Wednesday, February 9, 2011

House Committee Assignments

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has finally announced the committee assignments for the 82nd Texas House. As I predicted last month the partisan break down of the committee chairs roughly reflects the distribution of party control in the House with 11 Democratic chairs and 25 Republicans (not including the 4 select and joint committee chairs, all republicans).

House committees that queer Texans will want to watch very carefully:

Public Education - will get the anti-bullying bills. Chairman Rob Eissler scheduled the hearing for HB 1323 (last sessions anti-bullying bill) very late last session, but he did schedule a hearing and the committee eventually voted to send the bill to the floor for a vote of the whole House. Unfortunately, time ran out last session (more info on HB 1323). Rep. Strama, whose HB 224 is expected to be the water bearer for anti-bullying bills, is on the committee this session.

Public Health - will get HB 405, which would allow same-sex parents to get accurate birth certificates for their children. Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst was visibly moved by testimony last session on this bill, lets hope that causes her to schedule it for an early hearing.

Criminal Jurisprudence - will get HB 604, the repeal of Texas's unconstitutional sodomy law and HB 172, the study of the effectiveness of the Texas Hate Crimes Act. Chairman Gallego has a solid record of voting in the best interest of queer Texans, but repealing the unconstitutional sodomy law, however common-sense, is going to a hard sell. Plus, with virulent homophobes Wayne Christian, Bill Zedler and Will Hartnett it seems unlikely that common sense will beat out bigotry. The Hate Crimes study has a better chance, it made it out of committee last session, but it's hard to predict what will happen this session.

Insurance - will get HB 208 prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating on the basis and sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Chairman Smithee hasn't let this bill through in past sessions and I'd be shocked if he lets it through this session. Smithee takes every chance he can get to hurt queer Texans, he's not likely to pass this chance up either.

State Affairs - will get HB 665, which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. This bill, or a version of it, has been filed every session for over a decade, and it never gets a hearing. While new Chairman Byron Cook is an immense improvement over old Chairman Burt Solomons it's unlikely that this bill will go anywhere.

Now that we have committees bills are going to start moving left and right. The 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature is finally getting going!

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