The sweeping GOP election bill and medical abortion ban are among bills passed in the Second Special Session of the Texas Legislature that become law on Thursday.
Seven bills were passed after the return of quorum-breaking Democrats, but one – a bill setting a later date for primary elections if the redistribution cards were not passed in early November – is became moot after lawmakers completed the redistribution session in October.
Along with elections and abortion, a bill on teaching critical race theory was among those passed 90 days after the end of the second extraordinary session in early September. However, an Austin federal judge on Wednesday night blocked a bill limiting how social media companies control content. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin ruled that platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have the right to moderate content.
The Elections Bill, known as Senate Bill 1, imposes several new voting restrictions that, when proposed, led almost all Democrats in the State House to flee the State to prevent its adoption.
Enough Democrats eventually returned to Austin to allow Republicans to pass the bill. It includes many new provisions relating to polling hours, postal voting and poll observers.
It puts in place rules that give poll observers more freedom to move around polling stations to observe, without interfering, electoral activities. It also creates a certification process and curriculum for election observers and requires them to take an oath by promising not to harass voters.
SB 1 bans 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting, a practice some urban counties used in 2020 as a safety measure in the event of a pandemic. It also makes it illegal for county election officials to proactively send postal ballots to anyone who has not requested one.
It is also ordering random election audits of four counties following the midterm presidential and federal elections. Last month, GOP leaders shifted $ 4 million from the Texas prison budget to pay for the audits.
The bill is part of a wave of Republican-led election laws enacted in the wake of the 2020 election and unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud.
The Biden administration challenges two provisions of the bill – one that requires postal voters to provide identification numbers or social security numbers with their ballots and another that limits voter assistance for individuals disabled and non-English speaking.
Numerous other lawsuits by groups such as the Texas NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens have been filed against the law, alleging that it deprives people of color of their right to vote.
The new abortion law bans medical abortion, one of the most common methods, after seven weeks of pregnancy.
But Senate Bill 4 has limited effect at this time as Texas’ six-week abortion ban, the most restrictive in the country, is still in effect. Federal and state court challenges are ongoing.
The law also adds new reporting requirements for abortion clinics and doctors.
The social media bill, House Bill 20, was inspired by complaints that the Conservatives were censored on social media, banned social media sites from censoring political opinions, and required those sites to create a system of censorship. complaint. Users could sue if they – or their opinions – are blocked or deleted from Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. The Texas attorney general could also sue on behalf of the users. Pitman’s decision on Wednesday night came after a challenge from technology associations that said the bill violated First Amendment rights. In his ruling, Pitman said the law was “prohibitively vague.” A similar law in Florida has also been blocked.
Here’s a look at the other bills coming into force on Thursday:
Senate Bill 3 builds on previous legislation targeting critical race theory. It expands the ban on teaching certain concepts about race, creates a civics training program for teachers, and largely prohibits educators from giving credit to students doing advocacy work. It changes the language by saying that an educator who brings up a controversial topic in the classroom should “explore that topic objectively and without political bias.”
Senate Bill 9, the new law known as the Christine Blubaugh Act in memory of a 16-year-old girl from Grand Prairie who was murdered by her boyfriend in March 2000, requires public colleges and high schools to educate students on how to recognize dating violence and provide them with resources to deal with these situations. The bill had passed both the House and the Senate during the regular legislative session, but Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed the bill because he said it did not allow parents to withdraw from instruction. The revised bill signed by Abbott requires schools to notify parents of classes.
SB 6, known as the Damon Allen Act after a state soldier was killed by a man on bail, clamps down on violent repeat offenders, making it more difficult for them to be released on bail while blocking their personal bail.
Austin staff writer Allie Morris and political editor Mede Nix contributed to this report.