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In establishing a potential confrontation with Republicans in the final days of the second special legislative session, a House Democrat blocked the committee’s vote to advance a bill that restricts transgender sports students from participating in school sports.
For the second time in two days, Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, on Tuesday adjourned the non-voting public education committee he heads to Senate Bill 2, a priority for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who chairs the Senate. The bill, which is widely opposed by LGBTQ Democrats and advocates, would require transgender student athletes to participate in gender-based sports on the birth certificate rather than their gender identity.
The fact that the bill is not advanced on Tuesday does not mean its fate, the committee can still approve it. But with less than six days to go before the end of the special session, the delay complicates his passage to the House.
At the same meeting, Dutton allowed another conservative priority, the so-called Critical Race Theory Bill, which would limit the way Texas educators can talk about race in public schools, to advance on the ground by get a full vote. The bill has already been passed by the Senate and has many chances to pass in the Republican-controlled House.
The committee’s action came less than 24 hours after Dutton mocked Patrick, threatening to withhold his prized legislation amid rumors that the Senate was stalling a bill to restore funding to the legislature. Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed funding for the entire legislature as compensation for Democrats coming out of the May regular session to kill the Republican Party voting bill.
“What they tell me is that if we don’t approve these two bills: the [critical race theory] the bill and the transgender bill: the Senate will not consider trying to fix Article X funding, “Dutton said Monday night, referring to the section of the budget that finances the legislature.” Therefore, i want to see if [Patrick] he has the big boy’s pants on. This meeting is postponed. “
On Tuesday, neither the House nor the Senate had yet passed its version of a bill to restore funding for the legislature, which includes the salaries and benefits of 2,100 state workers. But Dutton had changed his tune on at least one of the bills.
Republican Rep. Dan Huberty of Houston tried to sweeten the pot with Democrats on the transgender student-athletes bill with an amendment to delay its implementation by a year while the state studied how many students would be affected. But Democrats argued that if the bill was only delayed a year, it would not allow lawmakers to use the study’s findings to make good policies and allow potentially harmful legislation to go into effect and affect children.
Dutton asked Republicans if the study could be done without the bill coming into force. After a long pause in the debate, Dutton said, “This is one of those things for which I, as President, will take the heat. So this meeting is being postponed.”
During the regular legislative session, Dutton was criticized by LGBTQ Democrats and advocates for reviving a version of the transgender student-athlete bill after he had already died on the committee. At the time, the move appeared to be retaliation for members of his own party for taking one of his accounts.
The Critical Career Theory Bill, Senate Bill 3, was passed in committee by a 7-5 party vote and could be heard in the House as early as Thursday.
A former educator, Rep. James Talarico, of D-Round Rock, said moving forward with the bill in its current state “would be irresponsible” and asked the committee to delay its vote.
“This bill has been a disaster from the beginning,” he said. “It’s still a mess now.”
But Huberty pledged to work with lawmakers to address their concerns, beating lawmakers like Rep. JM Lozano, R-Kingsville, who had expressed a desire to postpone the vote on the bill to draft amendments before its approval in committee. Lozano voted instead to pass the bill Tuesday and work with Huberty on the amendments before they are considered in the House.
“I don’t want to be late if it can kill the legislation,” he said.
Critical race theory is an academic discipline that studies how race and racism have impacted social and local structures. The bill became a rallying cry for conservatives across the nation last year and several legislatures, including the Texas legislature, have already passed bills that limit their teaching in public schools. Academic experts say Republican Party leaders have misrepresented the principles of the framework.
Abbott vetoed legislative funding in June in retaliation for the defeat in his primary election and changed bail when Democrats left the House in May during the final days of the regular legislative session. These two approved bills have received final approval during the current special session.
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