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State rep who authored Texas book rating law wants it defended in U.S. Supreme Court


The North Texas lawmaker who authored the state’s controversial book rating law wants the state attorney general to defend it in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appeals court blocked its enforcement earlier this year.

In a letter addressed to Attorney General Ken Paxton Friday, Texas Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, defended HB 900 — which would require booksellers to rate the explicitness and relevance of sexual references in materials they sell to schools — and called the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to block the law “ridiculous.”

"We have an opportunity to stand against vendors peddling pornography to children and to reaffirm our commitment to the well-being of all Texas students by appealing this decision to the Supreme Court," Patterson wrote in his letter.

Booksellers including BookPeople in Austin and Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston sued the state last year after H.B. 900 was signed into law, saying it violated the First Amendment while also being too expensive and unworkable.

In July, BookPeople CEO Charley Rejsek said in a statement that booksellers did not have the training or funding to rate the content of thousands of titles sold in the past and potentially sold in the future.

"Booksellers should not be put in the position of broadly determining what best serves all Texan communities. Each community is individual and has different needs," Rejsek said in the statement. "Setting local guidelines is not the government’s job either. It is the local librarian’s and teacher’s job, in conjunction with the community they serve."

The Fifth Circuit, one of the most conservative appellate courts in the nation, last month declined to rehear its decision to block the Texas Education Agency from enforcing the law,also known as the Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources, or READER Act.

In its decision, the court said the U.S. Supreme Court has previously viewed any loss of First Amendment freedoms as an "irreparable injury."

"Because READER threatens Plaintiffs’ right to be free from compelled speech, Plaintiffs have shown an irreparable injury," the court said in its decision.

Got a tip? Email Megan Cardona at mcardona@kera.org.

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Copyright 2024 KERA

Megan Cardona