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Opponents Plan Court Challenges for Many New Texas Laws


Thursday, May 25, 2017   

AUSTIN, Texas – The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature passed some of the nation's most conservative laws during the current session, but political analysts say the real battle may just be getting started.

The session is scheduled to end this weekend, but when the gavel comes down, opponents of the myriad anti-abortion, anti-immigrant and religious-freedom measures passed by GOP lawmakers are vowing to continue to fight them in the courts.

James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, says when conservative lawmakers support such divisive issues, they are not necessarily representing a large majority of Texans.

"The elected officials that are pushing this most strenuously are pushing it for a very narrow audience, and that is a group that can win them a Republican primary,” he states. “And so, in a state of 26 million, we're talking about an audience of 500,000 to 600,000 folks."

Henson says because Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, and the governor’s office, the state's outnumbered Democrats could do little more than sit back and watch.

However, he says immigration rights, pro-choice and LGBTQ rights groups – among others – have begun filing legal challenges to the results of the GOP's hard-right agenda.

Henson says several of the approved measures, including some abortion regulations and voter ID guidelines, were blocked by the courts in previous cases. But he says most GOP legislators aren't worried about whether the new laws will survive a legal challenge.

"If you look at the cost-benefit analysis that most Republican officeholders are doing, when push comes to shove the risk of not voting for these things is greater than the risk that might attend voting for them and having them challenged in court," he points out.

Henson says many Texas Republicans are supported by the state's Christian evangelicals, many of whom believe their rights have been ignored in the past.

"Among the Republicans, if we ask, 'Who do you think is the most discriminated-against group in the state?' the number one response – 40 percent – say Christians, compared to 17 percent who say Muslims and only 2 percent say women, 4 percent say Hispanics," he relates.

The session ends at midnight Monday, although GOP leaders could call lawmakers back for a special session if they don't pass everything they've been asked to approve.

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