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Texas Matters: Special Session Culture War

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House Speaker Dade Phelan gavels in the Texas House into the Special Legislative Session

On Thursday the Texas Legislature began it’s first special session of the summer. There will be at least one more to deal with redistricting and how to spend billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds.

This special session was called by Gov. Greg Abbott to address mostly unfinished business from the recently concluded regular session. Abbott has the power to control what’s on the legislature’s agenda, and there are 11 items. Each one deserves more time to discuss and lay-out.

This episode of Texas Matters looks at the controversy over the voting restriction bill, outlawing abortion drugs through the mail, forcing social media to carry hate speech and political misinformation and targeting student athletes who are transgender.

Kronberg v. Patrick

If you are a avid follower of Texas political gossip you caught wind of the war of words between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and journalist Harvey Kronberg over the voter suppression bill.

Kronberg is the founder of the Quorum Report — a non-partisan online newsletter about Texas politics that's been around before there was an online. It started out a daily faxed newsletter — yes, that used to be a thing.

Kronberg reported on what went wrong with the SB7 voting suppression bill and Patrick didn’t like it.

Abortion Pill By Mail

The governor’s call to a special session is mostly old business that the Republican leadership failed to jam through the regular session, but there is a new anti-abortion new item. A prohibition on sending abortion drugs through the mail or delivery service.

It’s expected that as Texas continues to crack down on abortion rights more women will turn to self administering abortion drugs out of desperation. How safe that decision is depends on where they get those drugs. If this bill becomes law those women will be more likely to find the abortion drugs in the darker corners of the internet — where they could be exposed to less reliable and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

Isabel Chaudry is the Senior Policy Manager for the National Women’s Health Network.

Social Media Control

Another item is a bill to prohibit the teaching of critical race theory — and another bill that would require social media company to carry the hate speech and misinformation of conservatives. Abbott calls it "social media censorship" but that term is loaded with misinformation in of itself. And last week a federal judge blocked a similar law that was passed in Florida. In the ruling the judge wrote “an effort to rein in social media providers deemed too large and too liberal”

Darrell West is vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Equality Texas

Also on the Abbott’s list of bills to be addressed in the special session is the targeting of student athletes who are transgender. Abbott wants the students to play sports on teams that match the gender on their original birth certificate.

Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ+ Texans, reacted by saying this is a cruel effort to further stigmatize and discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth.

Ricardo Martinez is the CEO of Equality Texas.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi