Texas legislators hard at work filing, passing regressive bills

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Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

I am disgusted by this Legislature. The recent trend of filing and passing grossly regressive bills in both chambers of the Legislature is a massive failure of Texans. If you aren’t mad, you should be. Here’s why:

 

HIV prevention: On March 31, the Texas House of Representatives passed Rep. Stuart Spitzer’s (R-Kaufman) amendment to divert $3 million from HIV prevention programs to abstinence-only education programs.

According the Texas Tribune, Spitzer admitted his goal in penning the amendment was “for everyone to be abstinent until they’re married.” 

Let’s lay out some facts: According to the Journal for Adolescent Health, 88 percent of virginity pledges, a common pillar of abstinence-only education programs, are broken, and pledgers are less likely to use contraception when they ultimately begin their sexual lives. 

Texas has the fifth-highest teen birth rate in the country and the eighth-highest STI rate. I’ll state this outright because it will obviously be news to people in Spitzer’s camp (so a majority of the state representatives): Those statistics didn’t happen because Texans weren’t sexually active or could be convinced to abstain through an abstinence-only program. Abstinence-only education just doesn’t work. But instead of educating Texas to allow them to take a strong preventative role in their own sexual health, the Legislature has stripped Texans of the opportunity to protect themselves from dangerous diseases in order to feed the myth of abstince-only programs’ success.

Undocumented students: On April 6, SB 1819, the bill that proposes the repeal of in-state tuition for undocumented students, was sent to full committee for review with the recommendation to pass. It was sent to the Border Security subcommittee, not the Higher Education committee. 

As the Texas Dream Act is currently written, undocumented students who have lived in Texas for three or more years and graduated from a state high school can pay in-state tuition at public universities. 

Former Gov. Rick Perry, who signed the bill into law in 2001, said, “We must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, ‘We don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.’ And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers.” 

If that doesn’t give you chills, doesn’t move you beyond the pitfalls of shallowly reasoned conservative rhetoric, I’m pretty sure the problem isn’t the message but that you don’t have a pulse. This issue is about bullies in the Legislature stripping young undocumented people of their greatest opportunity to better themselves and become the contributors to our state that they want to and can be. 

These legislators want to pull undocumented students out, slap them with the degrading and dehumanizing label “illegal” and hunt down and rip apart what is most precious — their education — like a pack of rabid dogs. Make no mistake: If this bill becomes law, it will not be a victory for Republicans seeking to secure our borders, but rather a grenade, and its casualty will be the educations undocumented students truly deserve but will no longer be able to afford.

 

Campus carry: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about HB 937 and SB 11. Lawmakers filed the identical bills in both the House and Senate, respectively, on Jan. 26. 

We could talk ab, reout the philosophy of the Second Amendment until we’re blue in the face, but what we should be talking about is how dangerous and reckless the implementation of these bills could be. 

I write opinion columns. The thing about this job is that you can make people mad. Generally, when that happens, I think we’ve made people think critically about an issue that matters, and I like that. But when people get mad, they do stupid things. 

When the Legislature empowers people to carry weapons on a college campus, which we all know to have a high-stress environment, bad things are going to happen. Every office on campus is at risk, including ours. 

As the bills are currently written, SB 11 and HB 937 do not allow universities to opt out of campus carry, designate safe zones or require students to file their concealed handgun license with the University, meaning there are weapons on campus with next to no regulation. Yet against all reason — against the opposition of administrators, law enforcement and students — SB 11 passed the Senate. Soon, it will probably pass the House, and then it will go to Gov. Abbott’s desk where he will probably sign it into law. What a failure. 

So tell me: How do I keep The Daily Texan office a safe workplace? How does the University protect any office on campus? Well, the Legislature doesn’t care.

If you care about these issues, please call your representative today.

Smith is a history and humanities junior from Austin. Follow Smith on Twitter @claireseysmith.