A Texas House bill to cut funding to school districts which decide to offer domestic partner benefits has moved out of committee. HB 1568 passed on a 6-4 vote out of the Public Education Committee last week and has now been referred to Calendars. It is sponsored by over 30 Republicans.
While the text of the bill has no mention of domestic partnerships, this anti-gay and anti-local bill would allow the state to credibly threaten school districts like Pflugerville and Austin. It's intended to keep any other ISDs from considering to offer domestic partnership benefits to their employees unless they want to risk having their accreditation and funding pulled by the state. The trigger here is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's opinion released this Monday where he argues that districts like Pflugerville or Austin would be in violation of the state's constitution if they offered similar benefits in the coming school year.
HB 1568 is a small bill which gives the state a huge amount of leverage. It goes against the very heart of local control and more importantly, goes against public sentiment. According to recent polling, 65.7% of voters support extending domestic partnership benefits to government/public university employees; an increase of 3.4% from 2010.
Should this bill make it out of Calendars and onto the House floor, expect the reality of public opinion and the desire of local jurisdictions to offer competitive benefits to suddenly crash into a wall of Texas Republican ideologues. There are cracks to exploit, but this bill is dangerously close to becoming a flashpoint.