June 4, 2021
The current Texas legislative session has been defined by a full-on assault on oppressed communities and social movements. Governor Greg Abbot bragged that in the span of 48 hours, the Texas legislature passed some of the most right-wing and restrictive bills in the country. The legislature has either proposed or passed at least a dozen bills that specifically target the most oppressed and marginalized communities in the state of Texas. Here is a roundup of some of the more sinister bills and where they currently stand.
Anti-transgender SB 1646 and SB 49 (stalled by Dems) – Trans rights are under increasing attack with a slew of anti-trans bills, not just in Texas but across the country. SB 1646 stated that gender confirmation surgeries for minors will be classified as a form of child abuse. It targeted physicians who prescribe or perform gender reassignment procedures for punishment. SB 29 would have restricted trans athletes from participating in sports and would force them to compete based on gender assigned at birth. Democrats were able to stall these bills to prevent them from passing.
Anti-civil rights SB 7 (prevented from passing by lack of quorum) – SB 7, drawing in part from conspiracy theories about “voter fraud” in the 2020 election, severely targets voter rights. The bill prohibits election officials “from proactively mailing out absentee ballots or applications for them.” It would make it far harder for election officials to remove partisan “poll-watchers.” Organized right-wing “poll watcher” groups inspired by Donald Trump engaged in voter intimidation in several states during the 2020 election. Under the bill, officials who provide assistance to voters in an arbitrarily determined “violation of the rules” are hit with new and more severe penalties. Texas is already one of the hardest states to vote in, and these laws will only further limit access to voting rights for oppressed people.
Anti-police reform HB 1900 (sent to governor’s desk) – HB 1900 takes aim at one of the core demands of last year’s uprising against police violence, the call to defund the police. Under the bill, any city that spends less of its budget on policing than the year before in any given year will be defined as having “defunded the police” and could be cut off from major parts of its tax revenue. This would also enable areas of some cities — such as Austin, which reduced its police budget in 2020 — to break away from the city. The bill would only apply to cities larger than 250,000 people, 11 Texas cities in total. This was sent to the governor’s desk on May 28.
Anti-homeless HB 1925 (sent to governor’s desk) – This bill would make “public camping” a Class C misdemeanor punishable with a fine of up to $500. Since “public camping” refers almost exclusively to homeless encampments, and homeless people do not have money to spare, the bill threatens to bring homeless people into an even more vicious cycle of interactions with police and incarceration. This was also sent to the governor’s desk on May 28.