To say that the 88th Legislative Session was unparalleled for medical liberty would be an understatement. When the Legislature gaveled in on January 10, 2023, TFVC was already tracking dozens of strong bills to advance vaccine choice and dozens more were filed between that day and bill filing deadline in March, making this session a record-breaker as far as TFVC-supported bills written! Additionally, only a handful of bad bills were filed – an extraordinary change since TFVC has spent previous sessions primarily only playing defense to kill legislation.
By the time we had our fifth Freedom Fight on January 25, we had lined up an impressive list of speakers and the most elected officials to ever commit to participating! TFVC welcomed Del Bigtree, Jennifer Bridges, Dr. Danielle Gamboa, Dr. Bryan Ardis, along with several advocates from the airline industry and military. They shared the stage with Legislative champions like Representative Tony Tinderholt, Senator Bob Hall, Senator Mayes Middleton and many more. The message rang loud and clear from the South Steps of the Capitol that day – “Texas, Take the Lead!”
Once the session was underway, our staff and supporters were hard at work! Between responding to one of our 25+ Action Alerts to participating in our three Citizen Engagement Days (plus one bonus advocate day thanks to a full busload of North Texas Conservatives joining us), the five months of regular session were a whirlwind.
But nothing could have been more joyously chaotic than the week of March 20! With three Committee hearings between the two Chambers, we spoke on TEN BILLS in three days and we had our regularly scheduled Citizen Engagement Day. Oh, and did we mention that the marathon Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing on March 22 involved not only testifying in favor of six bills, but also coordinating with dozens of witnesses coming from across the state and country, including medical liberty hero Dr. Robert Malone?
That week in and of itself was enough to make this a standout session, but we continued to enjoy more tremendous moments as the weeks sped by.
TFVC helped pass four bills that, in some way, advanced the cause of medical liberty. Most notably, one of our longest-held policy priorities is now state law! HB 44 by Representative Valoree Swanson will prohibit healthcare providers who accept state funding from committing medical discrimination against patients who are unvaccinated or undervaccinated. No longer will children on Medicaid or CHIP be denied routine medical care simply because they don’t follow the bloated CDC vaccine schedule! This is a huge win for Texans!
We also saw the passage of SB 493 (Senator Bryan Hughes) to protect veterans who refused the COVID jab, SB 29 (Senator Brian Birdwell) to limit government restrictions related to COVID-19, and HB 609 (Representative Cody Vasut) to protect business owners who don’t mandate vaccines for employees and customers during a pandemic. Even better, not a single TFVC-opposed bill was passed, allowing us to keep our perfect kill-bad-bill streak alive!”
While we are pleased with our progress and victories, it cannot be emphasized enough that there was a lot left undone. The most obvious issue that was not addressed during the session was that of private employment practices related to vaccination status, particularly for COVID-19. Texans are still vulnerable to discriminatory behaviors by private businesses, and this would have been eliminated had leadership in the Texas House acted swiftly to get SB 177 (The Texas COVID Vaccine Freedom Act) on the House calendar for a floor vote. Instead, they placed it on page 10 of a 13 page agenda on the very last day that a bill could have been considered, ultimately killing any chance of it getting a vote.
And, in Texas, we still require parents to go through an antiquated and cumbersome process to exempt their children from vaccines recommended for enrollment in schools and daycares. There are also still laws on the books allowing unelected bureaucrats to arbitrarily add vaccines to that list. Additionally, Texans are still at risk of losing their rights to medical privacy and vaccine choice during a declared emergency, and daycares and school districts continue to violate state law regarding vaccine exemptions, either out of ignorance or dedication to the narrative. And, session after session, we are still having to play defense.
This is absolutely a time for celebration and to enjoy the fruits of so much labor, but it isn’t a time to rest on our laurels. With an election cycle forthcoming, we must be proactive in vetting candidates. With the school year quickly approaching, we have to remain vigilant in calling out those who violate laws protecting children from vaccine requirements. And with the promise of special sessions throughout this summer, we must continue to urge our lawmakers to prioritize vaccine choice for all Texans!