts to eliminate state sovereignty are far broader than the moral dilemma of homosexuality.

The quiet acceptance of unconstitutional atrocities across our state and across the separate states of our nation is abominable. I stand for Texas, for Texans and with the citizens of the separate states for the constitutional restoration of state sovereignty. 

GOD BLESS TEXAS! GOD BLESS THE USA!

Cecil Bell, Jr.

Texas State Representative

Bell fueled rumors earlier this year he would mount a challenge to Speaker Joe Straus, a moderate Republican. But he instead rolled out PACT for Constitutional Restoration Of State Sovereignty to keep elected officials accountable to the Constitution.

No word yet if he thinks the 13 bills he passed this session also usurp the law.

—  James Russell

BREAKING: Attorney General Ken Paxton has been booked

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Attorney General Ken Paxton’s mugshot

Attorney General Ken Paxton was booked this morning and released from the Collin County jail following a trio of felony indictments handed down by a Collin County grand jury last week.

The three indictments — including two first-degree felony counts  and a third-degree felony count — stem from a months-long investigation by the Texas Rangers and two special prosecutors who looked into Paxton’s securities practices before he took office.

In 2014, while running for attorney general, he admitted to violating state securities law after failing to register with the State Securities Board before soliciting clients for investors. He paid a $1,000 fine.

First degree felonies carry a prison sentence between 5 to 99 years in prison. A third degree felony carries a $10,000 fine and between two to 10 years in jail.

Tarrant County judge George Gallagher has been appointed to lead the trial.

—  James Russell

Anti-LGBT legislator running for state senate failed to disclose affiliation with conservative non-profit

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State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola

A vocally anti-LGBT Republican state representative failed to disclose his affiliation with a socially conservative non-profit organization.

State Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, failed to disclose his leadership role on the board of the Wilberforce and Lincoln Center, Inc. in his six most recent personal financial statements.

(Those can be found here: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.)

The vocally anti-LGBT Republican who is running for state senate has been affiliated with the Waco-based center since 2008, according to records filed with the secretary of state.

James William Odom, a Baylor University graduate student and former spokesman for the university, founded the Wilberforce Center for Civic Engagement in 2008. An amended filing later added the name Lincoln.

Odom, Hughes, Oklahoma oil and gas executive Jerome Loughridge and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who was then a state representative, were all listed as directors of the organization.

It is currently listed at Odom’s home address in Waco.

Paxton recently filed an amended personal financial statement indicating his affiliation with the organization. But personal financial statements filed by Hughes between 2008 and 2014 do not list his role with the organization despite its active non-profit status.

Per state law, elected officials must list all entities, including non-profits, where they serve as members of the board, on their statements said Ian Steusloff, a spokesman with the Texas Ethics Commission.

The commission administers and enforces state election code and oversees the collection of all campaign and personal finance reports filed by legislators.

Failure to disclose this information could result in a civil penalty of $500.

On the six most recent statements, Hughes is only listed as a trustee of the Mineola Foundation and between 2010 and 2012 a brief stint as a director of Central America Mining America Group. A September 19, 2014 required periodic report, however, still lists Hughes as a Wilberforce Lincoln director.

Odom’s résumé, obtained from his Baylor University graduate student profile, indicates he founded Wilberforce Lincoln under the name the Leadership Foundation in Oklahoma in 2000. At the time he was a Republican candidate for Congress. The institute was “dedicated to encouraging principled leadership in the political arena for the preservation of a culture that respects life and cherishes liberty.”

It did not operate again until 2008 when it turned to articulating public policy issues of interest to churches and other religious organizations, including “sanctity of life, family law and national indebtedness.”

Odom, who declined to comment for this story, wrote it has remained dormant because he didn’t have “time or resources to develop its programs.”

Cody Terry, Hughes’ chief of staff, said he was unaware of the organization’s existence.

First elected in 2002, Hughes is currently running for state senate to succeed retiring Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler. In 2014, on The Anderson Cooper Show, he defended a plank on the state GOP’s platform affirming reparative therapy.

Among those endorsing his senate campaign are Texas Values’ Jonathan Saenz, Liberty Institute’s Kelly Shackleford and Texas Eagle Forum’s Cathie Adams and Attorney General Paxton.

—  James Russell

GOP candidate: ‘Gays… were never banned from marrying… the opposite sex’

Remember Bo French? He’s the Texas House candidate running against Rep. Charlie Geren in Tarrant County. I went to school with his wife and many of her family members. After getting an alarming fundraising email, I wrote an essay urging him to not follow (or take money from) Cathie Adams and the like.

Well, so much for that.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing marriage equality nationwide, French wrote the following:

Screen shot 2015-07-07 at 10.21.21 AM

After a commenter reminded him that, yes, the U.S. Constitution contains both the 10th Amendment protects states’ rights and the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equality and due process, I guess that was too much. French replied this way:

Screen shot 2015-06-26 at 3.17.43 PM

French was then asked “you expect to be elected with that logic?”

Well, evidently, he does:

Screen shot 2015-07-07 at 10.28.37 AM

You can’t say I didn’t try to remind him, because I did. But I guess a West Texas oilman’s money speaks more than an open and honest plea to your wife and her family’s high school classmate to not join the battle of bigotry.

Bring it, 2016.

—  James Russell