Today marks the opening of the 87th Texas Legislative Session — and it signals enormous opportunity and peril for civil liberties in Texas. With a tense national political climate, a pandemic devastating communities across Texas, and lingering racial unrest since the killing of George Floyd, this session will be one of the most challenging — and most important — we have seen in recent history.
Over the two years since our state’s last legislative session, lawmakers in Texas have created obstacles to basic equality, civil rights, and racial justice. These assaults on our civil liberties have created instability — which is exacerbated in Black, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities.
That’s why we’re going into this session with laser focus on several key areas where we will fight to enact real change. That includes changing counterproductive drug sentencing laws, demanding greater accountability from law enforcement, and protecting reproductive rights. In the civil rights and voting rights space, we’ll push for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people, protecting immigrants’ rights both at the border and statewide, and ensuring all eligible Texans have access to vote.
Lawmakers won’t create the better Texas and more perfect union we envision on their own. Together, we have to advocate and demand that they do.
Beyond the weighty legislative issues facing the state, the COVID-19 pandemic will make how business is done in Austin a little unusual this session. Lawmakers not only will have to address public health implications brought on by the pandemic. They’ll also have to grapple with the financial impact of the pandemic on the state budget as it braces for potential funding cuts where there is little left to cut. Legislators will also likely adopt rules limiting public access to hearings and floor debates to follow public health guidelines. This means being creative when important testimony or critical votes happen in virtual meeting rooms — because we firmly believe that these decisions require the sunlight of public scrutiny.
We’ll make sure Texans get the transparency they deserve this session. That’s why we have assembled an easy way for legislative advocates like you to follow the bills we are keeping a close eye on in order to act quickly. Our Legislative Bill Tracker has updated movement on key bills we are fighting to support or oppose. It won’t be long before legislation begins moving quickly through the House or Senate, and we’ll need ACLU of Texas supporters to be ready to act.
Change is possible with the collective will of Texans who are informed and ready to advocate for the causes they care about. The ACLU of Texas and our hundreds of thousands of members statewide look forward to working together with legislators throughout this session. But the clock is ticking. Join us today to defend the civil liberties and constitutional rights of all Texans.