Legislative Update: redistricting, transgender sports bill, TRS healthcare funding

Ghosted image of protestors, one holding sign with text "trans rights are human rights" on blue background. Gold text below: Stand up against bullying, especially from the Texas Legislature

Before Tuesday when the Legislature’s third special session is required to end, the GOP leadership is hoping to push through bills that would discriminate against transgender student athletes, appropriate $16 billion in federal stimulus funds, and redistrict the state’s House, Senate, congressional, and State Board of Education maps. Gov. Greg Abbott also added a new item to the special session agenda that would ban any vaccine mandates in the state, including those instituted by private employers.

Transgender sports bill passed by House
After hours of impassioned testimony from parents and educators rallying against HB 25, the bill that bars transgender students from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender identities, passed the House 76-54 on second reading and will now head to the Senate. This harmful bill would force teachers to enforce state-mandated discrimination and deny students their Title IX rights.

Before the House vote, Texas AFT urged educators to take a stand against bullying of students based on their gender identity—including a plea from one of our teacher members outlining just how hurtful this legislation has already become to some of our students. His letter begins with, “Mr. Wright, why does my own state hate me?” 

Redistricting continues on path to unfairly draw maps that take power from people of color
On Tuesday, the House approved a newly drawn map for its own 150 districts after 16 hours of debate and consideration of more than 50 amendments. Much of the debate focused on how the state’s urban areas would be divided, but changes were also made to districts in the Rio Grande Valley and Central Texas. Despite the fact that only 5% of the state’s population growth over the past 10 years came from white people, the number of districts in which white people are the majority of the population increased from 83 to 89 districts. White people account for roughly 40% of the state’s population but make up a majority population in nearly 60% of the state’s House districts in the new map. The map was approved by the House on an 83-63 vote and will be sent to the Senate.

This week the House Redistricting Committee approved new maps for the State Board of Education, State Senate, and U.S. Congress districts. Many people who showed up at the Capitol to testify against these maps stated they dilute the votes of people of color. The House is scheduled to debate the Senate and State Board of Education maps on the floor today. (See below for more on the SBOE redistricting.)

Today, the House is also scheduled to debate SB 8, the Senate’s plan to distribute $16 billion in federal coronavirus relief dollars. The version passed by the Senate allocated over $286 million to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), but the House Appropriations Committee removed that funding from the bill, instead including it in HB 160, which will also be considered today. This money would be directed to TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare, the statewide insurance plans for active and retired teachers, with the legislative intent that premiums not increase for TRS-Care and TRS-ActiveCare insurance policies as a result of coronavirus-related claims incurred before September 1, 2021.