A Tale of Two Houses

By Senator Borris Miles

This week, the Texas House, with an overwhelming 148-1 vote, passed House Bill 3, the school finance reform package. This $9 billion overhaul of the public-school finance system included a pay raises for all school employees, invests new money into classrooms, reduces recapture and local property taxes, allocates additional funding for transportation and provides funding for full day pre-k and students in need of additional support. Moreover, the plan is targeted to ensure that all students are reading at grade level and so that students graduate and are prepared to go to college or earn post-secondary degrees. I applaud my colleagues in the Texas House and the Speaker for this bipartisan transformational effort to truly impact the lives of our children.

But, while that act of bipartisanship was underway, the Texas Senate took a much different approach, passing incredibly dangerous and divisive legislation that would do nothing but harm our communities.

SB 17 would allow state-licensed professionals to deny services based on their “sincere religiously held belief.” This bill gives professionals with a state license the ability to freely discriminate against people they don’t like. It specifically targets the GLBT community, but it goes much further. It would open the doors to discrimination and would have a dangerous impact on our community. SD 13 is the most diverse district in Texas, with more languages spoken and faiths worshiped than any other. I questioned the author of this bill, stating, “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. This is still a discrimination bill.”

SB 22 would ban local governments from partnering with healthcare organizations that provide abortion services. This continues the Republicans efforts to limit a woman’s ability to make their own healthcare decisions but takes those efforts a step further. This bill would prevent the City of Houston from partnering with healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood to provide much-needed services like cancer screenings to low-income neighborhoods or give emergency assistance during a natural disaster.

The Republican leadership began this session with calls for unity and the end of divisive legislation, but in the end politics as usual, reigned in one chamber. While the 86th Legislative Session continues, I will continue to fight for our community and for our interests. Keep the Faith, Keep the Fight!