Reflections on the special session

//Reflections on the special session

After 29 extra days at the Texas Capitol, lawmakers head back to their districts without having accomplished much. That’s good news, because Governor Greg Abbott’s 20 priorities mostly would have harmed Texans.

There were a few good things that came out of the session, including maintaining the Texas Medical Board and extending the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force.

But these fixes should have been taken care of during the regular legislative session. Instead the policy agenda focused mostly on discriminatory, punitive, short-sighted proposals. Fortunately most of the bills failed to pass.

One dangerous proposal – SB 1 – died with a whimper. SB 1 would have interfered in local decision-making and constrained Texas cities and counties from paying for police, firefighters and paramedics. This irrational proposal is off the table for now. If lawmakers really want to come back and address property taxes, they should increase state aid to public schools.

The Texas House worked hard to craft a proposal – HB 21 – that would have been a good first step. But Texas Senate leaders neutered the bill by drastically reducing the funding and introducing new inequities. Some leaders will try to spin HB 21 as a win, but the “school non-finance” law that passed is a step backward for the students, families and employers of our state.

We’re grateful to all of the lawmakers and fellow advocates who worked overtime through the long, hard summer to advance our vision of a Texas that offers everyone the chance to compete and succeed in life. We’ll dust ourselves off to analyze the impact of new laws, keep watch on the Legislature’s next moves, and fight another day.

A renowned social justice lawyer, former philanthropy executive, and frequent public speaker and writer, Ann Beeson joined the Center in 2013. She was previously the Executive Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, where she promoted human rights, justice, and accountability nationwide. Beeson was the national Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked from 1995-2007. She argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, litigated numerous cases around the country, and launched groundbreaking programs to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to protect free speech and privacy on the Internet. Beeson has been recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers by American Lawyer Magazine and the National Law Journal. A proud Texan, Beeson has embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to advance social change. Before joining the Center, she launched a new non-profit to involve the creative sector in social change. In 2012-13, she was a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas, where she co-produced a public media series to inspire more people to get engaged in their communities. She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas. Beeson obtained her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and served as law clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, then chief judge of the Northern District of Texas.

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