As Tory bills gain momentum, Democrats plan to fight before midnight at Texas House

AUSTIN (Nexstar) – On Thursday, the Senate gave its final approval to Senate Bill 8, known as the Heartbeat Bill, which essentially bans abortions as early as six weeks pregnant. The only thing that separates the bill from the passage of the law is the governor’s signature, and he has already shown his support.

“He’s now on his way to my office for the signing,” Governor Greg Abbott tweeted Thursday, thanking State Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Tyler) and State Representative Shelby Slawson (R-Stephenville) for their leadership on the issue, having guided him through the Senate and the House.

The bill would ban doctors from performing abortions once a heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks after the onset of a pregnancy. It also allows anyone to sue anyone who aids and encourages an abortion in Texas.

Bills in the House must get initial approval on the House floor by midnight Thursday. SB 8 easily missed this deadline. This is something the Conservatives are proud of, but Democrats strongly opposed it.

“Every woman’s abortion story is a little different, and it’s not for the government to decide which story is worthy. It’s our job to make sure that once someone makes that decision, they have legal and safe access to that care, ”State Representative Erin Zwiener (D-Kyle) said Thursday.

“We work more in the building industry when we are not trying to reverse the right to abortion,” said Representative Zwiener. Instead, she wants her colleagues on the other side to pay more attention to medical issues related to the pandemic, like the expansion of Medicaid.

“Every session since the Affordable Care Act became law, this has been our biggest failure as the state legislature fails to pass the Medicaid expansion. We’re talking about helping 2.2 million Texans. “

That’s something Rep. John Bucy (D-Cedar Park) particularly pushed this session. He said that with Thursday’s deadline looming, he had given up hope.

“There’s not a lot of optimism left of the Medicaid expansion this time around,” Rep. Bucy said.

With over 200 on the list for the day, it’s nearly impossible for lawmakers to go through all the bills on the calendar. This is something Democrats hope to profit from.

“Being in the minority party, one of the best assets we have is not having enough time in this building,” said Representative Bucy. “Bad bills, bills that deal with hate, like the trans bill, we’re not going to let go. We’re going to run out of time if we have to. “

He is referring to HB 1399 – a bill that would ban Texas sex reassignment surgeries and procedures for anyone under the age of 18.

“We will be asking more questions than maybe we usually would, including what bills we can support to slow the process down and make sure we don’t get off schedule,” said Representative Bucy.

Other lawmakers are frustrated that some bills never even made it to a committee hearing, like HB 420, drafted by Rep. Carl Sherman, Sr. (D-Lancaster).

“HB 420, which deals with the maternal mortality rate among African American women, which is four times higher than other women. And this is a problem that is real, ”said Representative Sherman. He is also disappointed that a separate bill that would have made Juneteenth a public holiday has not been struck down.

While Democrats voice their frustrations with the session, Republicans are touting it as one of the most conservative sessions to date.

“I think we have much to celebrate on the side of budget cuts,” Texas Public Policy Foundation vice president of policy Derek Cohen said Thursday.

“Whether it’s the constitutional postponement or the heartbeat bill … when it comes to defining what conservative politics is, it doesn’t matter how you do it, whether it’s fiscally conservative, socially. conservative, I think there’s a hook to hang a hat on, whatever, ”Cohen said.

TPPF, however, has other bills as well and is still hoping the legislature will take time for this session, even if it misses the midnight deadline.

“The issue of taxpayer-funded lobbying, as thorny as it has been, has been a bit disappointing, but there is still a prospect of it moving in the House, as it is a Senate bill,” Cohen explained.

While Democrats criticized the majority party’s lack of response to the COVID-19 pandemic, TPPF said otherwise, applauding lawmakers for making substantial changes to emergency powers and dealing with the ensuing economic crisis.

“I think they went above and beyond,” Cohen added. “I think there are people who will be generally happy with what the legislature has proposed.

Friday is the deadline for final passage of House bills on the supplemental schedule.

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