MORE WORK TO DO
The 88th Texas legislative session ended in May 2023, but the work goes on. When the session started with a budget surplus of $32.7 billion, hopes were high that legislators would make this an opportunity to address issues in a meaningful way. Notable bills did pass. One extends maternal health benefits following delivery from two months to 12. Another eliminates taxes on feminine hygiene products and products used by both men and women, such as razors, but ones that are designated specifically for women, such as pastel-colored razors.
Some bills that AAUW supports, including additional school funding, are being held hostage by Governor Abbott. He refuses to sign them unless they include vouchers. AAUW is a staunch supporter of free public schools. Lack of additional funding impacts the widespread teacher shortage, too. Recent polls show that more than 70% of teachers are considering leaving the profession. Salary is not the main reason, however. The disrespect and ramifications of that disrespect conveyed by wages that are thousands of dollars below the national averages, is.
Others bills such as HB 900 passed outright. HB 900 is known as the “book ban law”. It is scheduled to go into effect on September 1 of this year. This has caused public outrage. We have seen book bans across Texas, and Texans are taking action to oppose this law. The American Booksellers Association, two ABA member bookstores (BookPeople in Austin and Blue Willow Bookshop in West Houston), the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund have filed suit as a coalition challenging the new law. The challenge asks the Court for preliminary and permanent injunctions halting the implementation of the law.
David Grogan, Director of ABFE, Advocacy & Public Policy for the American Booksellers Association says that this Texas law requires book vendors to identify any books that are “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant” before selling them to schools. Books that are rated “sexually explicit” cannot be sold to schools. Also book vendors must provide to the Texas Education Agency - by September 1, 2023, and annually thereafter - a list of every book they’ve ever sold to a school district that contains “sexually relevant” or “sexually explicit” materials. The Agency will then post the list on its website. The law is vague and poorly written, impossible to comply with, and unconstitutional. The law is bad for bookstores, bad for readers, and bad for democracy Grogan believes. Note: many classics are included under this broad umbrella, and it is seen as a direct attack on LGBTQ rights.
While there were some good outcomes from the 88th session, a preponderance of AAUW priorities came under assault. AAUW Texas, the AAUW Texas Public Policy Advisory Committee, and our branch send regular correspondence to members via Constant Contact, direct email, and newsletters that provide links to use to contact legislators. We strongly encourage you to look for these and take action. Click on the links and urge your representatives to vote for measures that support AAUW priorities and against those that don’t. 2023-2024 may be pivotal in continuing the democratic process in our country, possibly a year like no other.
Public Policy Chair
AAUW Texas Public Policy Advisory Committee