Governor Greg Abbott made no secret that this legislative session would be dominated by ultra-conservative priorities to flex his rightwing credentials. However, one of his latest moves, a veto of Senate Bill 1109, is leaving many flummoxed at his motivation.
On Monday, Abbott officially announced he was vetoing SB 1109 along with a number of bills that passed the Texas legislature (including one meant to stop animal cruelty). For the sponsors of the bill, Senator Royce West and Rep. Rafael Anchía, the news was a shock.
Anchía posted on Twitter that he was “heartbroken” over the veto which came with no warning. “The bill would have helped students protect themselves against dating and domestic violence,” wrote Anchía.
SB 1109 was also known as the Christine Blubaugh Act. In 2000, 16-year-old Blubaugh was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Grand Prairie. After her murder, friends began to recount patterns of abuse they witnessed from her partner (who later died by suicide). The bill would have stipulated public schools spend about four to eight hours on programming about dating and domestic violence in both middle and high school.
Family and friends of Blubaugh testified on the bill’s behalf. “It’s too late for my daughter, but it’s not too late to save other kids and other families from the hell we’ve been living through,” said Debra Blubaugh, Christine’s mother, to Fox 4 in Dallas.
SB 1109 also had the support of the Grand Prairie Police Department. Grand Prairie Assistant Police Chief Ronnie Morris even drafted the bill. Morris was on duty the night that Blubaugh was murdered. After it passed both chambers he thanked the sponsors of the bill, and said that, “the true winners are Texas kids who will now be armed with the tools they need to protect themselves against the scourge of dating [and] domestic violence.”
When the bill was being debated in the Texas Senate, Judge Dimple Malhotra testified as well. Presiding over County Court 4 in Travis County, also referred to as the Domestic Violence Court, Malhotra emphasized that SB 1109 would reduce “child abuse, domestic violence, and teen dating violence.”
The condemnations from Texans about Abbott vetoing the Christine Blubaugh Act came swiftly. Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, noted on Twitter that 26 percent of women experience domestic violence before the age of 18. He then chastised Abbott for vetoing SB 1109. “He’s trying to take Texas back to the Stone Age,” wrote Castro.
In a memo about why he vetoed SB 1109, Abbott said it was because the bill “fails to recognize the right of parents to opt their children out of the instruction.”
While Abbott has not indicated whether or not he would like to see an amended version of the bill in the special session, Assistant Police Chief Morris has vowed to continue working with the governor on behalf of legislation named after Christine Blubaugh.
“Though I understand the Governor’s desire for parents to have the option to opt their children out of this education, the majority of violence children are subjected to occurs in the child’s own home or by people they know,” Morris said to NBC News 5 in Dallas. “Be that as it may, my desire and commitment is to work with the governor to ensure our kids get this vital, lifesaving, education starting this next school year, including providing for an ‘opt out’ for parents.”
If you or a loved one has been impacted by domestic violence, you are not alone and help is here. Learn more at thehotline.org/get-help/ or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).