Austin, TX – The second largest state of the nation has been in the spotlight in 2021. The state led by Republican Governor Greg Abbott has been involved in a series of political scandals, bringing attention from the rest of the country. Here are the 5 political events that shaped Texas in 2021.
In September, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1 — the restrictive anti-voter legislation
What it feels like a war on democracy – ended with Bill 1 – setting dramatic restrictions on the voting process. According to Governor Abbott, “Senate Bill 1 will solidify trust and confidence in the outcome of our elections by making it easier to vote and harder to cheat. I look forward to signing Senate Bill 1 into law, ensuring election integrity in Texas.” Many argue proven cases of voter fraud are extremely low in Texas and across the country and these measures will only have a negative impact on poor communities.
The new legislation would add a step for people who vote by mail by adding an ID requirement. The bill also empowers partisan poll watchers and adds new criminal offenses for people to be charged with voting fraud – a topic that has gained momentum in red states especially after the Trump era.
In August, Governor Abbott issues Executive Order 39 prohibiting vaccine mandates in Texas
Governor Greg Abbott, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, has taken all steps necessary to ban vaccine and mask mandates in Texas. He argues that, “The Lone Star State continues to defeat COVID-19 through the use of widely-available vaccines, antibody therapeutic drugs, and safe practices utilized by Texans in our communities.”
The executive order states that Texas government entities, businesses, and schools are no longer allowed to mandate masks, or they will be subject to a $1,000 fine.
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that dictates how Texas teachers can talk about America’s history of racism
What Republicans call propaganda, Democrats call essential history. It started in 2020 when former President Donald Trump banned federal employees from any training that discusses critical race theory or “white privilege.”
This new law includes a list of documents that students must be taught. It also states that teachers can not discuss current events in the classroom, as well as prohibiting students from getting credit for participating in civic activities including activism or lobbying.
The bill has been highly criticized by Texas educators as they argue that this sets restrictions that might affect students’ education – preventing them from learning about important parts of history and conversations that might come from it. Supporters of the bill mention that the aim of this bill is to combat biases into public education.
In May, the so-called “Heartbeat Act” was signed into law
Making it the most extreme abortion law in the country – Texas passed a bill banning abortion after six weeks, what many argue that women might not even be aware they are pregnant.
The new law adds a fine of up to $10,000 to anyone who helps another person obtain an abortion. It also allows people to sue abortion providers, including who provides money to get an abortion or drives women to a clinic.
What Republicans describe as protecting religious freedom, many young or liberal Texans believe that this law comes at the expense of people who do not believe abortion to be immoral and want to be able to decide for their own bodies. 24-year-old Sofia shares, “Being a woman in Texas feels like a lose-lose situation. I can either stay on birth control that negatively affects my health and wellbeing or run the risk of getting pregnant. I don’t have a lot of control over my own body and future.”
Back in February – Extreme cold took out power for millions of people in Texas
During the storm early this year, Texas experienced a power failure, where citizens were deprived of electricity, heat and water. This resulted in over 200 Texans dying during the storm and around 450 more suffered carbon monoxide poisoning as people were desperately trying to maintain themselves warm. This terrible event exposed the flaws of the deregulated energy grid and made Texans feel abandoned. Carla, 35, shares, “During the snowstorm in February, I felt abandoned. We are not prepared for a drastic change in temperature but the worst thing is that it will happen again because the energy company does not make fundamental changes. Always the most affected are the people with the least resources and children.”