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Legislative Watch

The 84th Session of the Texas Legislature

The Texas Freedom Network will monitor selected bills related to religious freedom, civil liberties and public education during the 2014 regular session of the Texas Legislature that will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015.

Click on an issue area below to see a list of relevant bills, each bill's final status, as well as TFN's position on the legislation and links to important background information.

These sections will be populated as bills are filed. Legislators can begin pre-filing legislation as early as Monday, Nov. 10, 2014.

Last updated: Dec. 15, 2014





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white star logo Stand Up for Science

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

GREEN support lege SB 77 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would direct the state to create a climate-change adaption plan.

white star logo LGBT Rights

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

GREEN support lege HB 70 by state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in public schools.

GREEN support lege HB 130 by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would repeal the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

GREEN support lege HB 304 by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would bar insurance discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation.

GREEN support lege HB 412 by state Rep. Chris Turney, D-Grand Prairie, would prohibit state contractors from discriminating against employees or prospective employees based on sexual orientation.

GREEN support lege HB 453 by state Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, would bar insurance discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation.

GREEN support lege HJR 34 by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would repeal the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

GREEN support lege SB 76 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would bar insurance discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation.

GREEN support lege SB 98 by state Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, would repeal the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

GREEN support lege SB 148 by state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, would remove from the penal code the law criminalizing homosexuality. The law was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.

GREEN support lege SJR 13 by state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, and Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is a state constitutional amendment repealing the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

white star logo Stem Cell Research

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

GRAY legeneutral HB 177 by state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, would establish a Texas Adult Stem Cell Research Coordinating Board.

white star logo State Board of Education

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

GRAY legeneutral HB 135 by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, would direct the SBOE to mandate a course on the U.S. Constitution in public schools (the Constitution is already covered extensively in existing government and history courses).

RED LegeOppose HB 374 by state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, prohibits public schools from offering advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses unless they are approved by the State Board of Education.

GREEN support lege HB 429 by state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would make State Board of Education elections nonpartisan.

GREEN support lege SB 74 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would place the State Board of Education under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission.

white star logo Private School Vouchers

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

No legislation filed.

white star logo Reproductive Rights and Healthcare

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

GREEN support lege HB 90 by state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, would lower the age requirement to be eligible for the Texas Women’s Health Program from 18 to 15.

RED LegeOppose HB 113 by state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, would ban "sex-selective" abrotions.

RED LegeOppose HB 416 by state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, would require abortion care providers to complete training on human trafficking.

RED LegeOppose SB 114 by state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, would impose additional licensing requirements for abortion care providers.

GREEN support lege HB 78 by state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, would require instruction in sex education classes to be evidence-based and medically accurate and include age-appropriate information on pregnancy and disease prevention methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

RED LegeOppose HB 205 by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, would bar an entity or individual that performs abortions or an affiliate of an entity or individual that performs abortions from providing sex education information to public schools.

GREEN support lege SB 88 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would require the public school health education curriculum to include information on methods of contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections in addition to promoting abstinence.

white star logo Religious Freedom

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

RED LegeOppose HB 138 by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, would bar local school boards from prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments in school classrooms.

GRAY legeneutral HB 315 by state Rep. Richard Pena Raymond, D-Laredo, would create an "In God We Trust" specialty license plate.

RED LegeOppose SJR 10 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, is a state constitutional amendment that would allow a license to discriminate, on religious grounds, against individuals, including members of the LGBT community.

GRAY legeneutral HCR 30 by state Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, is a non-binding resolution in support of prayers, including the use of the word "God," at public gatherings, and displays of the Ten Commandments in public educational institutions and other government buildings.

RED LegeOppose HJR 55 by state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is a state constitutional amendment that would allow a license to discriminate, on religious grounds, against individuals, including members of the LGBT community.

 

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Previous Legislative Sessions

white star logo 2013: The 83rd Regular and Special Sessions of the Texas Legislature

white star logo State Board of Education

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

RED LegeOppose Nomination of Barbara Cargill for a second term as chair of the Texas State Board of Education.
| TFN Fact Sheet | TFN Press Release on Cargill Confirmation Hearing | More from TFN Insider

STATUS: Confirmed by Senate

GREEN support lege HB 1240 by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, would require a study comparing Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and the Common Core standards.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege SB 197 by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, would require the SBOE to make proposed amendments to curriculum standards available to the public three business days prior to being considered by the board. It would also require the board to wait at least 24 hours after the final amendment is adopted before voting for final approval of the standards.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 760 by state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, would give the SBOE authority to review and approve materials produced by the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (CSCOPE).
| Read about CSCOPE on TFN Insider |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SB 1406 by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would give the State Board of Education oversight over the state’s regional education service centers, including curriculum materials developed by the centers. The bill targets CSCOPE, a curriculum management tool developed by the service centers but attacked by far-right activists as Marxist and pro-Muslim.
| More from TFN Insider |

STATUS: Passed; sent to Gov. Perry

GREEN support lege SB 77 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would place the SBOE under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GRAY legeneutral HB 49 by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, would direct the SBOE to mandate a course on the U.S. Constitution in public schools (even though the Constitution is already covered extensively in existing government and history courses).

STATUS: Failed to Pass

white star logo Private School Vouchers

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

| Fact Sheet: How 'Limited' Voucher Schemes Expand |
| Fact Sheet: Tax Credit Voucher Schemes |
| Fact Sheet: Vouchers and Religous Freedom |
| Fact Sheet: Louisiana Vouchers |
| Fact Sheet: Florida Vouchers |
| Fact Sheet: Vouchers and Edgewood ISD in Texas |

| More from TFN Insider |

GREEN support lege HJR 31 by state Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would prohibit the legislature from establishing any private school voucher schemes.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege SB 1302 by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, would make private schools that accept funds under a voucher or similar program subject to state accountability standards.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SB 115 by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and HB 1175 by state Rep. Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, would establish a private school voucher program for students with disabilities.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SB 23 and SB 1410 by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, establishes a voucher scheme, the Texas Opportunity Scholarship Program, funded by donations from businesses that get a state tax credit.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SB 1575 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and HB 3497 by state Rep. Scott Turner, R-Frisco, establishes a voucher scheme disguised as a “taxpayer savings grant program.”

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 1850 by state Rep. Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, effectively creates a “virtual” voucher scheme by permitting private school students and home-schoolers to participate in the state’s public virtual schools network.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SB 1015 by state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, and HB 3245 by state Rep. Bill Callegari, R-Katy, would give businesses a tax credit for money they donate to provide private school vouchers for students at private and religious schools.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HJR 45 by state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Ft. Worth, and state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would exempt private schools -- inlcuding any schools that received state funding via a voucher from the state -- from all regulation and accountability measures. This means private and religious schools accepting a publicly funded voucher -- either through a direct government subsidy or a tax credit for a donor -- for tuition and other costs would not be held to the same accountability standards as public dollars.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SB 1298 by state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, effectively creates a "virtual voucher" program that would expand the state's virtual school network to allow the enrollment of private and home-school students. It would also expand the pool of eligible education providers to include corporations and private schools. HB 1926 by state Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, is a similar bill.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

white star logo Access to Birth Control

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

| More from TFN Insider |

GREEN support lege HB 58 by state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, would remove the rule that bars health providers from participating in state-funded programs if those providers are affiliated with entities that promote abortions. The existing rule, intended to target Planned Parenthood, has crippled the state's family planning infrastructure.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege SB 1675 by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and HB 2819 by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, establishes a demonstration project through the medical assistance program to expand access to preventive health and family planning services for women.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege SB 1709 by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and HB 1708 by state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, requires the state to report to the Legislature on the capacity and service capabilities of the Texas Women’s Health Program.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege HB 755 by state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, would direct the Health and Human Services Commission to conduct a study of how birth rates have been impacted by funding cuts and other changes to state family planning services.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 649 by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, would reimburse corporations that are fined for refusing to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate. The so-called "Hobby Lobby" bill would provide this reimbursement in the form of an exemption from state taxes.
| TFN Fact Sheet | Analysis from TFN Insider |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HCR 32 by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, is a non-binding resolution that urges the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to put a halt to the federal requirement that employers provide birth control and family planning coverage to their employees.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

white star logo Religious Freedom

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

RED LegeOppose HCR 58 by state Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, is resolution calling for prayers “including the use of the word ‘God’ at public gatherings” as well as calling for all public schools to display the Ten Commandments. The resolution calls for activities already ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. As recently as 2005, the court ruled displays of the Ten Commandments in schools and other public institutions — as described in the resolution — violate the Constitution.
| TFN Fact Sheet | More from TFN Insider |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 51 by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, would bar local school boards from prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments in school classrooms.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 308 by state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, and SB 665 by State Sens. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, would permit school districts to display symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including Christmas, and allow students and staff to offer traditional holiday greetings. (Since Texas students and teachers can already do everything the bill supposedly protects, the bill's primary purposes seem to be confusing the issue of religious freedom in Texas and getting Rep. Bohac an appearance on Fox News.)

STATUS: Approved; sent to Gov. Perry

RED LegeOppose HJR 43 by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, is a state constitutional amendment that would bar Texas courts from enforcing, considering or applying a religious or cultural law — clearly an attempt to prevent the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) in Texas (something already barred by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).
| TFN Fact Sheet |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 288 by state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, would bar Texas courts from considering application of foreign and international laws and doctrines in decisions. This is another attempt to prevent the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) in Texas (something already barred by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 360 by state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, would withhold funding from colleges and universities that prohibit student organizations from excluding members because of their religion, sexual orientation, race or gender.
| TFN Fact Sheet |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SB 1639 by state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, would prohibit Texas courts from applying foreign and international laws and doctrines in divorce, marriage, child custody and other proceedings related to family law. This is another attempt to prevent the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) in Texas (something already barred by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).
| More from TFN Insider |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SB 695 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, would prohibit Texas courts from applying foreign and international laws and doctrines in divorce, marriage, child custody and other proceedings related to family law. This is another attempt to prevent the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) in Texas (something already barred by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose SJR 49 and SJR 4 by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and HJR 110 by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would add the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the state constitution.
| TFN Fact Sheet |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 750 by state Rep. Harvey Hildebran, R-Kerrville, and SB 285 by state Sen. Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, would prohibit Texas courts from applying foreign and international laws and doctrines in divorce, marriage, child custody and other proceedings related to family law. This is another attempt to prevent the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) in Texas (something already barred by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GRAY legeneutral HB 1525 by state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, would require public schools to provide non-student, community religious groups access to campuses during non-instructional time if they also provide such access to other community groups.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

white star logo Sex Education

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

GREEN support lege SB 310 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would require the public school health education curriculum to include information on methods of contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections in addition to promoting abstinence.
| Read about sex ed in Texas public schools |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege HB 3581 by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, Would require instruction in sex education classes to be evidence-based and medically accurate and include age-appropriate information on pregnancy and disease prevention methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOpposeSB 521 by state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, and  HB 1057 by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, would require schools to obtain prior permission from parents before providing students with sex education instruction from entities or individuals other than the school district. It would also forbid entities affiliated with an abortion provider from providing sex education instruction in public schools.
| TFN statement on HB 1057 | TFN Fact Sheet: SB 521 | TFN Fact Sheet: HB 1057 | Read about sex ed in Texas public schools |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

white star logo Stand Up for Science

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

RED LegeOppose HB 285 by state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, would bar universities from "discriminating against" faculty members or students based on the "conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms."
| TFN Fact Sheet | Analysis from TFN Insider |

STATUS: Failed to Pass

white star logo LGBT Rights

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

GREEN support lege HB 1300 by state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Ft. Worth, would remove revisions made to the state’s Family Code in 2003 that prohibit the recognition of marriages between two people of the same gender, either performed in Texas or in other states. The legislation would take effect only if the constitutional 2005 Texas Constitutional Amendment which defines marriage as the union of one man were repealed.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege HB 3324 by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would add gender identity to the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege SB 1486 by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and HB 1140 by state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, would expand access to insurance/health benefits for employees and faculty of The University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems by adding a new category of dependent that includes "qualified individual".

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege HB 1696 by state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, would remove the references to the homosexual conduct offense in educational programs related to sexual conduct, AIDS, and HIV.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege HB 2402 by state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in public schools.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

RED LegeOppose HB 1568 by state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, would cut health care funding to Texas schools districts that offer its employees the option of adding a domestic partner to their health insurance plan.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege SB 538 by state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso; HB 1701 by state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston; and HB 3232 by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would remove from the penal code the law criminalizing homosexuality. The law was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. The bills would also remove references to the sodomy statute from requirements for state education program materials on HIV/AIDS prevention.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege SJR 29 by state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso; HJR 77 by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas; and HJR 78 by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would repeal the 2005 amendment banning same-sex marriage in Texas.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege HB 201 by state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, would allow same-sex adoptive parents to have both their names listed on their child's birth certificate.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege HB 238 by state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio; HB 1146 by state Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; and SB 237 by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GREEN support lege HB 541 by state Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas; SB 73 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; and HB 226 by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would prohibit insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

white star logo Stem Cell Research

GREEN support lege TFN Supports | RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes | GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

GREEN support lege HB 142 by state Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, would ban human cloning while protecting stem cell research in Texas.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

GRAY legeneutral HB 2342 by state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, would establish a Texas Adult Stem Cell Research Coordinating Board.

STATUS: Failed to Pass

white star logo 2011: The 82nd Regular and Special Sessions of the Texas Legislature

Issues

State Board of Education
Sex Education
Vouchers
Religious Freedom
Stem Cell Research
Anti-Bullying
Stand Up for Science
Gail Lowe Confirmation

GREEN support lege TFN Supports
RED LegeOppose TFN Opposes
GRAY legeneutral TFN Monitoring

 

(S1)* Denotes legislation filed during the first special legislative session that began on May 31, 2011.

State Board of Education

GREEN support lege HB 1431 by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, would have provided for selection of State Board of Education candidates through a unitary primary election. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 3504 by state Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, and SB 1642 by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, would have required a two-thirds vote by the State Board of Education to reject the recommendations of curriculum and textbook review teams. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 1140 and HJR 85 by state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have transfered authority for management of the permanent school fund from the State Board of Education to the newly created Permanent School Fund Management Council. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege SB 1499 by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, would have required the State Board of Education to incorporate recommendations for changes to curriculum standards from vertical teams composed of faculty members of institutions of higher education. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 3257 by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, and SB 1326 by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, would have required that any amendments to curriculum standards be made available for public review at least three business days prior to a vote. It also mandated that the final version of the complete standards be posted for at least 24 hours before the board votes on final adoption. FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider | Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 3263 by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, and SB 1348 by state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, would have created higher education curriculum review teams to ensure accuracy in the standards and make recommendations to the State Board of Education. The legislation would have also set clear qualifications for team members. SB 1348 passed out of the Senate Higher Education committee and was left pending in the Senate. FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider | Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 2302 by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would have transfered authority over textbook adoption from the State Board of Education to the Texas Education Agency and the state commissioner of education. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 2217 by state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, would have nullified the social studies curriculum standards approved by the State Board of Education in 2010 and would have directed the board to reopen the standards. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HJR 91 by state Reps. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, and Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, proposed a state constitutional amendment dissolving the State Board of Education and creating the Texas Education Commission. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

RED LegeOppose SJR 29 by state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, proposed a state constitutional amendment directing the state to provide free textbooks to students enrolled in private schools. FAILED TO PASS

GREEN support lege HB 553 by state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have made elections for the State Board of Education nonpartisan. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 862 by state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, would have placed the State Board of Education under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider | Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege SB 452 by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, would have placed the State Board of Education under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GRAY legeneutral HB 104 by state Rep. Fred Brown, R-College Station, as originally filed would have abolished the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and transferred the coordinating board's functions and most of the statutory responsibilities of the State Board of Education to the Texas Education Agency. FAILED TO PASS

GREEN support lege HB 881 and HJR 96 by state Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, would have abolished the State Board of Education and transferred its responsibilities to the Texas Education Agency and the state's commissioner of education. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

RED LegeOppose HB 560 by state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, would have given authority for approving electronic and open-source textbooks to the State Board of Education. That responsibility currently rests with the state's commissioner of education. FAILED TO PASS

Sex Education

RED LegeOppose HB 2402 by state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, would have changed existing law to require parents to proactively opt their children in to any sex education instruction (current law has in place an opt-out provision for parents). FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 1624 by state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, and SB 852 by state Sens. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, would have required schools that teach sex education to teach age-appropriate, evidence-based information. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 827 by state Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio, would have required a public school district's School Health Advisory Council to review and approve any presentation on human sexuality by an individual or organization not affiliated with the district. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 828 by state Rep. Joe Farias, D-San Antonio, would have required public school districts to work with their local School Health Advisory Councils to prepare written notice to parents about the district's instruction on human sexuality. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

GREEN support lege HB 604 by state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, and HB 2156 by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would have struck from state law a requirement that educational materials intended for students younger than 18 years of age, or materials related to sex education and sexually transmitted disease, state that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense. The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down sodomy statutes in Texas and other states. A 2009 TFN Education Fund report on sex education in Texas public schools noted that such instruction often promotes stereotypes and biases based on gender and sexual orientation. FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider |

GREEN support lege SB 585 by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and HB 1255 by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, would have required all sex education instruction in public schools to be evidence-based. The bill would have also required that a detailed description of the content of the district's sex education instruction be included in a notification letter sent to parents. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

Vouchers

RED LegeOpposeHB 33(S1)* by state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, is a private school voucher scheme disguised under the term "taxpayer savings grants." During the regular legislative session there was an attempt to add this voucher measure as an amendment to Senate Bill 1811. FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider |

RED LegeOppose SB 157 by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, would have created a private school voucher program for children with disabilities. Such a program could divert millions of dollars from neighborhood public schools to private and religious schools, dramatically cutting funds public schools need to educate the vast majority of students -- disabled or otherwise -- who remain. FAILED TO PASS

GREEN support lege HJR 31 by state Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, was a state constitutional amendment that would have prohibited the authorization or funding of private school voucher program. FAILED TO PASS

Religious Freedom

RED LegeOppose HB 79 by state Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, would have barred local school boards from prohibiting the posting of the Ten Commandments in local classrooms. FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider | Fact Sheet |

RED LegeOppose HJR 57 by state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, was a state constitutional amendment that would have barred Texas courts from enforcing, considering or applying a religious or cultural law — clearly an attempt to prevent the imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) in Texas (a danger that could hardly be more remote). FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

RED LegeOppose HB 911 by state Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, and HB 3027 by state Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, would have barred the application of foreign laws by courts and private contracts. This also appeared to be an attempt to prevent the imposition of Islamic law on Texas. HB 911 was amended onto two different bills that were not approved by both chambers before the end of the regular session, effectively stopping the legislation. FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider |

RED LegeOppose HB 3119 by state Rep. Jim Landtroop, R-Plainview, would have expanded public school Bible courses to middle school and eliminated the existing requirement that teachers have certification in a relevant field. FAILED TO PASS
| Fact Sheet |

Stem Cell Research

GRAY legeneutral HB 154 by state Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, would have prohibited human cloning but would not have restricted responsible medical research using embryonic stem cells. FAILED TO PASS

GRAY legeneutral SB 228 by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, would have required institutions of higher education to report the amount of money spent on embryonic and adult stem cell research. FAILED TO PASS

Anti-bullying

GREEN support lege HB 1942 by state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, provides specified measures to protect students from bullying. Additionally, the bill includes the definition of bullying in the Texas Education Code and add cyberbullying to the definition. It also provides for the possible transfer of the student who engages in bullying to another school. Currently, only the target of bullying may be transferred. The bill was sent to the governor for his signature following approval by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. PASSED

GREEN support lege SB 205 by state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, would have prohibited bullying, cyberbullying, harassment and intimidation in schools. The bill directs school districts to adopt policies, including any necessary procedures, to prohibit bullying. The bill was approved by the Senate but later stalled in the House of Representatives. FAILED TO PASS

GREEN support lege HB 224 by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, and SB 242 by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, would have required public schools to adopt specified measures to protect students from physical and verbal bullying, including cyberbullying. FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider |

Stand Up for Science

RED LegeOppose HB 2454 by state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, would have barred universities from "discriminating against" faculty members or students based on the "conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate theories of the origination and development of organisms." FAILED TO PASS
| Analysis from TFN Insider | Fact Sheet |

Gail Lowe Confirmation

RED LegeOppose Gail Lowe was not brought before the Senate Nominations Committee before the end of the regular session, which effectively ended  her tenure as chair of the State Board of Education. Gov. Rick Perry must now appoint a different state board member as chair.

Since her election to the board in 2002, Lowe has been part of a faction of board members determined to use our children’s public school curriculum and textbooks to promote their own personal and political agendas. During her tenure as chair, the board’s dysfunctional processes, outrageous actions and ideological warfare have attracted critical attention from across the country and have threatened to turn Texas schools into a national laughingstock. WAS NOT CONFIRMED
| Fact Sheet |

white star logo 2009: The 81st Session of the Texas Legislature

The November 2008 elections represented a major setback for the religious right nationally, yet not so much in Texas. Those elections did move the Texas Legislature a bit more toward the center. Yet the religious right remained a powerful force in both the House and Senate during the 2009 session of theTexas Legislature. Even so, the religious right failed to win passage for much of its legislative agenda during the regular session.

The Texas Freedom Network focused its efforts on five key areas: reform of the State Board of Education (SBOE), promoting responsible sex education, support for science and science education, defending religious freedom and supporting strong neighborhood schools. TFN scored some key victories along the way:

  • The Senate rejected the nomination of Don McLeroy, R-College Station, as SBOE chairman.
  • TFN helped pass an amendment to the new state budget that explicitly bars public funding for private school vouchers.
  • TFN helped pass an amendment to a School Health Advisory Councils bill that now requires school districts to inform parents about whether sex education classes provide any medically accurate information on responsible pregnancy and disease prevention. (Polling shows that an overwhelming majority of Texans support teaching students this critical information while also emphasizing the importance of abstinence.)
  • TFN worked with coalition partners to defeat high-profile efforts to ban public funding for embryonic stem cell research.

While some of TFN's efforts were less successful -- particularly regarding measures reforming the SBOE and sex education in public schools -- the religious right was forced to play defense throughout the session. In fact, TFN's grassroots activists made their voices heard in legislative offices on a number of key issues. As a result, the religious right failed to pass any major parts of its legislative agenda.

Bill Recap: 2009 Texas Legislature

Texas Freedom Network monitored and lobbied on legislation ranging from education reform to religious freedom. Click on the links below for more information about each bill.

State Board of Education

Texas Freedom Network supported the following bills. Each would have helped rein in an out-of-control, deeply politicized State Board of Education that promotes the personal and political agendas of board members over the interests of Texas schoolchildren and families. Click here to read a 2008 TFN Education Fund report about the State Board of Education.

HB 772 by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, requires the State Board of Education to broadcast board meetings both in audio and video over the Internet beginning in September 2009. This legislation will help people learn more about how the state board is politicizing our schoolchildren's education. PASSED

HB 2488 by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, calls on the state's largest research institutions of higher education to provide open-source instructional materials to public schools. Among other advantages, the heavily politicized State Board of Education would have limited oversight. PASSED

SB 440 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and HB 3382 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, would have transferred authority for textbooks adoptions, curriculum approval and other statutory functions from the SBOE to the Texas Education Agency. FAILED TO PASS

SB 513 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and HB 710 by Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, would have placed the SBOE under periodic review by the Sunset Advisory Commission. HB 710 passed the House Public Education Committee but narrowly failed to pass the full House on almost straight party-line vote. FAILED TO PASS

SB 2275 by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would have transferred authority for adopting curriculum standards and textbooks from the State Board of Education to the Texas commissioner of education. FAILED TO PASS

HB 420 by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have made SBOE elections nonpartisan. Nonpartisan elections would force candidates to better inform voters about their real positions on issues. FAILED TO PASS

HB 1235 by Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, would have transferred authority over adopting textbooks, approving curriculum standards and other statutory functions from the SBOE to a new Legislative Education Board. FAILED TO PASS

HJR 77, a constitutional amendment by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have created a Permanent School Fund Management Council. PASSED THE HOUSE BUT FAILED TO PASS IN THE SENATE

HB 2037 by Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, would have moved management of the Permanent School Fund from the SBOE to a new Permanent School Fund Management Council. PASSED THE HOUSE BUT FAILED TO PASS IN THE SENATE

HB 2261 by Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, would have created a select committee to review how the state funds, adopts and purchases textbooks. FAILED TO PASS

HB 3523 by Rep. Diana Maldonado, D-Round Rock, would have required that State Board of Education members visit public schools in their districts. FAILED TO PASS

HB 3865 by Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, would have State Board of Education members elect the board chair by a two-thirds vote. Currently, the governor nominates a board member to serve as chair. By majority vote, state board members would also elect a vice chair and secretary. Terms would be two years, and there would be no term limits. FAILED TO PASS

TFN had no position on this bill.

HB 3639 by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, would have made State Board of Education members appointees of the governor rather than elected. FAILED TO PASS

Science Education

Texas Freedom Network strongly opposed the following bills.

HB 4224 by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, would have inserted directly into the Texas Education Code a requirement that students learn “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. Evolution opponents have promoted that requirement as a tool for challenging evolution in public school science classes. Even more troubling, however, is that the bill would have also forbidden any governmental entity from stopping a teacher who offers just about any argument against a scientific theory so long as the teacher portrays it as based on “scientific evidence and information.” FAILED TO PASS

HB 2800 by Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, would have exempted certain private nonprofit educational institutions from state regulation applicable to degree-granting institutions. This legislation was an attempt by evolution deniers to get around the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's rejection in 2008 of an application by the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research to offer master's degrees in science education. FAILED TO PASS

Sexuality Education Reform

Texas currently has the nation’s third-highest rate of teen births, and that rate is rising. Yet more than nine in 10 school districts teach students nothing about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention except abstinence. Clearly, ignorance is not protecting young people in Texas. Click here to read a TFN Educaton Fund report about sexuality education in Texas public schools.

Texas Freedom Network supported the following bills.

SB 1076 by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and HB 1567 by Rep. Michael Villarreal, D-San Antonio, would have required that information about contraception and disease prevention in sexuality education classes be scientifically accurate. It would also have required that sexuality education classes not discourage sexually active people from using any form of contraception or method approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for reducing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. The bill provided specific sources for determining whether information is scientifically accurate. FAILED TO PASS (An effort to add a requirement for medically accurate sex education information to other legislation, SB 283, failed in the House.) 

“Education Works” bills SB 515 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and HB 741 by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, would have required that information taught in public school sexuality education classes be medically accurate. They would also have required that schools teaching about sexuality education include medically accurate information about contraception and other methods of responsible pregnancy and disease prevention. FAILED TO PASS

SB 1100 by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, and HB 1694 by Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, would require that sexuality information taught to students be medically accurate and that schools inform parents about what they are teaching in sexuality education classes. FAILED TO PASS (A TFN-supported amendment requiring that parents be notified about the content of sex education instruction was added to SB 283.) 

SB 283 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, strengthens requirements for community input on School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs). SHACs advise local school boards and administrators on health education policies, including policies related to sexuality education. Polls show that most parents support teaching the importance of abstinence as well as information on contraception and methods of preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Yet most district policies don’t reflect this broad public support for responsible sexuality education. This bill was amended to include a requirement that school districts notify parents about the content of sex education instruction. PASSED

HB 1371 by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would bar state agencies from accepting federal Title V abstinence-only education funding, as is the case in 24 other states. FAILED TO PASS

Stem Cell Research

Medical research involving both adult and embryonic stem cells gives hope to families struggling with serious medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, juvenile diabetes, cancer and spinal cord injuries.

Texas Freedom Network supported the following bills.

SB 208 by Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, and HB 1764 by Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, would have barred human cloning and the sale of human embryos but protects responsible medical research using embryonic stem cells. The bill directed the Health and Human Services Commission to develop guidelines for such research. FAILED TO PASS

HB 543 by Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, and SB 1802 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would have established guidelines to bar human cloning at public institutions of higher education and forbid the sale of human embryos but would protect responsible medical research using embryonic stem cells. FAILED TO PASS

SB 641 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and HB 1190 by Rep. Mark Homer, D-Paris, would have barred human reproductive cloning. FAILED TO PASS

TFN opposed the following bills.

SB 1695 by Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, would have prohibited the use of state money or facilities for embryonic stem cell research. Sen. Ogden attached this prohibition to the Senate's state budget bill, but that requirement was stripped out in conference committee. FAILED TO PASS

HB 1700 would have forbidden funds awarded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas from being used for embryonic stem cell research. FAILED TO PASS TFN had concerns about the following bills.

SB 73 by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, and HB 2379 by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R- Brenham, for the creation of an adult stem cell research program but did not directly address embryonic stem cell research. On the other hand, the bill originally restricted the use of facilities constructed with funding from the program to adult stem cell research only. Other research, including embryonic stem cell research, would not have been permitted in those facilities. FAILED TO PASS

Religious Freedom

Texas lawmakers in 2007 considered a number of bills that raised concerns about protecting religious freedom, particularly in Texas public schools. Texas Freedom Network affirmed its commitment to religious liberty by supporting constitutional provisions protecting separation fo church and state in the 2009 Legislature.

TFN had concerns about the following bill.

HB 492 by Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, creates various mechanisms to facilitate and expand efforts to support faith-based social services. Texas Freedom Network worked with legislators in previous sessions to add important safeguards for religious freedom to similar bills. In addition, TFN supported the addition of provisions that provided stronger oversight of the entities created by this legislation. These critical safeguards for religious freedom remained in the bill. PASSED

Texas Freedom Network has long monitored similar efforts to facilitate links between faith-based service providers and government. Over the years, the so-called "faith-based initiative" has included policies that would fund faith-based organizations with tax dollars; loosen regulations and licensing of faith-based providers; and permit providers to discriminate openly in hiring practices. The Texas Freedom Network studied the first five years of the “faith-based initiative,” or “charitable choice,” in Texas.

Defending Neighborhood Schools

Texas Freedom Network supports strong neighborhood public schools that provide a quality education for all Texas schoolchildren. TFN opposed the following bills, which would have created voucher schemes that drain money from public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools.

SB 1301 and SB 1302 by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, would have created voucher programs for students with autism. FAILED TO PASS

SB 183 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and HB 716 by Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, would have created a voucher program for students with disabilities. FAILED TO PASS

HB 41 by Rep. Frank Corte, R-San Antonio, would have created a voucher pilot program in the state's six largest school districts. FAILED TO PASS

Charter schools in Texas have been plagued by fiscal mismanagement and poor academic performance. Until the state has sufficiently cleaned up the current system, Texas Freedom Network opposes the expansion of the current number of charter schools.

TFN opposed the following bills.

SB 308 by Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and HB 465 by Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, would have eliminated the statutory cap of 215 charters. FAILED TO PASS

Texas Freedom Network supported the following legislation.

HB 828 by Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, would have directed the state commissioner of education to provide grants to public schools to help cover the cost of educating students with disabilities. FAILED TO PASS

SB 186 by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, would have barred the state's commissioner of education from using a drop-out prevention program as an avenue for providing publicly funded private school vouchers. Last year the commissioner established rules that permit the state to provide public tax dollars to private schools for drop-out program services that public schools can provide. FAILED TO PASS (But the state budget now includes a provision barring the use of public funds for private school vouchers.)

white star logo 2007: The 80th Session of the Texas Legislature

The 80th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature (2007) brought evidence that resistance to the far right's agenda in Texas was gaining momentum. By the end of the session, much of that agenda lay in pieces, with major defeats on issues including public education, religious freedom, medical research and civil rights.

To be sure, far-right pressure groups did claim a handful of victories. Many of those victories, however, were superficial. At the same time, those groups revealed their contempt for religious freedom and the rights of all Texans to practice their own faith without outside interference especially interference from the government.

Following is a summary of the session’s legislative history.

Neighborhood Public Schools

In March supporters of private school vouchers suffered their biggest defeat ever in the Texas Legislature. During debate on the state appropriations bill, House members voted 129-8 to bar public funding for private school vouchers. A House-Senate conference committee later dropped the provision, but the message was clear: voucher schemes stood no chance in the House this session.

Voucher supporters fared poorly in the Senate as well. One bill S.B. 1000 by state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano would have drained hundreds of millions of dollars from public school special education budgets to provide private school vouchers for students with autism. Voucher supporters had used similar schemes in other states as a first step toward broader and even more expensive voucher programs. Another Senate bill S.B. 1506 by state Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston would have created a massive pilot voucher program in the state’s largest urban counties. Neither bill made it to the Senate floor, however.

Religious Freedom

The far right chalked up one victory in the last weekend of the session, barely passing a bill promoting organized prayer and other religious activities in public schools. TFN and other groups that support religious freedom warned that House Bill 3678 by state Rep. Charlie Howard, R-Sugar Land, would permit organized efforts to promote the religious views of some over all others in our state’s public schools. Supporters of the so-called “freedom of religious expression” bill even stripped out a provision prohibiting schools and students from using such expression to discriminate against those who don’t share the same religious beliefs. But in doing so, far-right pressure groups and their legislative supporters revealed their own intolerance of any religious beliefs but their own.

On the other hand, bipartisan efforts led by TFN thwarted an attempt by state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, to require that all of the state’s public high schools teach classes about the Bible. TFN worked with House Public Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, and state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, to add key safeguards to Rep. Chisum's bill, H.B. 1287. Those safeguards include stronger protection for the religious freedom of all students, training for teachers, and sound curriculum and textbook standards. In addition, the bill no longer requires schools to offer classes about the Bible. The nearly unanimous votes for the revised bill in both chambers were stunning defeats for far-right groups that sought to turn our state’s public schools into Sunday schools. TFN will now join with families across the state to monitor these classes and ensure that public schools adhere to the bill’s safeguards.

Science and Medical Research

TFN worked closely with coalition partners to promote and protect hopeful medical research into embryonic and adult stem cells. Strategically timed press events and grassroots action prevented any bill barring embryonic stem cell research from ever reaching the House or Senate floors. Even attempts to bar public funding for this promising form of medical research failed to pass. The defeat of anti-stem cell research legislation helped set the stage for passing bills in 2009 that will promote this research and give hope to families with medical conditions such as juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injuries.

Efforts by Rep. Chisum and other far-right lawmakers to further restrict access by students to critical information on sex education also failed to pass. Rep. Chisum’s H.B. 311 would have placed even more obstacles in the way of students seeking information about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention. But TFN worked hard successfully to bottle up this irresponsible legislation in committee.

Civil/Equal Rights

Far-right groups have long attacked the rights of gay and lesbian Texans, seeking to divide our state for political gain. This session TFN joined with Equality Texas and other partners to prevent efforts to bar or restrict gay and lesbian families from caring for foster children. In the face of continuous communications from TFN, Equality Texas and other activists, lawmakers never considered one such bill or amendment. TFN will continue to oppose mean-spirited, divisive attacks on gay and lesbian families.

white star logo 2005: The 79th Session of the Texas Legislature

The 79th session of the Texas Legislature saw coordinated assaults on public schools, religious freedom and civil liberties. Yet the decisive defeat of private school vouchers and other anti-public education bills highlighted many key victories for mainstream Texans during the 2005 regular session.

Vouchers

A dramatic showdown in the House saw the first floor votes on private school vouchers since 1997. An attempt to strip a voucher program from legislation reauthorizing the Texas Education Agency failed on a tie vote. Later, however, a bipartisan coalition of House members voted to drop private schools from the program, effectively gutting the voucher measure. Speaker Tom Craddick then killed the TEA bill in a parliamentary ruling. The defeat of vouchers came after months of pressure and intense lobbying by TFN and other members of the Coalition for Public Schools.

State Board of Education/Textbook Censorship

Dangerous legislation that would have restored authority to edit textbook content to the State Board of Education died in committee. Scores of TFN activists and other opponents of textbook censorship lined up to testify against the bills during committee hearings.

Virtual Charter Schools

H.B. 1445 would have established a state “virtual school network.” TFN and allied groups worked to strip the most reckless measures from the bill. The legislation that would benefit Bill Bennet’s K-12 and other for-profit education promoters eventually died without a floor vote.

Charter School Reform/School Privatization

H.B. 2, the major education overhaul bill, included measures that would have privatized schools, expanded the state’s troubled charter school system and gutted education standards for public schools. The bill died in the last days of the session.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

Draconian budget cuts in 2003 threw tens of thousands of needy kids from CHIP rolls. In 2005, TFN joined with a coalition of groups to lobby for restoration of CHIP funding. Lawmakers finally restored dental, vision and mental health benefits to the program but failed to provide funds needed to keep up with anticipated growth in the number of eligible children.

Child Protective Services (CPS)/Foster Care

The Legislature passed S.B. 6, which increased funding for CPS and privatized some services. Thanks to intense pressure from TFN members and other groups, the final bill did not include a House-passed measure banning gay, lesbian and bisexual Texans from serving as foster parents.

Church/State Separation

In contrast to past sessions, legislators filed few bills that directly threatened separation of church and state. One bill, however, would have forced school administrators to distribute fliers provided by certain nonprofit organizations, a designation that includes most churches and other religious groups. The bill died in committee.

Faith-based Initiative

H.B. 2479 would have initially given the governor sole authority over a fund to deliver dollars to faith-based groups in Texas. After heavy lobbying by Texas Freedom Network members and others, the most dangerous aspects of the bill were flushed out. The legislation ultimately ran out of time and failed to gain approval.

Same-Sex Marriage

Both chambers passed H.J.R. 6, which sent to Texas voters an amend to the state Constitution defining marriage as between “one man and one woman” and rejecting any legal recognition of unmarried couples. Voters passed the amendment in a fall election.

Stem Cell Research

The Legislature failed to pass any legislation to prohibit or to provide public funding for stem cell research in Texas.

Rating the 79th Legislature on Mainstream Values

As the far right pushed ahead with its extreme agenda in the regular session of the 79th Legislature, the Texas Freedom Network tracked eight key House votes important to defending mainstream values. Below you can see how House members rated on TFN’s Legislative Scorecard. A rating of 100 percent means that a lawmaker voted all eight times to support mainstream values like strong public schools, health care for poor children and civil liberties for gay and lesbian Texans. In all, 34 House members earned a perfect score. On the other hand, 54 lawmakers rated a big fat zero by voting each time with the far right’s extreme agenda. Following are the eight votes TFN tracked during the regular session:

Vote 1 Against privatizing public schools
Vote 2 Against eliminating quality education standards
Vote 3 Against banning gays and lesbians from serving as foster parents
Vote 4 Requiring abstinence programs to report their effectiveness
Vote 5 Against a constitutional ban on gay marriage and civil unions
Vote 6 Against private school vouchers
Vote 7 Replacing private school vouchers with a public school choice program
Vote 8 Restoring CHIP funding


Additional Resources
Click here to see the full scorecard. | What grade did legislators earn on education? | See how legislators voted on specific education issues

white star logo 2003: The 78th Session of the Texas Legislature

The 78th session of the Texas Legislature demonstrated that mainstream values and grassroots advocacy could triumph over the ideological agenda of far-right extremists.

Vouchers

Three bills filed in the House would have established private school voucher programs and drained millions of dollars from public school classrooms across the state. A committee hearing was packed with hundreds of people representing both sides, but none of the voucher bills received a hearing on the House floor.

Virtual Schools

Several bills and a last-minute amendment would have created “virtual" charter schools in which the state would pay for classes, a personal computer, and printer and Internet access for home school, private school and public school students. In spite of an intense, money-no-object lobbying campaign from Bill Bennett’s for-profit company, K12 Inc., this legislation was soundly defeated.

Rollback of State Education Standards

Two bills would have eliminated virtually all state education standards, including class-size limits, teacher certification, curriculum and parental rights. House floor debate of both bills was repeatedly postponed as legislative support waned due to opposition from a broad-based coalition led by TFN.

State Board of Education (SBOE) Authority

Proposed legislation would have restored to the SBOE the power to appoint the commissioner of education, the power to overturn any decision by the commissioner or the Texas Education Agency, and “primary responsibility for adopting education policies and … directing public education” in Texas. These bills never made it out of committee.

Textbook Censorship

The SBOE would have been granted sweeping authority to determine textbook content under two House bills, raising concerns about textbook censorship and “whitewashing” history. Neither piece of legislation survived the session.

Charter School Accountability

A bill that would have eroded charter school accountability measures passed the House only after the bill was stripped of its harmful provisions. The bill never made it to the Senate floor.

Covenant Marriage

Legislation that would have made it more difficult for victims of domestic abuse in “covenant marriages” to obtain a divorce fell short. Calls to legislators from constituents and domestic violence victims led to the bill’s withdrawal on the day it was scheduled for a committee hearing.

Roloff Homes

A bill that would have allowed faith-based childcare facilities to avoid state licensing and oversight and would have brought the controversial Roloff Homes back to Texas was proposed in the House. It was withdrawn by the author an hour after TFN Action Team members made calls expressing their opposition.

Anti-gay Foster Care and Adoption

Several bills would have made it illegal for gays, lesbians, and all unmarried individuals to serve as foster or adoptive parents. Strong opposition from adoption and foster care groups, gay and lesbian parents, and TFN members helped keep these bills from advancing out of committee.

Religious Right Scores Symbolic Wins

In the end, the radical right scored mostly symbolic victories, including passage of the Defense of Marriage Act and a mandatory moment of silence for public school children. The far right did succeed, however, in dramatically eroding reproductive freedoms for the women of Texas.

white star logo 2001: The 77th Session of the Texas Legislature

Far-right groups were active on many fronts in the 77th session of the Texas Legislature. But by sine die, it was clear that fair-minded Texans had prevailed.

Faith-Based Initiative

The Legislature failed to pass HB 2825, which would have continued Texas’ Alternative Accreditation program for faith-based childcare centers, which allowed notorious child-abusers the Roloff Homes to return to Texas without a state license or direct oversight. The Alternative Accreditation program was originally established as part of then-Governor Bush’s “charitable choice” initiative in Texas. The rollback of the Alternative Accreditation program was a major setback for the advancement of the “charitable choice” initiative nationally.

Anti-Gay “Defense of Marriage Act”

Legislators failed to pass a so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” for Texas. The measure, which sought to ban same-sex civil unions, had been a long-time legislative priority for the religious right and eventually passed in the 2003 session of the Legislature.

Covenant Marriage

Lawmakers turned back “covenant marriage” legislation, which would have made divorce more difficult, even in the case of domestic abuse. TFN led the opposition to this legislation.

Vouchers

Strong opposition defeated two bills and various floor amendments that would have established a private school voucher program in Texas. Two bills filed in 2001 aimed to establish a voucher program in Texas. Two other bills aimed to create voucher franchise tax credits to help subsidize private school vouchers, but TFN and allies helped rework the bills to eliminate the threat of vouchers.

Charter School Reform

Lawmakers passed a major charter school reform bill, addressing many of the concerns outlined in TFN’s Broken Promises charter school report released in spring 2001. The final legislation capped at 215 the total number of charters in Texas. The law also required charter schools to abide by the same traditional public school laws regarding open records and open meetings, nepotism, conflict of interest and competitive bidding. The legislation also required criminal background checks for all school employees and requires all charter school teachers to hold at least a high school diploma.

Hate Crimes Legislation

After more than two years’ wait and many heated debates in the legislature, the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act passed in the 2001 session to help address the problem of hate-related violence and crime. The act enhanced criminal penalties for all crimes motivated by prejudice or bias, required training to improve identification and reporting of hate crimes, provided for aid to small counties prosecuting expensive hate murders, and clarified the definition of a hate crime to conform Texas law with language upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Children’s Medicaid Simplification

This initiative streamlined the application and renewal process for children’s Medicaid, making the process similar to the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and helping to add an estimated 600,000 Texas children who are eligible for but not enrolled in the federal health insurance due to a cumbersome state application process. Subsequent deep budget cuts in 2003 threw many disadvantaged children off the CHIP rolls.

Teacher Health Insurance

This session, legislators approved a statewide health insurance plan for public school employees. Participation in the plan was made mandatory for all small school districts (500 employees or fewer) and optional for medium districts (501-1,000 employees). Larger school districts could opt into the plan by fall of 2005.

State Board of Education Accountability

One victim of Governor Perry’s veto pen was legislation to establish a five-member panel to advise the State Board of Education (SBOE) on investing the state’s $20 billion Permanent School Fund. Recent state auditors’ reports had criticized SBOE management as wrought with conflicts of interest and fiscal mismanagement. The Permanent School Fund helps fund public school needs like textbooks and other supplies.

Campaign Finance Disclosure

House Bill 2 would have required more complete and timely disclosure of political contributions to statewide candidates. Negotiations between the House and Senate failed to yield a compromise before the end of the session. Loopholes in campaign disclosure laws allow big contributors to make last-minute contributions or loans without public scrutiny. A week before election day in 1998, voucher proponent James Leininger a San Antonio physician and major funder of far-right causes guaranteed covert loans totaling $2 million for Rick Perry and Carol Keeton Rylander, which helped put the two candidates over the top in their tight races.

white star logo 1999: The 76th Session of the Texas Legislature

Hate Crimes

In response to the brutal and tragic murder of James Byrd Jr. of Jasper in 1998, state Rep. Senfronia Thompson introduced the James Byrd Jr. Memorial Hate Crimes Act. While the bill passed the House by an overwhelming majority of 84-61, HB 938 quickly became mired in a bitter debate drawn along party lines upon reaching the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. In the end, despite emotional testimony from members of the Byrd family, opposition members refused to vote either yes or no, denying supporters of the bill the opportunity to even present arguments in favor of hate-crime legislation on the floor of the Senate in the form of a minority report. (The bill eventually passed in the 2001 session of the Legislature.)

CHIP

The Legislature approved the expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s (CHIP) eligibility requirements to include families who earn up to 200% (up from 100%) of the poverty level, or $32,900 for a family of four.

Electronic Filing

Rep. Sherri Greenburg’s HB 2611, which required political candidates to file their contributions and expenditures reports electronically, passed in the House and Senate. Greenburg’s bill required the Texas Ethics Commission to make these reports available to the public via the Internet within 48 hours of filing deadlines. The bill also made it easier for Texans to know which special interest groups support which candidates and gave a faster and clearer picture of the money behind Texas politics.

Parental Notification

Sen. Florence Shapiro’s Parental Notification Bill, which legally required women under the age of 18 to notify a parent or a judge before having an abortion, passed both the House and Senate and was signed by then-Governor Bush. Upon its passage, however, many legislators expressed concern that the bill lacked sufficient safeguards for young women. Rep. Patricia Gray introduced an amendment that would expand the bypass to include other family members in lieu of a parent. While the amendment sparked much debate, it failed to pass.

School-Based Health Clinics

The rights of children to receive health care won out over the narrow agenda of religious extremists with the passage of Rep. Dale Tillery’s school-based health clinics legislation.
School-based health clinics provide health and medical services to more than 100,000 Texas children who have no other access to health care. The clinics are staunchly opposed by the religious right, which sees them as an infringement on so called “parental rights.”

Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA)

The RFRA, requiring the government to demonstrate a compelling interest before interfering with an individual or organization’s religious practices, passed both the House and Senate. The act was sponsored by Rep. Scott Hochberg and supported by a coalition of over 90 organizations and individuals, including the Texas Freedom Network and Texas Faith Network

Canton/Winning Strategies Bill

HB 3049 would have prohibited Economic Development Corporations from providing economic benefits to persons engaged in political activity for compensation, thus protecting tax dollars. While the bill enjoyed strong support in the House State Affairs Committee and passed the full House, it eventually died in the Senate.