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bullying

It’s bill-filing season

And they’re off.

Today is the first day of early filing in the Texas Legislature. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate may begin filing the bills that will be discussed when the legislature convenes in January 10, 2017. So how does that work and what does it mean?

For the most part bills are numbered in the order they are filed. However House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1 are reserved for the Appropriations Bill (the state’s budget) and the first several bills in each chamber are reserved for the Speaker’s priorities and the Lt. Governor’s priorities, respectively. Last session it was the first 40 bills in the House, so the first bill filed on early filing day was HB 41, and the first 20 bills in the Senate, so the first bill filed was SB 21.

There’s no real particular legislative advantage to filing on the first day. Once the session gets going and bills sent to committees they are typically referred in batches of a couple hundred. The House and Senate will send the few hundred bills filed today to committee in the first couple of days of referral and the dozen or so bills filed tomorrow will follow them the same day or the next. Since the chairs of committees have almost complete discretion about when to schedule bills for hearings, a bill filed today could easily be heard in committee after a bill filed tomorrow or three months from now – or not at all.

So why bother to traipse up to Austin to file a bill the first day?

The bills filed today aren’t an indication of what’s most likely to pass next session, but they are an indication of what will be the major topics of conversation. Today’s bills represent the top priorities for lawmakers – and, since every media outlet that covers the lege will run a “what got filed on the first day of early filing” article they are more so the top priorities of the lawmakers who really know how to capture the media’s attention.

That’s from Daniel Williams’ blog, and he has several other posts devoted to first-day filings. Daniel knows legislative procedures like Scott Hochberg knows school finance, so do yourself a favor and read his blog.

The Trib has a good rundown on what has been filed so far. There are actually a fair number that run the gamut from “not bad” to “really good”, though take heed of Daniel’s advice about how little Day One means. There’s also some demagoguery, and more than a few bills making a repeat attempt at passage, including such things as a statewide ban on texting while driving and a bill to authorize online voter registration. New hot topics include a bill to life the cap on special education enrollment, and a bill to authorize and regulate ride-sharing at the state level. There were more than one of those bills; the one that I’d keep an eye on is SB176 by Sen. Schwertner, who has been talking about this since the Austin rideshare referendum. His press release on the bill, which covers the basics of it, has some bombast over that referendum and a bit of BS about how local regulations of rideshare companies were restricting competition, but the bill itself seems reasonable enough. It’s not too hard to see the writing on the wall for this one, and all things considered this approach seems to be workable. Ask me again after it comes out of committee.

Anyway. There’s plenty more out there, and this is of course just day one. In the end, thousands of bills will be filed, and the vast majority of them will die a quiet death. There will be plenty to keep an eye on between now and sine die. The Chron, the Trib, Trail Blazers, Dallas Transportation, the Current, the Austin Chronicle, the Rivard Report, and Out in SA have more.

Dan Patrick is obsessed with children’s bathrooms

This guy, I swear.

Transgender advocates derided Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday for what they described as his “fake outrage” over the Fort Worth school district’s new transgender bathroom guidelines, calling the Republican a shameless bully.

“A bully like Dan Patrick can’t go unchallenged. He is wrong,” said Joel Burns, an openly gay former Fort Worth councilman. “He’s here to do harm for his own political gain.”

Burns, also an anti-bullying advocate, spoke during a news conference ahead of one Patrick scheduled in advance of a Forth Worth school board meeting, where the new guidelines are not on the agenda but are expected to come up during public comment.

“There is no news here,” said Steve Rudner, chairman of Equality Texas, who joined Burns at the news conference. “The only news here is that the lieutenant governor has decided to pick on an already bullied group of kids. It’s shameful and it’s despicable.”

The Fort Worth Independent School District superintendent said earlier Tuesday he will not heed Patrick’s request for his resignation over the district’s bathroom guidelines for transgender students.

Patrick on Monday called for Superintendent Kent Scribner to resign over a policy the superintendent announced last month that directs district employees to “acknowledge the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts,” allowing them to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

“I’m proud of these guidelines,’’ Scribner told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board Tuesday. “I think they provide educators with the ability to make all students more comfortable and confident in a learning environment.”

Patrick said the policy puts students in danger and Scribner should not have acted without “any discussion with parents, board members, principals, and other community leaders.”

“Campus safety should be of paramount concern for anyone in his position,” Patrick said in a statement Monday. “Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged.”

Well, speaking as father of young girls, I’d say they have far more to fear from the Baylor football team than from any trans women or girls who might be sharing the ladies’ room with them. I can’t decide if Patrick is too willfully ignorant of the facts to understand that what he claims to fear is just not possible, or if he’s just cynically exploiting that fear in everyone else who’s ignorant. What I do know is that it’s ultimately the business community, against whose interests Patrick continues to work, that will have to stop him. I wish I could say I were optimistic about this, but alas, they have shown no capability to grasp this as yet. In the meantime, compare and contrast Dan Patrick with US Attorney General Loretta Lynch. To whom will history be kind, and who will be seen as this generation’s Bull Connor? Texas Monthly and the Austin Chronicle have more.

We haven’t forgotten Manuel Rodriguez

Neil has the details of a planned protest to call for the resignation of HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez at the next HISD Board meeting on December 8. Click over to see the what, when, and where. It occurs to me that if Rodriguez were a student at an HISD school and he said the things he said about his opponent Ramiro Fonseca in an election for class president he would have been subject to official sanctions for having violated HISD’s code of conduct. If that’s so, then shouldn’t the same kind of sanctions apply to a Board member. At the very least, it seems to me that it’s the duty of the Board to discuss the issue. What kind of example are they setting for the students by not dealing with it? Perhaps someone should ask that at the meeting.

Sometimes an apology isn’t enough

That’s what we tell our kids when they do something particularly egregious. It’s what I would tell Manuel Rodriguez, too.

The day after he retained his Houston school board seat by just 24 votes, Trustee Manuel Rodriguez formally apologized for a campaign brochure he distributed last week that many described as homophobic.

“I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all of those people,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter he released Wednesday afternoon. He said he “respect(ed)” challenger Ramiro Fonseca’s “contributions to our community and his record of public service.”

[…]

“I’m glad he finally did this,” [Trustee Juliet] Stipeche said Wednesday night, when she learned of Rodriguez’s apology. “I just wish he had apologized earlier. But I hope he truly understands how the ad was hurtful and harmful. Perhaps we can use this as a means of truly understanding our total non-discrimination policy and have a better understanding of what ‘bullying’ is.”

Fonseca was not impressed by Rodriguez’s words.

Fonseca said he was waiting for the final vote tally, which would count outstanding mail and provisional ballots, before deciding his next step – including a possible request for a recount.

“I think the hurt has been deep in the community,” Fonseca said in response to Rodriguez’s statement.

[…]

Mike Pomeroy, a member of the GLBT caucus, said he thought Rodriguez’s statement was insufficient, and he plans to join others – including an HISD student – in addressing Rodriguez during the public comment period.

“I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy said. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.”

I agree with all these reactions. Rodriguez didn’t admit to doing anything wrong – his “apology” amounts to little more than “I’m sorry if someone was offended by what I said” – and didn’t say what if anything he might do to atone for his words. Talk is cheap. Rodriguez has shown us who he is, now he needs to show us – not tell us – that he intends to be better than that. He’s got a long way to go. Hair Balls has more, while K-12 Zone and Stace report from the protests at last night’s HISD meeting.

HISD Trustee Rodriguez sends anti-gay mailer

I figured there was going to be more anti-gay stuff in this election. I just wasn’t expecting it in an HISD Trustee race.

Some Houston residents are calling for the resignation of Trustee Manuel Rodriguez from the Houston school board after the incumbent distributed a campaign flyer to his constituents earlier this week that included language critical of gay people.

“His records show he spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights… not kids,” the campaign brochure says about Ramiro Fonseca, Rodriguez’s opponent in Tuesday’s election for the District III seat of Houston school system’s Board of Trustees.

The flyer states Fonseca has received the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” (The underlined words are underlined in the flyer.)

Fonseca, an administrator for Houston Community College, could not be reached immediately today for comment.

Rodriguez said today that the brochure isn’t anti-gay.

“It’s the truth,” Rodriguez said during a phone interview, adding that he is not anti-gay. “I am not bashing gay people.”

Rodriguez said that the flyer emphasized the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to “indicate who (Fonseca) represents.”

The incumbent said he underlined the words, ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights’ “to make sure parents know who’s going to make policy for their children.”

You can see the flyer here. This is just sad on so many levels. It’s sad that an incumbent feels that running on his record isn’t enough. It’s sad that Trustee Rodriguez doesn’t recognize what he’s done. It’s sad that he thinks not being a parent is a disqualification for being a Trustee – would he advocate a vote against his colleague Juliet Stipeche on the grounds that she hasn’t reproduced, too? It’s a multi-faceted fail.

A statement from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is beneath the fold. I agree with their call to the Chron to reconsider their endorsement in this race. Every time I think we’re getting past this stuff as a society, I’m reminded that it never goes away, it just goes into hiding. School Zone has more.

UPDATE: Stace and PDiddie add on. And good for Juliet Stipeche, who as noted would not be considered qualified under the conditions set out by Rodriguez.

(more…)

Anti-bullying bill passed

There hasn’t been a whole lot of good news this session, but this certainly qualifies.

Eight months after Cy-Fair middle school student Asher Brown’s suicide, the Texas Senate unanimously approved “anti-bullying” legislation aimed at giving school administrators authority to prevent ongoing harassment of students.

[…]

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said the legislation will allow school officials to reassign bullies or their victims to other campuses or classes.

Added Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, “The real goal is prevention. We’ve got to hold public school officials accountable when they know about these acts.”

On Tuesday the House concurred with the Senate’s amendments to the bill, HB1942, sending it on its way to the Governor’s desk. Assuming he doesn’t veto it (so far there’s no indication he will) it will be another good day when this law takes effect. For more on the background and legislative journey of this and other related bills, see Legislative Queery. Equality Texas has more.

Why words matter

On Sunday, I mentioned HB1323, the anti-bullying bill that Equality Texas helped to draft. It was originally scheduled to be on the House calendar on Monday; it’s on today’s calendar now, but nothing is carved in stone these days. Anyway, Karl-T and the AusChron’s The Gay Place blog have a clear illustration of why legislation like this, which is intended to protect kids from harassment in the schools, is needed. Check it out, and give your favorite Rep a call and ask him or her to support HB1323. Thanks.

Updates on some criminal justice bills

As Grits notes, this is the time of the session in which bills die because there’s no longer the time for them to make it through the process. Fortunately, as he writes in that post, many of the bills related to innocence and exoneration are in a position to be debated and voted by both chambers before the close of business on the session. Hopefully, they will have a clear path to the finish line.

Meanwhile, remember Tehena, the town where the cops steal your stuff as a matter of budget policy? SB1529, by Whitmire, is getting set to put an end to that sleazy practice. Grits has the details on that one as well.

Vince reports that HB3148, which would allow judges to exempt teens and young adults who engage in consensual sex from being required to register as sex offenders, passed out of the House on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it looks like HB3564, the “Romeo and Juliet Fair Defense Act”, which would extend the defense of “indecency with a child” for age-appropriate dating by straight kids to gay and lesbian teenagers, is not going to make it out of committee. That would be a shame.

Finally, it’s not strictly speaking a criminal justice bill, but since I linked to Equality Texas in the preceeding paragraph, I thought I’d mention that HB1323, the anti-bullying bill, will be on the House calendar Monday. You can learn more about that bill, which Equality Texas helped to draft, here. You can help by contacting your Rep and asking him or her to vote for this bill when it comes to the floor. Thanks very much.