AUSTIN, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Over the course of the past year, the Texas Legislature has met in multiple special sessions, discussing legislative measures including redistricting, federal COVID-19 relief funds, and various school-related measures.
The second special session featured lawmakers specifically passing legislation surrounding social media, abortion, and curriculum that included what some lawmakers call “critical race theory.”
Laws passed during this specific session that was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott were enacted this month. These include House Bill 20, Senate Bill 3, Senate Bill 4, and Senate Bill 9.
House Bill 20
House Bill 20 focused on social media censorship. According to a release from Abbott’s office in September, after Abbott signed the bill, House Bill 20, “protects Texans from wrongful censorship on social media platforms.”
The bill, which became law on Dec. 2, prevents social media companies with more than 50 million monthly users to ban individuals based on their political viewpoints. The bill also requires a number of consumer protection disclosures and processes related to content management on those same sites.
“We will always defend the freedom of speech in Texas, which is why I am proud to sign House Bill 20 into law to protect first amendment rights in the Lone Star State,” Abbott said in the release. “Social media websites have become our modern-day public square. They are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely — but there is a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas. That is wrong, and we will not allow it in Texas.”
Senate Bill Three
Senate Bill Three is a continuation of previous pieces of legislation which centers mainly on instruction in public school classrooms, especially surrounding current events and other items taught in history class.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, this comes as multiple state and national representatives have raised concerns about certain content students are being exposed to within their classes, including one inquiry by Representative Matt Krause concerning books that students are reading in classes.
According to reports by the Texas Tribune, the bill, which became law on Dec. 2, states that teachers are not compelled “to discuss a widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.”
Senate Bill 4
Senate Bill 4 is a bill that relates to the regulation of drug-induced abortion procedures, providers and facilities, creating a criminal offense to those who provide the services.
This bill also became law on Dec. 2. According to reports by the Texas Tribune, the legislation prevents physicians from giving abortion-inducing medication to patients more than seven weeks pregnant. The bill also restricts who may provide those medications to patients, banning manufacturers, suppliers, physicians, and “any other person,” through courier, delivery, or mail service.
Senate Bill 9
Senate Bill Nine, which became law on Dec. 2, is related to public school instruction and materials regarding the prevention of the following topics:
- Child abuse;
- Family violence;
- Dating violence;
- Sex trafficking.
According to the bill, Senate Bill Nine also adopts policies for public schools to help prevent dating violence. The bill states that the board of trustees shall adopt a policy establishing the process to adopt curriculum materials surrounding the instruction of these topics, ultimately with the local school health advisory council making recommendations on the curriculum.
The bill continues on to note that parents have the ability to “remove the student from any part” of the district’s instruction without the student meeting disciplinary action or other academic consequences. It was not immediately clear in the text of the bill whether or not this would conflict with legal guidelines mentioned by the Texas Association of School Boards that state parents are not entitled to remove their student from a class or other school activity to avoid a test or to avoid taking a subject for an entire semester.
Further, the bill restricts students from being given “instruction relating to the prevention of child abuse, family violence, dating violence, and sex trafficking” without a school district first obtaining the written consent of the student’s parent.