Abortion, Protests, Transportation as Session Nears End

Updated, June 24, 5 a.m.:

After nine hours of debate, the House tentatively approved Senate Bill 5 — the omnibus abortion restriction bill — early Monday morning. The approval came after contentious debate while opponents of the legislation observed from the gallery. They erupted in applause and jeers several times during the back-and-forth. 

Now, lawmakers are in a race with the clock to approve — or stymie — the legislation before the special session ends on Tuesday.

“This bill will ensure that women are given the highest standard of health care in a very vulnerable time in their life,” state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, said before the House approved SB 5, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks and increase regulations on abortion facilities and providers who perform abortions. 

If the bill is to reach Gov. Rick Perry before the special ends, the House must approve SB 5 on third reading on Monday. The House adjourned at about 4:30 a.m. and is scheduled to reconvene at 6:46 a.m. After the House finally approves the bill, the Senate must then wait 24 hours before accepting the changes to the legislation that were approved by the lower chamber. 

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, told dozens of protestors who gathered outside of the House after the bill passed that efforts to delay the legislation in the House made it conceivable that a senator could filibuster the legislation.   

“It really mattered what you did,” Farrar, the chairwoman of the House women’s health caucus, told the crowd.

Laubenberg postponed the other abortion legislation, House Bills 60 and 16, until after the special session ends. The House also finally passed Senate Bill 23 to create new sentencing options for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder and Senate Joint Resolution 2 to finance state transportation. 

See the liveblog below for a detailed accounting of the night's action. The liveblog will resume when the House reconvenes, so check back here for updates.

Original story:

Reproductive rights advocates and abortion opponents planned to gather outside the Capitol on Sunday as the Texas House prepared to consider legislation to drastically tighten abortion restrictions. 

House Bill 60 and Senate Bill 5 authored by state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, and state Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, respectively, would ban abortion at 20-weeks gestation, require physicians that perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, require abortions to be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and require doctors administering abortion-inducing drugs to do so in person. 

While abortion opponents argue the bills would improve women’s safety, reproductive rights advocates argue the bills would close 37 of the state’s 42 facilities that perform abortions and set up unnecessary obstacles for women seeking the procedure, effectively cutting off legal access to abortion in the state and endangering women’s health.

The clock is ticking for the legislation. To reach Gov. Rick Perry's desk for final approval, the measure must be approved in the House and Senate before the special session comes to a close Tuesday. Opponents of the legislation hope to delay the proceedings long enough to stymie its passage.

In the Senate, lawmakers will consider redistricting legislation while they await the House's action on the abortion measures.

Follow our liveblog below to keep abreast of the action today.

Liveblog

by Brandi Grissom
You can also follow @TexasTribune, @becca_aa, @shefalil, @amanbatheja and @brandigrissom on Twitter for updates from today's legislative action.
by Aman Batheja

 Today’s drama on abortion bills in the House may set the stage for a rare filibuster in the Senate in the next day or two.

That’s what many Democrats are hoping for, anyway.

On the House floor, Democrats opposed to the abortion bills are outnumbered and they know it. Save for coming up with a parliamentary maneuver to kill one or more of the bills, their goal today is to delay the inevitable votes on the bills as long as possible, thereby delaying their trip to the Senate, according to legislators with knowledge of the plans.

Filibusters are not an option in the Texas House. Instead, House members can take part in “chubbing,” which is kind of like a group filibuster. (Check out our Texplainer on chubbing here.)

The special session must end by Tuesday. The later the House can delay the votes, the less time a senator would need to filibuster any of the bills from the Senate floor.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who filibustered a key budget bill in 2011, said the Senate Democratic Caucus has not discussed who might filibuster any of the abortion bills. 

“We’re going to do what we have to do,” Davis said. “Obviously, a one-day filibuster is easier than a two-day filibuster.”

by Becca Aaronson

As lawmakers filter into the House chamber, reproductive rights advocates have packed the overlooking gallery wearing orange t-shirts that say, "Stand with Texas Women."

A round of applause erupted in the gallery when the House Women’s Caucus chair, State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, walked onto the floor. Farrar was the only House committee member to vote against HB 60 and SB 5.

Meanwhile, lawmakers passing the press table hinted they expect the abortion debate to last past midnight.

by Aman Batheja

It took the Senate less than 20 minutes to lay out, debate and concur with changes the House made to Senate Bill 3, which ratifies a variation on the interim, court-drawn House district map that was used for the 2012 election. The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. The other two redistricting bills covering state Senate and congressional districts previously passed both chambers and are headed to Perry’s desk.

The House added five amendments to the map that moved precincts in a few districts in Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Webb Counties.

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said he was voting against the map because an amendment to alter some districts in El Paso County was not accepted in the House, even though the two affected state representatives both endorsed the change.

With no other debate, the Senate passed the bill 18-11.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the Senate would recessed until 7 p.m. but may not bother to convene again until Monday. He said he would know around 6 p.m. whether senators would come back tonight, based on what the House accomplishes.

by Shefali Luthra
Hundreds of activists for and against proposed new abortion restrictions filled the gallery and hallways around the House floor early Sunday afternoon.

Those opposing House Bills 60 and 16 and Senate Bill 5 wore orange shirts, and activists for the bills dressed in blue. On both sides, advocates said they came from places including Lewisville, San Antonio and Dallas.

The House gallery reached capacity around 1:45 p.m, with protesters on both sides still waiting in the hallways and rotunda of the Capitol. The House was scheduled to convene at 2 p.m.

Carol Everett, who has testified in favor of the bills, said the legislation’s proponents “didn’t try to build up numbers” in the same way those opposed to it had. Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life, added that she expected the number of those in attendance who support the bills to increase “after Church.”

Shelby Alexander, an organizer with Planned Parenthood, said she expected hundreds of activists opposed to the legislation to arrive. She said she expected more protesters to keep arriving through the afternoon, adding that she believes the House debate will go all night.

“We’re sending out the bat call again,” she said. “After the national attention, people are watching us, and people are ready to help.”

The hashtag #HB60 briefly trended worldwide on Twitter early Friday morning, when protesters attempted to delay a committee vote on HB 60 by staging a so-called “citizens’ filibuster.”

Activists lined the hallway outside the House floor Sunday afternoon as lawmakers entered the chamber. Though organizers opposed to the bill urged them to stay quiet, protesters occasionally burst into cheers or boos as individual legislators passed.

Opponents to the legislation carried posters with slogans such as “women’s rights.” Several of the bills’ supporters sealed their mouths with tape on which they had written the word “life.”

Many protesters who had come to oppose the legislation said they did not expect to change the outcome of the House vote. Though they said they believe the bills will pass, they added that they hope to influence the national discourse and bring attention to the legislation.

“We’ll fight them through the courts. Then we’ll be out in full force at the ballot box in 2014,” said Sharon Reed Miller, who arrived from San Marcos with her husband Sunday morning. Miller, 65, said this was their first time to become involved in any kind of protest.
by Becca Aaronson

The House opened proceedings with a prayer asking for a “breadth of perspective” in the midst of pressures from the media, constituents and colleagues. But before tackling the abortion legislation, the House had some administrative business to address.

On Friday, the House gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 23, related to capital punishment for 17 year olds, and then recessed, instead of adjourning. Bills must receive approval from the House on three separate legislative days — adjourning and reconvening between each vote — so when House members attempted to pass SB 23 on third reading, Democrats interrupted and made a motion to adjourn, arguing that the bill could not be approved without adjournment or a majority vote to suspend the rules.

“I am perplexed how we can proceed with Senate Bill 23,” state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, said after the motion to adjourn failed. He asked the Speaker of the House to submit in writing an explanation of how the House planned to approve a bill on third reading without adjourning to start a new legislative day.

He then called a point of order on the entire House calendar, which the House parliamentarians are now considering. If the point of order is accepted, the House would be forced to adjourn, and the House Calendars Committee would have to meet and approve a new calendar before the chamber could reconvene.

The debate on whether to adjourn had more to do with the passage of the abortion bills, HB 60 and SB 5. By not adjourning now, lawmakers could approve that legislation on second reading tonight, and then adjourn later in the evening, immediately reconvening to pass the legislation on third reading and send it off to the Senate. Because the Senate must wait 24 hours after legislation receives approval from the House, the decision to adjourn could have a major impact on the how much time the Senate Democrats’ must talk to attempt a filibuster of the legislation.

SB 23 would make 17-year-old capital murderers subject to the same mandatory punishment as 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds who are certified to stand trial as adults and convicted of capital murder: a life sentence with parole eligibility after 40 years. The House version would also allow judges and juries to sentence 17-year-olds to life without parole as long they consider mitigating factors, as Brandi Grissom reported for the Tribune.”

by Becca Aaronson

“We’re just trying to make sure we act in compliance with the legislative process,” a smiling state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, told a gaggle of reporters while the House awaited the parliamentarian’s decision on whether to accept his point of order on the calendar.

“This is about politics, not about substance,” he added, referencing a tweet by GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Wednesday that used an advertisement by a reproductive rights group to praise the Senate’s approval of abortion restrictions late Tuesday evening. “This is not about a state emergency,” he said.

by Becca Aaronson

Democrats said the point of order on the House calendar raised by state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston should be sustained. 

"POO good! They trying to cut deal with Dems to pull it!" tweeted state Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont. "If no deal is cut They may just make a bad precedent ruling."

Lawmakers were gathered in huddled circles in the middle of the House floor, as Republicans attempt to cut a deal with the Democrats to withdraw the point of order, so that they can salvage the legislation on the calendar. Now, the Democrats have moved into a meeting in the Speaker's committee room at the front of the chamber.

by Becca Aaronson

Democrats and Republicans reached a deal on the House calendar. Democrats withdrew the point of order on the calendar, and the House adjourned until 6:20. Chairman of the House Calendars Committee Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, made clear that when the House reconvenes with a new calendar that the legislation will be considered in the same order it was previously scheduled.

It’s significant that the House will keep the same order, because the Democrats could delay the passage of Senate Bill 23 to further delay the passage of the abortion measures in Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 60.

“We don’t want to give in,” state Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont said, adding that the three to four hour delay created by the deal brokered by Democrats could further jeopardize the passage of SB 5 and HB 60. “Sometimes that’s enough when you’re at the end of the calendar,” he said. 

But state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineloa, said he thought the bill would still pass.

"Obviously, this late in the session every minute counts,” he said. The House will probably work past midnight to approve SB 5, he said, and the majority of the Senate has already agreed to concur to changes in the bill.

“Monday starts at 12:01 a.m., so we’ll be OK," he said, explaining that the House could adjourn after midnight, start a new legislative day and give final approval to SB 5. That would leave 48 hours before the end of the special session — 24 hours for the Senate to await the bill from the House, and 24 hours for Senate Democrats to attempt a filibuster.

by Shefali Luthra
As legislators negotiated a point of order on calendar rules and then adjourned for two hours, activists settled in at the Capitol to wait for House debate on abortion legislation.

Protesters opposing the legislation distributed about 1,000 orange T-shirts to protesters, said Planned Parenthood organizer Brittany Yelverton. The protesters have filled two overflow rooms in addition to many seats in the House gallery.

Lize Burr, president of the Capital Area Democratic Women and an opponent of the bills, said protesters plan to “stay to the end.”

Several pizzas have been delivered to the protesters. And state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, made a visit to activists in one of the overflow rooms, encouraging them to keep protesting the bills.

Cynthia Umstattd, who supports the legislation, said plenty of people in the state are in favor of restricting abortion access but they had not been as organized in developing a presence at the Capitol.

Had that been the case, “there would have been a lot more people here,” she said.

Her brother, Thomas Umstattd, said many abortion opponents were not able to travel to Austin on a Sunday because of religious services, adding that it was “not a good day” for them.

Thomas Umstattd said he planned to stay “as long as it takes.”

Carolyn Hairston, who traveled from San Antonio to support the bills, said that though abortion opponents were smaller in numbers, their “side is in the Legislature.”

Judith Ford, who opposes the legislation and flew in from Lewisville on Sunday morning, said she thinks it will ultimately pass but that protesters' presence still matters.

“It will show people that we do care, and we’re not going to go down without a fight,” she said.
by Aman Batheja

Though abortion has drawn all the attention today at the Capitol building, a debate on the fight for more funding for the Texas Department of Transportation is also on tonight’s House schedule.

Senate Joint Resolution 2 is on the schedule after the abortion bills. The measure would ask voters to approve amending the state constitution to divert half of the oil and gas severance taxes currently earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund to the State Highway Fund. If approved, it is estimated to raise nearly $1 billion a year for road construction and maintenance.

Constitutional amendments require support of two-thirds of the House, a higher bar than the abortion bills up for debate tonight. It’s unclear if there is that much support for the measure in the House.

The bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, said he plans to amend the bill to address some concerns. A big one is language the Senate included that would prevent revenue being diverted to the highway fund in years when the Rainy Day Fund’s balance is below $6 billion. Phillips said he plans to change that figure to a percentage of state spending, and also make clear that none of the funding could go toward toll projects.

If the House passes the measure, Phillips’ changes would require the measure to go back to the Senate, which would need to concur with the changes before the special session ends on Tuesday.

by Becca Aaronson

The House has begun it’s new legislative day with a debate on whether to postpone Senate Bill 23.

While the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said the House should postpone the legislation to give lawmakers adequate time to examine the new amendments filed to the bill, state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said the delay was a procedural tactic to expedite debate on the abortion restrictions in House Bill 60.

With hours of debate and delays by Democrats ahead, those unfamiliar with “chubbing” can read up on what to expect here

by Becca Aaronson

The House voted to delay both Senate Bill 23 and House Bill 60 — an effort Democrats called a procedural tactic to hasten debate on Senate Bill 5, which unlike HB 60 has already received approval from the Senate.

The moves prompted a personal privilege speech from state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston.

“I can’t believe what I just witnessed,” said Farrar, the chairwoman of the House women’s health caucus. “It’s a deliberate attempt to move other bills forward.”

In her 20 years as a lawmaker, Farrar said, she’d never witnessed the level of civic engagement such as that from reproductive rights advocates opposed to HB 60 and SB 5 — “nor the disrespect for witnesses,” shown by the committee members’ decision to cut off public testimony before hundreds of witnesses could testify.

The House members’ actions “smelled of partisan politics,” she said. The abortion restrictions may appeal to GOP primary voters, she said, but the majority of Texas women — including some Republicans — oppose the abortion restrictions in the bills.

The House gallery erupted in applause when she finished speaking. And House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, again reminded the audience to refrain from noisy displays. 

by Becca Aaronson

House GOP members succeeded in delaying legislation in order to take up Senate Bill 5, but they’re once again being held up as parliamentarians discuss a point of order called by a Democrat.

Senate Bill 5 “addresses abortion law and regulations in our state," &rdquo state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, said as she laid out the legislation, adding it “also addresses health and safety for women who undergo an abortion procedure.”

As she continued to say that “the baby can feel the pain of abortion,” therefor the House had added a provision to the Senate version to prohibit elective abortions at 20 weeks or more, state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, interrupted her with a parliamentary inquiry.

"The calendar now has been violated because at 7:15 we were required to take up Senate Bill 23," said Dutton. He called a point of order on Senate Bill 5. Then SB5 was postponed, and now Rep. Kolkhorst is moving again to postpone SB23.

by Aman Batheja

Gov. Rick Perry is likely to order the Texas Legislature into a second special session if certain bills don’t pass before the end of the current one, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Sunday evening.

“I believe there are certain items on this call that he shared with me are must-pass,” Dewhurst said. He declined to say which of the four items on the special session agenda he was referring to.

Dewhurst also would not say if he expected Perry to call a second special session immediately after the current one concludes on Tuesday.

“I leave that decision of the timing to the governor but, unless I’m misreading him, we’re going to be called back in,” Dewhurst said.

House Democrats are currently dragging out debate on abortion bills, raising the strong possibility that the main legislation, Senate Bill 5, won’t make it back to the Senate until after midnight tonight.

The Senate needs to concur on the House changes to the bill, namely the addition of a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks, commonly referred to as the “fetal pain” provision. However, the Senate is required to wait 24 hours before it can bring the bill up for a vote. That means the Senate may not be able to take up the bill until early Tuesday. With less than 24 hours left in the special session at that point, a Senate Democrat would have an easier chance of filibustering the bill.

Dewhurst made clear he believes the death of SB 5 would be the fault of the House.

“I’ve been surprised by the number of House members [who] didn’t’ realize we can’t take up a bill for 24 hours after it was received and that it’s eligible for a filibuster,” Dewhurst said. “That’s why we worked for 16-17 hours on Tuesday to get this package of bills to the House a week before Sine Die.” (Sine Die is Capitol speak for “the end of the session.")

When asked by a reporter, Dewhurst did agree that he believed the House could pass SB 5 exactly as it left the Senate, which was without the fetal pain provision. If that happened, the bill would go straight to Perry’s desk. The Senate only needs to take up the bill again if the House version is different from the bill passed in the Senate.

“If the House is going to leave fetal pain on the bill, I need it in a couple of hours,” Dewhurst said. “If it gets here too late, then we’re in filibuster range for somebody who might be able to talk for, I don’t know, 12 to 36 hours.”

One other factor complicating matters for Senate Republicans is Friday’s unexpected death of the father of state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio. Services are Monday and Tuesday, and most senators expressed interest in attending. Dewhurst said he would also like to attend the services but won’t do so if it means sacrificing legislation.

“I’ve been praying daily for Leticia but we’re in a special session. We have two more days to go,” Dewhurst said. “I think the people of Texas expect us — while praying for our colleague, while feeling for our colleague, while wanting the best for her — to address the people’s business.”

by Shefali Luthra
After reproductive rights advocates burst into cheers at at speech by Democratic Rep. Jessica Farrar, Planned Parenthood organizers reminded protesters to respect House rules or risk being removed from the gallery.

Organizers have reminded protesters that if they clap, cheer, or perform an American Sign Language cheer (raising their hands and waving them in the air, the so-called “jazz hands” many protesters have been doing), the group could be ejected from the gallery, said protester Jane McFarland.

She added that many protesters are unfamiliar with House rules because they have never been in the Legislature before.

Capitol security officers have also warned the protesters and organizers that any cheers or claps could lead to their removal from the gallery.

Protesters are trying to find “respectful ways to articulate support,” said Breanna Bader, an advocate from Austin who opposes the abortion legislation. That is especially the case, she said, because “so many women were silenced Thursday night.”

No protesters have yet been ejected, said Molly Finneran, a Planned Parenthood organizer.
by Becca Aaronson

The Democratic chubbing of Senate Bill 5 is in full force. 

After state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, finished laying out the provisions in SB 5, the House began considering the first of many amendments. According to a House official, 17 amendments to SB 5 have been filed, so far, and lawmakers may continue to file more. 

by Becca Aaronson

While laying out an amendment to create an exception for victims of rape and incest in Senate Bill 5, state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, erupted into a passionate speech and held up a coat hanger: "I don't want women to be forced to use these."

“To be raped, it’s a violent act. It’s something she has to live with for the rest of her life,” said Thompson. She added that women should not be forced to endure the “stigma of being raped and then the stigma of having to carry an incestuous child.”

State Rep. Laubenberg moved to table the amendment.

“I understand there is nothing worse to a woman than to be violated,” she said. “Let me say that this does not prohibit an abortion for any reason, including rape and incest, up until five months. That’s over half the term of the pregnancy.”

by Becca Aaronson

The House voted 86 to 51 to table state Rep. Thompson’s amendment that would exclude victims of rape and incest from the abortion restrictions in Senate Bill 5.

Before the amendment was tabled, Thompson asked lawmakers to consider the trauma experienced by those victims, which could make it difficult to obtain an abortion within 20 weeks.

“Just think about how embarrassing it is for a girl to go and tell her mother, 'My dad has raped me,'” she said. “How do you get the nerve?”

In many cases of incest, “those persons that have raped these young women, also have parental rights,” said Thompson. “The trauma is so great and so real that they don’t know what to do.”

by Becca Aaronson

After more than five hours of debate, the House has tabled seven amendments to Senate Bill 5 offered by Democrats and has more than 20 amendments left to consider.

Among the amendments rejected so far: a requirement that the state provide peer-reviewed scientific evidence that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks; an exclusion for abortion clinics more than 50 miles from another abortion facility from the ambulatory surgical facility requirements to ease travel burdens on rural women seeking abortions; an extension of the effective date of the surgical facility requirements from 2014 to 2015 so that existing abortion clinics would have more time to upgrade and meet new requirements; and an exemption for nurses to administer abortion-inducing drugs to treat women who have ectopic pregnancies or partial miscarriages.

State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-Clint, told lawmakers that a woman victim of rape or incest in her district would have to travel 600 miles one way to receive an abortion under SB 5. Poor women living in rural areas, such as the colonias along the border, will seek to self-induce abortion or travel to Mexico for the procedure, she said. “Do you want to keep the women of Texas safe or not?" she asked House members.

Democrats also presented multiple points of order on Senate Bill 5, all of which were rejected by House parliamentarians.

by Becca Aaronson

Speculation is mounting that House GOP members will make a motion to “call the question” — halting remaining debate and prompting an immediate vote — on Senate Bill 5.

State Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, tweeted, “Repubs have the 25 signatures to call the questions. Will they move? Will they be recognized? they are arguing it on floor.”

Technically, the Republicans would need 25 signatures to be recognized on the motion to call the question, and then the House would vote on whether to halt debate and vote on SB 5.

The longer the debate goes on, the easier it will be for Senate Democrats to filibuster the legislation. With the 24-hour layout rule, if the bill were passed in the next hour or so, a senator would have to filibuster for about 24 hours to kill the bill.

by Becca Aaronson

While House members were not required to pass Senate Bill 5 before midnight, the start of a new calendar day could jeopardize the passage of the legislation. If the House tentatively approves the bill tonight, the House must adjourn, reconvene, and wait two hours to lay out the new calendar or two-thirds of the chamber must agree to suspend the rules to give the legislation final consideration on third reading. Without a suspension of the rules the House would be required to wait two hours to give final approval. That would less time for the Senate to confirm the House changes to SB 5, because they must wait 24 hours to act after receiving the legislation from the House, and shorten the time necessary for a senator to filibuster the bill.

Editor's note: This post has been corrected to state that the House would not have to wait an entire calendar day, but rather, two hours to consider the bill on third reading.

by Becca Aaronson

At about 2 a.m. state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, presented the 25 signatures necessary to call the question and end debate on Senate Bill 5. The House voted 92 to 37 to approve the motion forcing a vote on the bill.

“We are doing everything we can to rush us through this process. Something is wrong,” said state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. He expressed anger that House members had ended debate on the amendments, just as the committee had stopped public testimony on the bill before everyone could testify. “I’m tired just like everybody else, but if this issue is so important it deserves the right to be fully debated and fully vetted.”

Turner's impassioned plea to vote against the motion to force the vote on SB 5 was greeted with applause from the House gallery, which was still full of orange-shirted onlookers even at the late hour.

Hughes responded that Senate Bill 5 had been fully vetted.

“We’re going to be heavily accountable for what’s happened here,” he said. “I think the people of Texas expect us to take a position on this bill, pro or con.”

In total, the House tabled 13 amendments to SB 5 offered by Democrats, and cut off debate before an additional 13 amendments could be considered.

by Alana Rocha

Highlights from the hours-long debate in the House on abortion.

by Becca Aaronson

“This bill will ensure that women are given the highest standard of health care in a very vulnerable time in their life,” state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, said before the House voted 97 to 33 to tentatively approve Senate Bill 5. After the House considers the remaining legislation on the calendar, they must wait at least two hours to reconvene and give the legislation final approval.

“Sadly, too often today the back alley abortion is the abortion clinic because the standards for the providers and the facilities are too laxed or substandard,” she said.

Many people seated in the House gallery booed loudly in response to the vote. They began shouting “shame,” and a House sergeants removed few people, before many left voluntarily to protest outside the chamber.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston said women were tired of being bullied before lawmakers voted.

“Women are not going to tolerate the constant chipping away of their rights, we are not going to be bullied,” she said. “We are soldiers in the army of women’s rights, and while today we may be outnumbered and out gunned, our cause is just and we shall prevail.” 

by Becca Aaronson

After the House gave preliminary approval to the abortion restrictions in Senate Bill 5, dozens of protesters gathered in the Capitol rotunda, lining the stairs and chanting: “Shame them to their faces,” “shame them for what they’ve done,” and “blood is on their hands.”

State Reps. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston and José Menéndez, D-San Antonio spoke to the crowd.

“We fought like dogs,” said Farrar, chairwoman of the House women’s health caucus. She added that the protesters had invigorated their effort to stymie the abortion bill. Farrar told the protesters that because of their efforts, there was a opportunity for a senator to filibuster the legislation. “It really mattered what you did,” she said.

Menéndez told them their efforts tonight, while appreciated, were not enough and that they need to translate those efforts to the ballot box.

“I hope the strength of this movement continues through the next election,” he said.

by Brandi Grissom
With a vote of 86-17 and two present not voting, the House tentatively approved Senate Joint Resolution 2, which would ask voters to approve amending the state constitution to divert half of the oil and gas severance taxes currently earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund to the State Highway Fund. It is estimated to raise close $1 billion a year for road construction and maintenance.
“This will not solve the problem, this is a start to solve the problem,” said state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, the sponsor of SJR 2.
Perry added transportation funding to the special session call after efforts to find extra money for the Texas Department of Transportation failed in the regular session. TxDOT has said it needs an additional $4 billion a year just to maintain current congestion levels.
An amendment by state Rep. Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving, was added to the bill. It would devote one-third of the growth in motor vehicle sales taxes to the transportation fund.
Critics of the measure have noted, among other things, that the revenue will dry up whenever the current oil drilling boom ends. Phillips added a “perfecting amendment” to ensure the money was not used for toll roads and to make the balance needed in the Rainy Day Fund a floating target instead of a fixed $6 billion.
by Becca Aaronson

The House has adjourned until 6:46 a.m. — the earliest time they could reconvene to consider Senate Bill 5 on third reading. 

To reach the Governor before the special ends, the House must approve SB 5 on third reading on Monday, as the Senate must wait 24 hours to layout the legislation and confirm the changes to the legislation approved by the House. The longer the bill has in the Senate, the longer a Democratic senator would have to filibuster the bill to prevent its passage.

by Brandi Grissom

After a break long enough for a power nap and maybe a shower, lawmakers in the House are back on the floor this morning, milling around and waiting to start debate on SB 5 on third reading. 

The House must approve the abortion legislation today and send it to the Senate if Republicans are to have any hope of getting the measure to Gov. Rick Perry's desk before the special session ends Tuesday.

by Alana Rocha

State troopers had to escort a handful of reproductive rights advocates from the House chamber moments after the body tentatively approved Senate Bill 5

State Reps. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, and Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, were among those lawmakers who followed the crowd of protestors into the hall to thank them for their support, and ask they come back when the Senate takes up the legislation on Tuesday.

by Brandi Grissom

With Democrats and Republicans both on the House floor, the debate on SB5 on third reading ensues.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, asks the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, how much more abortion legislation the GOP will seek. He asks whether the goal is to completely eliminate abortions in Texas.

"At what point have we sufficiently covered this area?" he asked.

Turner asked whether she would accept an amendment to ban abortions completely. 

"Would you agree with that amendment?"

Laubenberg said she thinks SB5 goes a long way, but she couldn't predict what might be ahead. She said she would not accept an amendment to ban abortions.

"My head is a little bit muddled right now with probably no sleep," she said. "I am delighted with what we have right now. I never try and predict the future." 

by Morgan Smith

After an exhuasting debate that went through Sunday night, lawmakers in the House finally passed SB 5 with a 95 to 34 vote along largely partisan lines around 10 a.m. Monday. 

As Democrats who opposed the omnibus abortion bill laid out their closing arguments, they said it represented partisan politics at its worst and would endanger the lives of women.

"This bill has not beeen and will never be about women's health or reducing unintended pregrancies," state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie.

House Democrats presented their closing arguments against the bill after threatened by a procedural move that would have cut off any further attempts to delay its passage.

State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, was the lone Republican to vote against the bill. Twenty members were absent.

After a 24-hour layout period, the legislation will head to the upper chamber for approval, where it is vulnerable to a filibuster. If it is stopped there, Gov. Rick Perry could call the Legislature back for a second special session, a move that would free the bill from the time constraints it now faces.

by Julián Aguilar

The House messenger told the upper chamber SB5 had been passed in the House at about 10:40 and the Senate immediately stood at ease for 10 minutes. Rules say the bill must lay out for 24 hours before the upper chamber can take it up. That can be suspended, however, if two-thirds of the members present vote do to so. Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, is out following her father’s sudden passing. And state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, voted for the bill in the senate. If the Dems don’t have the numbers, their planned filibuster could be in jeopardy but state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said the party is ready and decide what to do soon. 

by Julián Aguilar

Senate is still at ease. Apparently the body needs more than 10 minutes to figure out a game plan.

by Morgan Smith

A crucial transportation funding measure has squeaked through the House with just five votes over the 100 the constitutional resolution needed to pass.

SJR 2 aims to solve the state's transportation funding woes by diverting future revenue from the Rainy Day Fund by splitting a portion of oil and gas severance taxes currently earmarked for that fund and the State Highway Fund.

The proposal has divided both Republicans and Democrats, with many lawmakers saying they only reluctantly supported the measure as a last ditch effort to get funding for transportation.

"I urge you to vote no on this silly idea," said state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, who said the measure would not provide a reliable source of funds.

State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said she did not think the resolution represented good policy but that the states' roads needed money.

"This is helping transportation get some funding. It does not solve the problem," she said.

State Rep. Larry Phillips, the Sherman Republican who sponsored the legislation in the House, acknowledged the proposal stopped short of offering a full-fledged solution to transportation funding. But he urged his colleagues to "not let perfect be the enemy of good."

Voters still must approve at the polls in November, if the Senate concurs with changes made to the measure the lower chamber. The upper chamber's version of the bill contained language backed by some Republicans there that blocked the diversion if the amount in the Rainy Day Fund drops below $6 billion to ensure it would not ever be fully depleted. Critics say that move would dry up all funding for roads if the current oil drilling boom ends.

In the House, Phillips amended the bill to ensure the money was not used for toll roads and to make the balance needed in the Rainy Day Fund a floating target instead of a fixed $6 billion. He also accepted an amendment from state Rep. Linda Harper Brown, R-Irving, that would devote one-third of the growth in motor vehicle sales taxes to the transportation fund.

After efforts to find extra money for the Texas Department of Transportation failed in the regular session, Gov. Rick Perry added transportation funding to the special session call. The TxDot says it needs at least $4 billion in funding to maintain current congestion levels.

by Julián Aguilar

Texas House has gaveled out until Tuesday at 1 p.m. 

by Morgan Smith

When the House returns tomorrow at 1 p.m. — assuming no procedural hiccups in the Senate — the main item on the agenda will be to concur with the upper chamber's version of SJR 2 if senators strip the amendments they passed last night.

by Julián Aguilar

As the Senate waits, word has come in that state Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio will return to Austin from S.A. Van de Putte’s father passed away on Friday and her vote is key if Democrats want to stop Republicans from suspending Senate rules and taking up SB5 early. The senate is also waiting on state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler. It’s unclear what the timing is but several senators have walked by the press table and, when asked what the plan is, said they have no idea.

As the upper chamber waits to do business, abortion-rights advocates are trickling in to the Senate gallery. 

by Julián Aguilar

State Sen. Eddie Lucio II, D-Brownsville, sent reporters a statement saying he will not vote on the motion to suspend rules unless Van de Putte is on the Senate floor to cast her vote. Lucio, who’s been beat up on social media sites for his support for SB5, is the only Democrat that supports the measure.

The entire statement is below:

"In the final days of this special legislative session, my good friend Senator Leticia Van de Putte suffered a tragic death, the loss of her father.  Today, she and her family are attending a visitation, viewing, and rosary in San Antonio.  Senator Van de Putte asked me directly—knowing I support Senate Bill 5—to nonetheless vote no on suspending the 24-hour posting rule on the bill until she can be in the Senate chamber to cast her vote against it.  I am honoring Senator Van de Putte's request.  While my faith drives me to support Senate Bill 5, my faith also requires that I show respect and compassion to my fellow member and good friend.  It is incumbent upon all of us in the Senate to show Senator Van de Putte and her family the utmost consideration during this trying time."

by Julián Aguilar

State Sen. Eltife just walked in. Said he chartered his own plane, and that Dewhurst didn't do it for him. He said he felt an obligation to be here and represent his district, but he’s not a definite "yes" vote on suspending the rules. He said he wanted to talk to his staff and colleagues and learn whether or not Sen. Van De Putte has been given the opportunity to weigh her options. 

by Aman Batheja

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has informed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst she plans to filibuster the abortion bill, SB 5.

The information became known through letters exchanged between Dewhurst and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, over whether Dewhurst planned to try and ask the Senate to suspend its rules to bring up SB 5 early while Van de Putte was at funeral services for her father.

Here are the letters:

by Brandi Grissom

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, released a press statement explaining his opposition to SB5. He said the measure was an "unprecedented, unreasonable and unconscionable attack on women’s health." 

Ellis said he plans to stand against the legislation, which he said would reduce access to certain critical women's health services to just four of Texas' 254 counties.

"The clear goal of this legislation is to eradicate Texas women’s ability to receive health care services they are constitutionally protected to receive," Ellis said in the release. "Opponents of reproductive freedom want to make it virtually impossible for Texas women to seek safe, legal health care without facing the political consequences of trying to ban all abortions."

by Julián Aguilar

The senate is in recess until 7 pm. Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, a key “no” vote on the motion to suspend the rules that require a 24-hour layout of SB5, said earlier he was leaving Austin this afternoon to attend services for Sen. Van de Putte’s father. Lucio, an SB5 supporter, said he would not vote to suspend until Van de Putte was given the option to return and cast her vote against the motion. It’s unclear if Van de Putte will return this evening. If Lucio does not return and vote, the vote on the motion to suspend will be 19 to 10, instead of 19 to 11, which senators say still denies the Republicans the two-thirds majority vote they need. State Sen. Eltife, R-Tyler, who was on vacation and returned to Austin earlier this afternoon, said he wasn’t sure what the Senate will do this evening. But he added, it’s unlikely any additional votes to suspend the rules will have a different outcome.

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