Abortion, sanctuary cities and GOP legislative priorities in general were some of the topics local state representatives discussed at a town hall meeting Wednesday.

Following the 85th regular session of the Texas legislature and preceding a special session to convene in July, Rep. Ron Simmons, R–Carrollton, and Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, held a town hall at Lewisville ISD Career Center East June 14 and answered submitted question cards.

At the 2016 State Republican Convention, thousands of grassroots Republicans voted on the legislative priorities of the people, the first question card stated. Those items were constitutional carry, abolish abortion, banning “sanctuary cities,” border security, Convention of States Article V, property tax reform, school choice and religious liberties.

The constituent wanted to know what the representatives did to advocate the priorities in the session and what they will do to continue to advocate them in the special session. Because special session priorities or charges are predetermined by the governor, constitutional carry and other items that were not on the list of 20 topics Gov. Greg Abbott put on the call cannot be worked on, Simmons said.

In regular session, however, legislators gave protections to gun owners who forgot they had their gun on them when going through metal detectors, Simmons said. The representatives said they also worked on sanctuary city legislation, border security funding, a “dismemberment” abortion ban and cheaper license–to–carry fees in regular session.

“There will be some additional pro-life issues on the call — some bills did not get through so there will be some additional ones on there,” Simmons said about the special session.

One constituent asked how the representatives justify making legal abortion harder for women to get in Texas. “Please don’t tell us you’re improving women’s health,” the card concluded.

Simmons said he understands abortion is a legal procedure but asserted that he is pro-life and not in favor of it. He said every life is important and his goal is to get rid of abortions, but it is legal in the country and he will abide by the law.

Simmons compared outpatient surgery facilities to abortion clinics. Both face standards that they have to meet by law.

“How can we talk about, ‘You’re against women’s health,’ on one side, when we tried to pass legislation that would require these facilities — and they’re legal facilities — to be able to have the same standards that [facilities] have when I go get my foot operated on,” he said.

Simmons said it does mean some clinics would not be able to stay open, but that doesn’t stop others from changing to meet the requirements.

“We all have to make changes to our businesses when new regulations come along,” Simmons said.

A 2013 Texas house bill required clinics to meet the same building standards as other state surgical facilities. The law would have closed all but five abortion facilities in the state. It was partially struck down by the Supreme Court last year. Over the course of litigation on the bill, several clinic owners said it would cost more than $1 million to meet the new requirements.

Fallon said a medical procedure has become politicized, and pro–life issues poll better now than they did 30 years ago.

“I think it’s largely because of sonograms,” Fallon said. “You see that’s a human being.”

Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco, discusses constituent concerns at a town hall, which took place a couple of weeks following the conclusion of the regular session of Texas legislature. (Photo by Christina Ulsh)

When asked on their positions of the “bathroom bill,” Simmons pointed out he was an author of one of the bills. While he has his own opinions, he has to push those to the back as a legislator, he said.

“What is the right solution to this, without trying to draw judgments?” he said. “It needs to be solved at a state level. We have a process for doing that.”

Simmons summarized the bill, stating there cannot be a special, protected class in relation to multi–occupancy bathrooms, showers and locker rooms unless they are already covered under federal or state law.

“When there is a situation where there’s a challenge for that, someone feels uncomfortable, then the school can use a single–occupancy restroom or a separate changing facility,” he said.

Fallon said he doesn’t care what people do in their private lives as long as they’re not hurting anybody. He said allowing people to use whichever restroom they please gives a defense to those with ulterior motives.

“Why would we want to give cover? I’m not talking about the legitimate person who identifies, a man that identifies as a woman. They’re doing their business and getting out,” he said. “To me Ron’s bill is excellent. It simply says the state will determine these policies and we’re going to move on down the road.”

Another attendee asked what concerns the representatives have regarding the new ban on sanctuary cities, resulting in more unreported crime in immigrant neighborhoods. In turn, Fallon specified what the bill does.

“This is where you get into a dangerous game nowadays between reality and rhetoric,” Fallon said. “You cannot ask somebody about their immigration status based on race, color, religion or language. It is forbidden on the actual bill.”

Fallon said the needs of the U.S. should outweigh the needs of any other country. Simmons said he does not think unreported crime will increase.

“The thing that I would add is that we are a country of laws and we have to follow the rule of law,” Simmons said.

When asked about their special session priorities, Fallon said his includes mail-in ballot fraud and property tax reform. Simmons’ passion, he said, is school choice for special needs students. Simmons will also be focusing on the privacy act, or the bathroom bill, he said.

Simmons had literature on his endorsements, ratings, awards and legislative work for attendees.

The campaign handout notes his 85th legislative priorities were special needs education choice, November debt elections, eliminating one-punch straight-party voting, school board term limits, eradicating sanctuary cities and “wrongful birth” elimination.

Simmons can be reached at 972-492-2080 or Ron.Simmons@house.texas.gov. To contact Fallon, call 469-362-0500 or email Pat.Fallon@house.texas.gov.

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