GOP-controlled Texas Senate moves several top priority bills to the House
AUSTIN, Texas - A monument to the Ten Commandments is located on the northwest side of the Texas capitol. The biblical rules could end up in every school classroom under SB 1515.
The State Senate sent it to the House Thursday night, sparking another discussion about separation of church and state.
"Well, I think the truth is the truth," said Antonia Gonzales, who was visiting the Capitol on Friday. "If I speak truth, it doesn't mean that I'm trying to impose you to change your mind. But if you happen to hear the truth and believe it, then that's something different. I think we all have the free will to decide whether what we're hearing is truth to us or not."
The Republican controlled Senate pushed through several conservative bills that sparked an evening of contentious debates. The debates were monitored by Scott Braddock with the Quorum Report.
"Feeding frenzy in the Texas Senate. It is a lot of red meat. A red meat buffet, if you will. And a lot of this, I think, has to do with sort of the legislative chess game that's going on between the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, and the Speaker Dade Phelan," said Braddock.
One of the hottest issues was SB 17. It requires all state universities to shutdown diversity, equity and inclusion offices. Republicans, like bill sponsor Sen. Brandon Creighton (R - Beaumont), claim the programs push extreme liberal beliefs.
"You have compelled speech, and when you have compelled speech, you do not have free speech when you have compelled speech, you have exclusive requirements, and when you have exclusivity, you have no diversity and you have no inclusion," said Sen. Creighton.
Democrats like Houston Sen. John Whitmire argued DEI programs can be amended and should continue.
"And my worst fear…is that it is going to be interpreted as Texas going back in time instead of forward," said Sen. Whitmire.
Legislation banning tenure for university professors also passed. Clearing the House may be in doubt, but Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has fulfilled several big promises, according to political analyst Mark Jones from Rice University.
"And that is sending a signal to university presidents throughout the state that if they don't rein in their DCI initiatives and essentially rein in some of their more progressive tenure track faculty and areas like Critical Race theory, etc., then the state will step in and do it for them, if not this session, next session," said Jones.
COVERAGE FROM THE CAPITOL
- Texas Senate approves bill that would end faculty tenure at public universities
- Texas Senate moves to end countywide voting on Election Day
- Public schools would have to display Ten Commandments under bill passed by Texas Senate
- Texas Senate approves bill that would ban diversity programs in public universities
- Texas House discuss bills aimed at keeping sexually explicit materials out of school libraries
Braddock was asked if a ballot box backlash is possible because of the hard right legislation.
"If you go all the way back to 2017, that was another one of those red meat legislative sessions. If people remember anything about it, they would probably remember the bathroom bill and a ban on sanctuary cities, which are very divisive. Then you go to the 18 election and guess what? You had the Republican Party take some losses in the legislature. But you also have to remember that was with the backdrop of Trump being in office and you had an unpopular incumbent, Republican Senator Ted Cruz or even a lot of Republicans don't like. So I don't see that shaping up in the near future. Another election just like that. I think when people point to 2018, they're pointing to an election that was somewhat of an anomaly," said Braddock.
A ballot box bill was also sent to the house last night. SB 990 bans countywide polling locations on Election Day. In Travis County we call them voting mega centers. The legislation gained traction because of mistakes made in Harris County during the 2022 election.