Abortion regulations in limbo as lawmakers disagree on property taxes, bathrooms

FILE - Abortion clinic (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Abortion clinic (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The board that regulates abortion providers might dissolve if lawmakers can’t agree as the Texas Legislature gavels out of Austin on Monday. The Texas Medical Board must be reauthorized by statute and it is now being held hostage at the state capitol. The issues holding it up are property tax limits and what’s become known as the bathroom bill.

Without action, doctors across the state will go unlicensed and have no legal authority to sanction shady physicians of all types, including those who perform abortions.

The Medical Board will begin to dissolve in September if a special session isn’t called to continue it in law. No word from Gov. Greg Abbott – the only person who can call a special session – if he will call a special session on the issue.

“The people of Texas will know that this legislature did its job and the health and safety of Texans will be protected. But we need the Senate to step up and do their end,” said Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock. He’s the chair of the Sunset Commission, which reauthorizes state agencies.

The House did not pass a bill authorizing the Texas Medical Board. That bill failed to meet a midnight deadline earlier in the month.

But Gonzales told KXAN he sent overarching language attached to another bill over to the Texas Senate to pass. It reads,”the law governing each agency and the law administered by the agency expire Sept. 1, 2021.”

But the man in charge of the process in the Senate, Van Taylor, says it’s too late for the Senate to act and that overarching language is not allowed per the Senate rules to be attached to the bill it is attached to.

“The ‘Hail, Mary’ the house is trying to throw, it just doesn’t work. There’s no way to catch the ‘Hail, Mary’ they’re trying to throw us,” said Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, who is vice chair for the Sunset Commission and a member of the Senate.

Both chambers blame the other for misrepresenting what the issue and the action taken.

But the Texas Medical Board is caught in between a battle over bathrooms and property taxes. Speaker of the House Joe Straus passed a “compromise bill” through his chamber that only requires public school students to use bathrooms based on biological sex, then the district could make exceptions.

Leader of the Texas Senate, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, supports expanding that to all public buildings and overriding city bathroom ordinances that provide protections for LGBT Texans.

Lt. Gov. Patrick said last Friday that he would hold these agency bills until the House passes two bills, the “bathroom bill” and a limit on how much local property taxes can grow before voters approve them.

“There are two must-pass bills, or I will allow the mistakes of the speaker to put us into a special session. And I will ask the governor to put privacy and property tax relief on the call,” said Lt. Gov. Patrick.

Again, Gov. Abbott is the only person who can call a special session. His spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. The legislative session ends Monday.

You may have never heard of the agency at the center of the controversy. But the Texas Medical Board has a big impact on everyone in the state. They license people working in several different professions. That includes all physicians, physician assistants, acupuncturists, OBGYNs, as well as many other medical professionals.

 

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