Lies that are used to pass laws in Texas are fail­ing state’s youth

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUTLOOK - By Wendy Davis and Chris­tiann Ayala

The way we pass laws in this state is fail­ing young Tex­ans.

What we’re talk­ing about is how elected of­fi­cials use lies to pass bad laws.

Turn­ing lies into laws hurts our state and risks alien­at­ing a ris­ing gen­er­a­tion of Tex­ans when we should be do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to en­cour­age their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the po­lit­i­cal process.

That politi­cians ig­nore or dis­tort facts for the sake of their agenda is noth­ing new, in Texas or across the coun­try. But it’s some­thing that seemed to go into over­drive this year, with dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects.

Here are a few ex­am­ples.

This year, Texas law­mak­ers passed a law al­low­ing child-wel­fare providers that con­tract with the state to dis­crim­i­nate against LGBT fam­i­lies in fos­ter care and adop­tion place­ments. The law’s sup­port­ers ar­gued that the leg­is­la­tion would pro­tect “re­li­gious free­dom.” The re­al­ity is pro­tec­tions for that free­dom al­ready ex­ist, care­fully bal­anc­ing the con­vic­tions of re­li­giously af­fil­i­ated child wel­fare ser­vice providers with the needs and be­liefs of chil­dren they serve. But the truth didn’t mat­ter, and the gover­nor signed the bill into law any­way.

The is­sue of abor­tion

should be guided by estab­lished sci­ence, but in­stead we again saw how pol­i­tics and mis­in­for­ma­tion dom­i­nate. This year law­mak­ers passed an­other un­nec­es­sary law that bans a safe, med­i­cally-proven method of abor­tion. They also enacted a new re­quire­ment on fe­tal re­mains.

Medical ex­perts and oth­ers pointed to the deeply flawed ar­gu­ments be­hind these mea­sures, but legislators passed them any­way. The truth was leg­isla­tive lead­ers were sim­ply look­ing for ex­cuses to put more ob­sta­cles in the way of women seek­ing safe, le­gal abor­tion care.

The Leg­is­la­ture also passed a “show your pa­pers”-style law that tar­gets im­mi­grants and peo­ple of color. Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials de­cried the law as mak­ing their com­mu­ni­ties less safe — the com­plete op­po­site of what its sup­port­ers as­sured us was needed to pro­tect pub­lic safety.

And let’s not for­get about a bill that didn’t be­come law but trig­gered a de­bate dom­i­nated by fake facts. The so-called “bath­room bill” tar­geted trans­gen­der Tex­ans for dis­crim­i­na­tion and was based on nu­mer­ous lies, the most per­ni­cious of which was the out­ra­geous sug­ges­tion that trans­gen­der peo­ple are an in­her­ent dan­ger to women and chil­dren.

The bill’s sup­port­ers can’t cite in­ci­dents in which a trans­gen­der per­son en­tered a pub­lic re­stroom to harm some­one else. The bill was de­feated, but there’s a real pos­si­bil­ity it — and the lies — will re­turn next leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

It’s time to end this shame­less tac­tic at the Texas Capi­tol. That’s why our or­ga­ni­za­tions, Texas Ris­ing and Deeds Not Words, will travel to the state’s uni­ver­si­ties this Novem­ber for a se­ries of cam­pus fo­rums. Our mes­sage is sim­ple: No more lies into laws.

We’re tak­ing this mes­sage to our uni­ver­si­ties as the coun­try nears a ma­jor mile­stone. It is es­ti­mated that in 2018, peo­ple ages 18-34, some­times called Mil­len­ni­als, will sur­pass Baby Boomers to be­come the coun­try’s largest vot­ing-el­i­gi­ble gen­er­a­tion.

This gen­er­a­tion of Tex­ans has al­ready been di­rectly af­fected by an­other bad law based on mis­in­for­ma­tion — a voter ID mea­sure from 2011 that bars them from us­ing stu­dent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to vote. Ex­perts pointed out that the kind of voter fraud tar­geted by this law is vir­tu­ally nonex­is­tent. But law­mak­ers passed it any­way be­cause its real pur­pose was to sup­press vot­ing among tar­geted pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing young peo­ple.

The fu­ture of this state is in­creas­ingly in this gen­er­a­tion’s hands, and some of these Tex­ans will one day rep­re­sent us at the Capi­tol. So it is vi­tal to create an en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages as many mem­bers of this di­verse group to get in­volved in the po­lit­i­cal process, on ev­ery­thing from vot­ing to run­ning for of­fice.

Our fear, how­ever, is that too many mem­bers of this gen­er­a­tion will see what hap­pened at the Leg­is­la­ture and choose to take a pass. And who can blame them when they see politi­cians who can’t deal in ba­sic facts?

We hope our fo­rums on col­lege cam­puses across the state will start a con­ver­sa­tion about how this ris­ing gen­er­a­tion can lead and re­turn our pol­i­tics to a place where re­al­ity rules the day.

Un­truths will only con­tinue to pro­duce bad pol­icy. Our state can’t con­tinue to run on lies.

David Paul Mor­ris / Bloomberg

Politi­cians at the state Capi­tol in Austin ig­nor­ing or dis­tort­ing facts for the sake of their agenda ap­pears to have gone into over­drive this year.

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