Good Monday Austin:
The Texas House last night gave preliminary approval to the bathroom bill, or at any rate a bathroom bill, effectively bringing to a close – almost, maybe, perhaps, probably – the legislative portion of one of the most tendentious debates in recent Texas politics.
But, maybe it was because I was tired, or too numbly cold because of the Yukon temperatures at which the House thermostat is set, perhaps to preserve, until someone notices, the body of a member who dies in place, but I found the closing debate of this powerfully emotional issue oddly enervating.
Not that there was not some powerful oratory brought to bear by the opponents of any bathroom bill, which they consider disgraceful pandering to the prejudices of the Republican primary base, but because there was no equal and opposite oratory from the other side.
What kind of pandering is that?
From the Statesman’s Chuck Lindell Texas House gives initial OK to transgender bathroom ban in schools
Divided almost exclusively along party lines in a Sunday night vote, the Texas House backed a ban on transgender-friendly bathroom and locker room policies in the state’s public schools.
An amendment, added to a bill on school safety and emergency policies, would require public schools and open-enrollment charter schools to limit bathroom use to each student’s “biological sex,” barring transgender students from using the bathroom of their gender identity.
The amendment by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, would apply to grade schools and high schools but not colleges and universities.
Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said the House needlessly caved in to threats from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who promised to do what he could to ensure a special session unless a crackdown on transgender-friendly bathroom policies was passed.
“This amendment was more about using trans kids as a negotiating tool at a contentious point in the session than about making kids safer. It paints a target on the backs of already vulnerable children,” Israel said. “We are getting rolled by the Senate, and transgender children are a part of that bargain. Texas is better than what the House did tonight.”
Before the debate, about a half-dozen Democratic women stopped into the men’s room just off the House floor Sunday as a symbolic protest.
“We’re feeling like making trouble today,” said Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, and one of the men’s room visitors. “It’s that kind of mood.”
So, the Sharks were ready to rumble.
What about the Jets?
But, it was not to be.
In fact, it was one of few big debates all session in which Stickland had nothing to say.
Nothing from Cain.
Nothing, as far as I can remember, from any of the Freedom Caucus.
Maybe the House really was being held hostage by Dan Patrick, and no one wanted to upset the ransom being paid – place the votes in a paper bag, leave it at the corner of 11th and Congress, come by yourself, and, whatever you do, don’t call the cops.
Last night’s vote capped a weekend of frenetic activity in the House as the session entered its last week.
But, if you wanted to see Saturday afternoon at the fights, you needed to be watching Saturday afternoon in the House, when Stickland and Rep. Dennis Bonnen – who fans of the sport can only hope succeeds Joe Straus as Speaker – went at it over property tax reform.
Here is their encounter.
But before you look at it – and I know this is rudimentary, but I don’t have the technical proficiency to do it any other way – for enhanced viewing pleasure, click on the video of Stickland v. Bonnen and then click on the video just below it with an instrumental of the Talking Heads’ Burning Down the House. You can adjust the volume to the Talking Heads so you can better hear the TXLEGE’s finest talking heads.
So, with that on Saturday, one night have expected things to escalate on Sunday.
But instead what you had was a very subdued Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, presenting what he hoped would be a sensible and sensitive alternative to the bathroom bill and one that would prove acceptable to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott, avoid a special session, cover the backs of Republican members with their socially conservative constituents and, hope against hope, be as inoffensive as possible to the transgender community and its advocates in the House.
Here is the text of Paddie’s amendment.
The board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of an open-enrolment charter school shall ensure that each school or school facility accommodates the right of each student to access restrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities with privacy, dignity, and safety by requiring the provision of single-occupancy facilities for use by a student who does not wish to use the facilities designated for use or commonly used by persons of the student’s biological sex.”
In her remarks, Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, said the Paddie amendment was less bad than earlier bathroom bills, but said it was still bad.
My problem with this amendment is it’s not so harmless. In order for the school to make the accommodation that’s talked about in the amendment, the students have to out themselves. so it’s not harmless. They don’t get to go around in the privacy of their own lives. They have to share something very intimate, something that makes them very vulnerable in some places, with school authorities. So I don’t think it will be useful or helpful to these children.
I was asked earlier why I couldn’t support this. This was a compromise. While this is better, perhaps, it fails to recognize the safety of that chid and their well-being. It is better in the sense that it’s limited to schools. We didn’t get a bathroom bills that covers all bathrooms. It is limited to schools, I suppose. And the language doesn’t specifically target GLBT kids. But it’s impact still has that. A kid must sill out themselves.
This Legislature has occupied already too much time and energy on this issue.
Paddie closed in the same low-key fashion as he opened.
First let me tell you that the statistics that were cited related to transgender students (as victims) are alarming and I believe, as you do, that it’s deplorable that it’s happening. I do care abou the safety and dignity and privacy of those students as much as I do my own two children who attend public schools. This is about accommodating all kids. No kid should live in fear.
No legislator was clearer in his opposition to any kind of transgender bathroom legislation than House Speaker Joe Straus.
From my story in March – Straus calls bathroom bill ‘contrived’ answer to ‘manufactured’ problem – off the speaker’s interview with Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.
But, as Straus acknowledged then of his members in the House:
I’m not saying it wouldn’t pass if it were pushed on them.
After last night’s vote, Straus issued this statement
I believe this amendment will allow us to avoid the severely negative impact of Senate Bill 6. Members of the House wanted to act on this issue and my philosophy as Speaker has never been to force my will on the body. Governor Abbott has said he would demand action on this in a special session, and the House decided to dispose of the issue in this way.
But is it enough for Patrick? Has the ransom been paid?
Are he and Steve Hotze celebrating?
I talked to Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, after last night’s vote and asked him why the muted rhetoric from his side during the debate.
“If this were March 21 and not May 21 it would have been different,” he said.
But, Krause explained, they were winning, not getting all they wanted, but getting something, and there was also no reason to “rub salt in the wounds” of those on the other side who are as passionately on their side of the issue as he is on his.
So, after third reading and final passage today, is that it?
Will the lieutenant governor accept this modest version of what he wanted and claim victory?
Or will there be another turn in the saga?
I texted Stickland late last night with that question.
“Yet to be determined,” he replied. “Lots of fluid aspects.
Meanwhile, before yesterday’s session I did a modest reworking of the first stanza of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Bells, followed by Phil Ochs singing in the original.
HEAR the leges with the bells — Voting bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
For a bathroom bill done light !
While the bills that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With Dan Patrick’s delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinab(bot)ulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells —
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.