Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ms. Davis Goes To Austin

Caption: I wonder if the Texas state house looks like this.

Image credit: public domain/Wikimedia

Yes, believe it or not, there's a Democratic senator filibustering a bill that would restrict her constituents' rights. Of course, that Democratic senator is not a U.S. Senator, she's Wendy Davis, a Texas state senator:

What Will happen in Texas today after Rep. Jodie Laubenberg caused huge protests and squeals of outrage over her outlandish statement directed at victims of rape [in support of Texas Senate Bill 5]? Texas legislators have until midnight tonight to pass an anti-abortion bill that will make it basically impossible to get a legal procedure of abortion in West, Texas.

That’s why we’re rooting for Senator Wendy David and Democrats, who are planning a marathon filibuster against the anti-abortion bill, hoping to stop the vote, which must be held today due to rules of the Legislature.

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis Planning Marathon Filibuster

What's more, as the Guardian reports, things are a bit tougher in the Texas senate:

Image credit: Wendy Davis

A Texas senator, Wendy Davis, has launched a marathon filibuster of an abortion bill that would severely restrict abortion access in the state.

If she is to be successful, Davis must talk for 13 hours, during which she will not be allowed to sit, lean or take any breaks to go to the bathroom or eat. She is only allowed to stop speaking when listening to questions.

Texas senator Wendy Davis stages marathon filibuster against abortion bill

To make things even stranger from a progressive perspective, she's not doing this alone:

[T]he bill's bogging down began with Gov. Rick Perry, who summoned lawmakers back to work immediately after the regular legislative session ended May 27, but didn't add abortion to the special session to-do list until late in the process. The Legislature can only take up issues at the governor's direction during the extra session.

Then, House Democrats succeeded in stalling nearly all night Sunday, keeping the bill from reaching the Senate until 11 a.m. Monday.

The measure only passed the lower chamber after a raucous debate that saw more than 800 women's rights activists pack the public gallery and surrounding Capitol, imploring lawmakers not to approve it.

Texas Senate set for filibuster finale on abortion

So, the Democratic legislative leadership cooperated with activists, instead of screwing them, and did their part to keep a really lousy bill from passing.

According to Progress Texas's filibuster countdown, the goal of the filibuster is to run out the clock on a special session of the Texas legislature.

All I can say is, good luck, and I wish we had more legislators like this elsewhere in America.

Afterword: For the latest on this, check the Progress Texas site, Texas activist Joyce Arnold's latest article (with a live feed video embedded), or the Texas Tribune live blog.

UPDATE/Correction: The countdown clock is apparently by a group called Progress Texas, not the Texas ACLU. The Twitter message referring to it was from the ACLU. I've corrected those references in the article.

UPDATE 2: At least for the moment, on this computer, image uploads are working again. I added the images you now see.

UPDATE 3: Joyce Arnold reports that the Republicans who control the Texas senate are trying to get Ms. Davis disqualified from continuing her filibuster. As the Texas Tribune noted:

7:27 p.m. [CDT] by Becca Aaronson If state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is charged with one more violation of the filibuster rules, her attempt to talk Senate Bill 5 to death could be over.

Davis received her second warning when the Senate voted 17 to 11 to sustain a point of order called by state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, on Davis for receiving assistance to put on a back brace.

Liveblog: Dems Approach Abortion Victory as Special Session Wanes

A back brace? Most people don't have one of those unless they have a back problem. Heck, I don't have a back problem, but after I stand for several hours straight I feel like I need some aspirin.

Don't let the pretty face fool you - the lady's tough as nails.

UPDATE 4 (10:30 PDT): I didn't tune in just before midnight CDT like I'd planned, but it looks like what happened is that the Republican leadership in the Texas senate first managed to lodge enough "decorum" complaints against Wendy Davis that she had to yield the floor. Enough disturbances and questions about procedure (the latter by senate Democrats, mostly) that the vote was not taken until after midnight. The Republicans are claiming the bill passed.

Here's a quote from the Texas Tribune's live blog of the session:

12:31 a.m. by Becca Aaronson

It's still unclear the exact time that the Senate voted and approved Senate Bill 5 — and whether that vote is valid.

"There will be people who see things as they see them...I think its fair to say this is not the way the Senate should do its business," state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, told the press. He blamed the outburst in the gallery for disrupting the Senate's processes. "The people can't come and create so much of a ruckus that we can't do our job," he said.

Standing next to Patrick, state Sen. Juan 'Chuy' Hinojosa, D-McAllen, agreed that this is not the way the Senate should conduct its business. But he said the Senate should not be allowed to approve a bill during a special session past the midnight deadline, at which point, the session should be concluded.

Liveblog: Dems Approach Abortion Victory as Special Session Wanes

Most likely, this will end up in court.

As I've observed here a few times before, what the law actually means doesn't matter much anymore to those in power. The party that controls the legislature says they passed a bill, and if the governor signs it, they'll start to enforce it.

If I were a member of the Texas senate's GOP caucus right now, I'd be ashamed of myself. Sen. Davis was maneuvered out of the way by three pissy complaints, including one about someone helping her to adjust her back brace after she'd been standing in place for hours. Then they ignored their own rules to pass the bill.

If you want to see what a pissant looks like, I'd say you should go to the Texas legislature's GOP caucus and have a look around.

UPDATE 5: Well, maybe they reconsidered. Here's what the Texas Tribune live blog had to say:

3:13 a.m. by Brandi Grissom Without recognizing Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, for a motion to adjourn Sine Die, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stepped down from the dais after ruling that time had expired on SB 5, telling the senators, "It's been fun, but, um, see ya soon."

He then told reporters that "An unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics" derailed legislation that was designed to protect women and babies.

He said he was "very frustrated."

"I didn't lose control of what we were doing," he told reporters. "We had an unruly mob."

Liveblog: Dems Approach Abortion Victory as Special Session Wanes

Nice that the rules still matter for everyone, at least when enough folks are paying attention.

And congratulations to Wendy Davis and the Texas senate Democrats. I suspect there are a lot of people in Texas who are grateful for this effort.

UPDATE 6 (and last, I hope): Just noticed I had two "UPDATE 3"s, and mis-typed Sen. Davis's name at least once. Hopefully, everything is now fixed...

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