Texans exhale as legislative session ends

The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days every two years. Since the 1980s, when Republicans seized firm control, the joke in labor circles is that it would be better if they met for two days every 140 years! Most of the legislation passed in recent memory has been bad to atrocious. Labor’s “victories” consist not in getting legislation passed, but in stopping some of the worst of the worst.

This year, for example, labor mobilized during the last two weeks of the session to stop Senate Bill 1968, which would have taken away dues checkoff for the teachers and most other state employees. Just to be mean, the bill also specified that state employees could not use bank drafts to pay their dues, either!

The Texas AFL-CIO finally pronounced S1968 dead at the end of the session. They wrote, “In fact, the bill didn’t miss by much, having cleared the Senate. A coalition of unions and allies was magnificent in fighting the bill starting literally within minutes of its introduction. The issues-based campaign against the bill pointed out enough vulnerabilities to slow and eventually stop momentum.”

The saying here is that there is only one way to pass a bill in Texas and twenty ways to kill one!

Anti-immigrant bills were as plentiful as leaves on trees when the legislative session began, but most of them couldn’t make it through the labyrinth-like Texas legislative process. Most of the anti-LBGTQ legislation failed.

Teachers mobilized time after time to try to stop the many bills that would allow taxpayer money to go to private and religious schools. They also stopped the legislature from making it much easier to privatize entire districts through “home rule” legislation. A major effort to privatize Dallas schools failed earlier this year, and anti-children forces hoped to get the legislature to make it easier for them next time, but it didn’t happen. The children of Texas, and their stewards in the schools, can breathe a little easier, at least for the moment. Unfortunately, nothing could make the Texas legislature come up with a responsible way to finance schools, even though they are presently using a system that is probably unconstitutional.

On the positive side, a little bit of money went to repairing the state’s disreputable highways and none of it went for more toll roads. The effort to cut off funding for renewable energy finally failed, after several attempts to push it through.

Big business got what it wanted first and foremost — $4 billion in tax cuts — before any of the state’s pressing needs were even considered. The rest of us won, if we won, the right to start carrying our guns outside our pants.

The possibility always exists that Governor Abbott will call a special session to get some of his favorite legislation passed under duress. The Texas Organizing Project and their friends called a rally on June 1, the last day of the session, to demand that the Governor call a special session to get the legislature to accept $110 billion in federal money so that Medicaid could provide health care for over a million of the working poor. It was barely even considered in the regular session.

Photo: “Call a special session,” demanded activists as the regular session ended without providing health care for the working poor, Dallas, June 1. |  Jim Lane/PW