The Texas Senate is Back in Session

maternal health abortion bilAnd I Am Prepared to Stay Up All Night to Watch the Shenanigans

The Texas Senate reconvened at 2 p.m. today, and have been debating since then about HB2, the anti-abortion bill that received national attention for Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster a couple of weeks ago. It's been two-and-a-half hours since I started "watching" (I'm more listening and getting other things done), and the Senate has just finished going through 20 amendments to the bill (all of which have been tabled, although some of them were very good and sensible amendments). Nothing is happening right now, but a vote is expected to happen today, and this session is predicted to end "late in the evening". It's possible debate could continue into Saturday, but it's unlikely that any filibustering or parliamentary maneuver could stop it this time.

I Think This Stuff is Quite Fascinating

It really is, and it's also very productive too. It's neat to hear all the different sides of the issue, all the little points you need to think about when putting together and passing a bill, and all that happens when our representatives convene in session to get something done. I just finished Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government (great book, and another book off of my summer reading list), and the closing argument in that book is that it will be up to local governments to collaborate amongst each other to improve transparency and to utilize data and technology to make government better and to make it engaging. It's events like this that bridge this gap and make government engaging. It'll be the local issues, state governments, and city governments that are going to be the ones to take the town square digital and to reinvent government.

I wouldn't say entertaining. There's a lot about this that isn't entertaining, but I'm not here to be entertained, even on a Friday night. Even though this bill and this issue is only about Texas right now, it's very likely it will go beyond Texas. It's projected that abortion-rights groups will file a federal lawsuit as soon as Perry signs the bill into law. I'm interested in seeing how this issue will progress as it moves to the national level, as well as how the technology and the activism will remain as well. So many previous cases and issues have moved from the city and all the way to the Supreme Court, but if this lawsuit and this issue does get to that level, I'm interested to see how social media and technology play a part in relaying what's happening.

What Can We Do About Women's Health and Women's Rights?

Although the big issue here is abortion, I can't help but think about what else needs to be address when it comes to women's health and women's rights. There are many other issues, such as maternal health, domestic violence, economic empowerment, and equal pay, that matter as well and still need to be addressed (I came across this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from April. Pretty good stuff. I like the points on women with chronic conditions, because I don't think this has been studied or tracked all that much. I also like that St. Louis is being proactive about this.). What to do? What to pick? How do you address it?

This whole thing is actually tiring. My guess it will end in two hours, probably more, but my guess is that it will end at 1 a.m. my time. But, I am learning stuff and feeling productive and I still think this whole thing is pretty awesome. It's also pretty awesome that they've been at it this whole time and they didn't even take a much of the break.

There Should Be Live Feeds for Every Single Legislative Session

Sen. Wendy Davis It's after midnight, so the Texas special session should be over. But, the live feed is still rolling and 160,000+ people watching are wondering what's going on here. We're all wondering why people are still moving around, why the tape is still going, and why people aren't just walking away and going home. The latest from AP is that the Republicans were able to pass the restrictions, although it's unknown if it stands because the vote started before midnight but it did not finish. Even though the session was supposed to end at midnight, it's technically still open until it is closed by the chair, so now it's a lot of procedural arguing or who knows what. I'm actually sad that I didn't watch more of this thing.

As what's going on is getting figured out and settled, I think there should be a live feed for every single legislative session, no matter what's on the table, whether or not there's a filibuster, and whether or not it's a special session or just a good 'ole normal session.

What a Way to See what Our Elected Representatives are Doing

Yes, these things are open to the public and we can just sit in and listen, but most of us can't do that. We have jobs to go to, children to raise, and errands to us. Many of us can't take the time out of our day to drive down to a legislative session and to hear what's going on. However, with a live feed provided by news organizations, video bloggers, and even non-profits, more people would be able to listen and to hear what our elected representatives are voting on. We would be able to hear what these people are saying and hold them accountable to their votes and to their constituents. We could watch or listen passively while we're at work, or be able to catch bits and pieces in between things.

More People Would Be Engaged in Government

Senator Wendy Davis, who started the filibuster, announced that she was going to do this only the day before. LOOK  AT THE TURNOUT AND THE BUZZ! Not only was the gallery filled the entire time, but thousands upon thousands of people watched the live feed from all over the world. Imagine what kind of engagement we would have if legislative sessions were available in this format all the time, where representatives could announce what they were doing to rally support or people could come together if they new certain issues were going to be introduced. If this was accomplished in a matter of hours on the issue of abortion, then throngs of people could also show up for other issues as well. Even if it just opens up one additional way for people to know what our local representatives are doing, and what kind of legislation they are working on, that's a huge step forward for us when so few us vote or pay attention to what these people are doing in the first place.

It Helps When Crap Like This Happens

Reports are currently conflicting, as the Republicans say the voting started before midnight, but Democrats and reporters are saying it started after midnight. Many people are confused, as it was thought the last roll call vote was on ending the filibuster, not about voting on the bill. However, it looks like the bill passed, according to news reports from several organizations. Although, this is probably not the end of this, as legislators and the people will protest this bill and the shaky circumstances in which it was passed.

Well, the live feed is over now. I think I'm going to go to bed.