Legislature still running without one chamber, but Senate passes bills on voter suppression, transgender youth sports, and controversial curriculum

Sen. Carol Alvarado dons her sneakers for a filibuster. Photo By: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

In the past few days, we’ve seen Democrats return from Washington (while others pledge to remain) and arrest warrants served at all absent legislators’ homes for leaving Texas and breaking quorum—all while a future contentious session on redistricting looms on the horizon. That leaves the second legislative special session still in uncertain waters (especially with flooding in the Capitol Sunday), with only the Senate reaching a quorum to conduct business so far. 

Senate Republicans continued the path of destructive legislation by passing the voter suppression bill and the bill they say intends to ban “critical race theory.” SB 1, which would decrease access to voting, passed 18-11 (on party lines, with Democrats opposed) Thursday after a 15-hour filibuster by Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) intended to highlight objections to the bill. 

On Wednesday, the Senate passed SB 3 18-11 (on party lines, with Democrats opposed). The bill has been labeled a ban on “critical race theory” by the governor and Republican legislators. Also on Wednesday, the Senate passed SB 2, which discriminates against transgender students by forcing them to use their “biological sex” at birth to determine where to compete.

Watch Alejandra Lopez, San Antonio Alliance president, testify against SB 3 (the “critical race theory” bill) in the Senate State Affairs Committee Tuesday.

Last week the Senate passed SB 15, a bill on virtual education, with amendments that provide educators with some protection from teaching in-person and virtual classes simultaneously and a sunset date of 2023. However, the bill still lacks many other protections for students and teachers, such as class size ratios. The push for more virtual options for students and parents has overwhelmingly been the result of parents’ and teachers’ concern about returning to schools that are not safe in the face of a pandemic that is not going away. “What educators want most is safety and required mask wearing by children, especially those not yet eligible for a vaccine,” said Texas AFT President Zeph Capo.”

(You can see our past coverage on these bills on our website)

Census data released Thursday signals a legislative fight ahead, as lawmakers will convene in yet another special session to draw maps for congressional and legislative districts. Democrats will be pointing to population gains in urban/suburban areas where they traditionally have done well at the ballot box, while Republicans will be aiming to use their control of the process to gain new elected seats.