Monday, May 16, 2011

Day 126: Anti-Trans Marriage Bill Still in the Senate, Budget Conference Continues

Today is the 126th day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. Both the House and Senate reconvene at 11:00 am. We're down to the last two weeks of session which means that things are moving quickly there is a lot happening.

SB 723, the anti-trans marriage bill, is back on the intent calendar in the Senate today. In order to be brought up for debate the bill must have the support of 20 of the 31 Senators, this means that the 12 Democratic members of the Senate can block the bill just by keeping a united front. SB 723 has been going on and off the intent calendar since April 18th, and every time it has LGBT activists across the country have flooded the Senators offices with phone calls, e-mails and faxes telling them to "oppose SB 723." The bills author, Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), must get SB 723 through the Senate this week or it will die.

Even if you have contacted them before please call, fax and e-mail the 12 Democratic Senators again today, a list is at the bottom of this post. If you able to contact all 31 Senators there is a full contact list for them here. If you are only able to contact one Senator Equality Texas has set up an easy to use form e-mail generator here.

It can seem like this is never ending, and it can be easy to despair, but the deadline for Senate bills to pass out of House committees is this Saturday so we only have to hold this bill in place for 6 more days! Even if you have contacted the Senators before please do it again! We just have a little further to go.

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The big bill capturing most of the media attention right now is the budget. Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the budget but since their versions are different a "conference committee" has been appointed to hash out a compromise. The conference committee is made up of five Senators (appointed by the Lieutenant Governor) and five House members (appointed by the Speaker of the House). The conference committee can only deal with the parts of the budget that are different between the two versions.

One area that is different is the funding for the state's HIV medication assistance program. The Senate fully funded the program at the level that advocates say is necessary to keep track with climbing infection rates but the House version underfunds the program by 19.2 billion dollars. Since both versions fund the program the conferees' compromise budget must also fund the program, but may do so at any level between the House's and the Senate's.

Also included in the House version of the budget was an amendment by Wayne Christian (R-Center) that attempts to defund college LGBT resource centers by requiring equal funding for "Family and Traditional Values Centers," the Senate version of the budget does not include the Christian Amendment. Even though, as the American Independent points out, the Christian amendment was too poorly written to have its intended affect he is still fighting for it, sending an alert to his e-mail list last week encouraging people to call the conference committee and tell them to retain the language.

The forces of the far right are massing to ensure that the state's budget is as repressive as possible. If you believe that HIV medication assistance funding should be governed by what doctors say is needed, not by what bureaucrats are willing to cough up, if you believe that queer college students deserve the resources provided by LGBT centers then please call the conference committee to let them know (make one call for each issue (two calls per member) for maximum effect):

House Conference Committee Members

Chairman Pitts- [email protected], 512-463-0516

Rep. Crownover- [email protected], 512-463-0582

Rep. Otto- [email protected], 512-463-0570

Rep. Turner- [email protected], 512-463-0554

Rep. Zerwas- [email protected], 512-463-0657

Senate Conference Committee Members

Chairman Ogden- [email protected], 512-463-0105

Senator Nelson- [email protected], 512-463-0112

Senator Williams- [email protected], 512-463-0104

Senator Duncan- [email protected], 512-463-0128

Senator Hinojosa- [email protected], 512-463-0120


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Senate Democrats (call for SB 723)

Carlos Uresti:
(P)512-463-0119
(F) 512-463-1017
[email protected]

Mario Gallegos:
(P)512-463-0106
(F) 512-463-0346
[email protected]

Wendy Davis:
(P) 512-463-0110
(F) 512-475-3745
[email protected]

Rodney G. Ellis:
(P)512-463-0113
(F) 512-463-0006
[email protected]

Kirk Watson:
(P)512-463-0114
(F) 512-463-5949
[email protected]

John Whitmire:
(P)512-463-0115
(F) 713-864-5287
[email protected]

Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa:
(P)512-463-0120
(F) 512-463-0229
[email protected]

Judith Zaffirini:
(P)512-463-0121
(F) 512-475-3738
[email protected]

Royce West:
(P)512-463-0123
(F) 512-463-0299
[email protected]

Leticia R. Van de Putte:
(P)512-463-0126
(F) 512-463-2114
[email protected]

Eduardo A. (Eddie) Lucio, Jr.:
(P)512-463-0127
(F) 512-463-0061
[email protected]

José R. Rodríguez:
(P)512-463-0129
(F) 512-463-7100
[email protected]

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