Governor Greg Abbott has vetoed a near record-number of bills this legislative session, the second most in state history, according to the Legislative Reference Library.
One of the bills would have created a statewide sickle cell disease registry. Monday was World Sickle Cell Awareness Day. It’s a genetic blood disorder estimated to impact 100,000 Americans.
Andre Harris, 34, has lived with the disease affecting his red blood cells his entire life.
“When it becomes sickled, they’re stickier and they’re sharp and they can scrape against your vascular walls, and that’s where the pain comes from,” Harris said.
He serves as a board member with the Sickle Cell Association of Houston and helped push for the bill to create a statewide registry for people like himself, but now he’s disappointed it won’t become law in September.
“It would humanize the population to actually give a number of who lives with it,” Harris said. “It also would help bring about better health equity because it could also allow providers to see the life course of the disease within each patient.”
The bill by State Representative Jarvis Johnson aimed to use the registry to help with a cure and treatment for sickle cell disease in Texas, but Governor Abbott vetoed it, writing it “would force hospitals to share reams of sensitive health information … putting the privacy of patients at risk.”
“He was grasping at straws and simply having to come up with an excuse other than this is just punishment,” Rep. Johnson told KPRC 2. “The governor is using petty politics.”
Johnson said no one spoke against the bill as it made its way through both chambers.
“This in this political climate that we’re in today. If you don’t do what we tell you to do on the most important bills that we have out there, we’re going to punish you,” Rep. Johnson said.
But the governor’s veto of his bill was one of 77 this legislative session, a personal record during the governor’s time in office. All the vetoes drew criticism from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
“This is targeted vetoing of bills that have nothing to do with the issue at hand,” Patrick said at a news conference.
On some other vetoed bills, Gov. Abbott wrote they could be “reconsidered at a future special session only after property tax relief is passed.”
State lawmakers have been in a special session showdown over property tax reform, as the House and Senate have been unable to come to an agreement on the best way to save Texans on taxes.
“In some ways, it’s a form of extortion. Either vote for my property tax relief plan or vote for my school choice plan, or these bills that you passed during the regular session will never see the light of day,” Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said of the governor’s vetoes. “This is the most hyper-aggressive I’ve seen Governor Abbott be.”
Harris hoped the sickle cell registry would be a catalyst for research across the country, but now he also hopes state leaders can find middle ground.
“This is not because the policy was bad. It was because there was a political agenda attached to why there was a veto,” Harris said.
The governor has signed more than 1,100 bills into law and some of the vetoed bills have already been filed in the special session. Those bills will have to get through both chambers again before getting back to the governor’s desk.
Learn more about sickle cell disease here.