By Erin Eriksen, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group
Everything seems too raw and imminent right now to have any kind of reaction to my experience in this internship that doesn’t sound desperate or overly maudlin. While our work is mostly finished in the Legislative Study Group (LSG), we don’t yet know the outcome for Texas. We’ve only just seen the beginning of what Governor Abbott is or isn’t going to sign into law.
Governor Abbott signed the anti-immigrant SB 4 into law over Facebook with no press presence on Sunday, May 7. Indeed, some of the more insidious things have happened on Sundays, which makes it all seem more like a of sorts than legislating. SB 24, the “sermon safeguard” bill, intended to protect religious sermons from being subpoenaed, was ceremoniously signed at Grace Church in Houston. This bill was a direct response to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and the petition’s signatures that got thrown out due to being invalid, as opponents tried to put the enacted ordinance on the ballot. Also on a Sunday, portions of the anti-transgender legislation SB 6 (or as Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson dubbed it the “toilet bill”) were tacked onto a Public Education bill, SB 2078, which dealt with emergency hazard prevention in schools. And, oh, yes, I could go on…
In the end it doesn’t really matter what day a bill gets signed, it’ll become law just the same. However, I feel that the optics lean toward a certain bravado that is all too increasingly common among today’s leaders and lawmakers.
In an effort to galvanize some form of a silver lining, I tried to think about what was meaningful to me this session. I was pretty quick to realize that what ranked number one, while insanely obvious, was that this experience made a huge impact on me. It was all of the phone calls and conversations that I had with people trying to understand these bills. Stalwarts fighting for the environment and the manager of a groundwater conservation district who spoke with me for an hour with such passion for her job and her community. A fellow LSGer and I researched SB 6 shortly after the text of the bill became available. During that time I spoke with two mothers of transgender kids about what ramifications would emerge with the passing of SB 6. I also got to speak with a father who seemingly fell into becoming a leader in his community (one that was frequently used to justify the so-called “need” for SB 6) after he watched a young child transition at his child’s school. He spoke with passion advocating for this child and making sure they had rights equal to the students at the school. The advocates I spoke with let me use the knowledge that they spent years cultivating, and I got to walk into their world, their passion, what they have spent so much time fighting for. I’ve become friends with some of these people over the course of this session, and that feels amazing.
I don’t know what type of dance the pink dome and I will have with next legislative session…but here I come!