This Week: Abbott to Sign SB 4, A Sneaky GOP Nomination And Bipartisan Support for Medical Marijuana

As the Legislature enters the home stretch of the 85th session, a round-up of this week's Observer coverage.

Jim Ribgy, SB 4, Protest, Trespass
Pastor Jim Rigby of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is arrested for criminal trespassing.  Gus Bova

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Two days after 24 people were arrested while protesting Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities ban was approved by the Senate and sent to Governor Greg Abbott, who said he’s “getting his pen warmed up” to sign the bill into law.

On Monday, Austin City Council member Greg Casar, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Pastor Jim Rigby and 22 others were arrested in the lobby of Abbott’s office at the Capitol complex following an eight-hour sit-in demonstration opposing SB 4. An Observer reporter was threatened with arrest while streaming video of the protest on Facebook Live.

UPDATE: 24 Arrested After Eight-Hour SB 4 Protest at Texas Governor’s Office: https://www.texasobserver.org/senate-bill-4-protest-governor/

Posted by The Texas Observer on Monday, May 1, 2017

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to advance SB 4, which would allow local police officers to be deputized to enforce federal immigration law and could jail law enforcement officials who refuse to assist federal immigration officers. Democratic leaders have said the bill is discriminatory and that legal challenges are being mounted in hopes of stopping the legislation from going into effect in September.

In the Lege

A bill to allow severely ill or disabled patients to use medical marijuana has growing, bipartisan support — half of the Texas House has signed on to the legislation. After a big push on and off the House floor, the proposal advanced past committee, but time is quickly running out for passage as legislative deadlines approach next week.

Senate Republicans didn’t have the votes needed to confirm a controversial nominee. So they waited until a Democrat — the deciding vote — left town to sneak through confirmation of Josh McGee to the state Pension Review Board.

The Legislature is planning to close four state correctional facilities this session. Many see the closures as a step in the right direction, but some advocates worry the empty prisons could be used for immigrant detention.

More than 40 percent of Texas families living in poverty are single-mother households. Read one woman’s essay, from our April issue, about the extra challenges faced by single-parent families in Texas.

Anti-abortion lawmakers flank Texas Right to Life legislative director John Seago at a press conference.  Sophie Novack

Seventeen anti-abortion lawmakers called a press conference this week to blame fellow Republicans they say are not prioritizing legislation to further reduce access to abortion in Texas. Of the 17 lawmakers, one was a woman.

Democrats and Republicans should “seize the Trumpportunity” by treating this new administration as a soul-searching opportunity to return to their principles, writes columnist Andrea Grimes.

Critics are worried that a GOP-filed bill that promises “academic freedom” will actually allow Texas teachers to question the science behind controversial subjects such as climate change, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life and human cloning in classrooms.

The election of Democrat John Bel Edwards as governor of Louisiana is one of the most significant but ignored progressive policy victories in years. Columnist Christopher Hooks explores what Democrats can learn from Louisiana.

Kolten Parker is the digital editor of the Observer. You can find him on Twitter or at [email protected].

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