AUSTIN – Texas ended its contentious legislative session Monday as protesters packed into the state Capitol over a new ban on sanctuary cities, and lawmakers erupted into a heated argument with alleged death threats between Irving Republican Matt Rinaldi and Fort Worth Democrat Alfonso ‘Poncho’ Nevarez on the House floor.
The chaotic last day at the legislature marked a symbolic end to a polarizing session that had considered issues such as sanctuary cities, bathrooms used by transgender teens and religious objections.
One of the most heated debates during the session was around Senate Bill 4, which was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. The new law, which goes into effect in September, bans sanctuary cities and punishes local governments that don’t comply with immigration laws and detention requests.
On Monday, protesters filled into the Capitol, wearing red t-shirts, holding signs and chanting slogans, “SB4 has got to go!”
Republican Rep. Matt Rinaldi said in a Facebook post that he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the protesters, although ICE said that its officers “received no such call from local lawmakers.”
In retaliation, Rinaldi said he was “physically assaulted” by Rep. Ramon Romero and threatened by Rep. Poncho Nevarez, who called Rinaldi a liar on Twitter. Romero denied any assault happened.
It was a whirlwind last day of the 85th Texas Legislature, but there may be more this summer.
Abbott could call lawmakers back for a special session that could consider bills that didn’t pass, including a bathroom bill. The governor said he’d announce whether he’ll call a special session later this week.
Here’s a look at some of the most controversial Texas bills this session:
Senate Bill 4 on sanctuary cities
This new ban on sanctuary cities would levy fines up to $25,500 a day for local entities that violate the law. Sheriffs and police chiefs can be charged with misdemeanors for refusing to comply with federal detainer requests. Elected and appointed officials can be removed from office for violations of the law.
Supporters of this ban on sanctuary cities, including Abbott, touted the new law as “keeping dangerous criminals off our streets.”
Meanwhile, critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, slammed the measure as turning Texas into a “show me your papers state.”
The ACLU painted the law as giving “a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine traffic stop, leading to widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike presumed to be ‘foreign’ based on how they look or sound.”
Outcome: Signed into law
House Bill 3859 on adoptions and religion
This bill would allow adoption agencies to turn away potential parents they find objectionable on religious grounds.
Opponents say the proposed law would allow faith-based agencies to discriminate against potential parents who are gay, single or of a religion that members of the adoption agency find objectionable.
The bill’s author insists it heads off any potential discrimination by mandating that alternatives be made available for potential parents who are rejected by faith-based providers.
Outcome: House and Senate approved the bill, which has been sent to the governor.
Senate Bill 8: Abortion restrictions
The bill requires fetal remains to be buried or cremated and bans donations of fetal tissue to medical research. It also prohibits certain types of abortions in the second trimester of pregnancy.
Democrats in the House tried to add exceptions for pregnancies resulting in rape, incest or life-threatening emergencies. CNN affiliate KEYE reported that those proposed amendments failed.
The controversial bill prompted protesters to take to the Capitol dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale” earlier this month.
Outcome: Passed House and Senate, sent to governor.
Senate Bill 6: ‘Bathroom bill’
This bill would require public high school students to use restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
A similar, but broader bathroom bill became law in North Carolina last year and brought condemnation from business leaders and athletic organizations. After numerous entertainers and sports associations canceled major events in the state, North Carolina lawmakers repealed the bill in March.
The Texas House hoped to avoid a similar backlash with its schools-only version, reported CNN affiliate TV station KTRK. Major corporations and groups already have voiced opposition to the bill.
Outcome: Passed Senate, but stalled.
Senate Bill 2095 on transgender students and sports
The stated focus of the bill is steroid use. But because gender confirmation often includes the use of steroids, critics say the true purpose of the bill is to discriminate and to keep transgender kids out of high school sports.
This year, Texas teenage transgender boy Mack Beggs was allowed to wrestle only girls, because his birth certificate says he was female at birth. Some complained that the boy’s prescribed testosterone treatment gave him an unfair advantage over girls.
Outcome: Senate passed the bill, but the measure was left in House committee.