I’m Daniel Williams, Field Organizer and Legislative Specialist with Equality Texas. We only have 3 days left in the 83rd regular session of the Texas legislature, and right now almost all of the work left to be done is being done by conference committees. In order for a bill to become law it must pass through both the House and the Senate, and each body has an opportunity to amend the bill to their liking. So what happens when the version passed by the Senate is different than the version passed by the House? Well first, the body that originated the bill, either the House or Senate, gets an opportunity to agree, or “concur,” with the changes made by the other side. Usually they will take the recommendation of the author of the bill. If the author likes the changes, they are usually accepted and then the bill is sent to the governor, if the author doesn’t like the changes, then they are not accepted, and that’s where conference committees come into play. If the changes aren’t accepted then a conference committee is created made up of five members of the House, appointed by the Speaker, and five members of the Senate, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. The committee usually includes both the bill’s author and sponsor, and the chairs of the House and Senate committees that heard the bill. The other 6 members of the committee are generally legislators who are considered experts in the subject area of the bill. Conference committees prepare a recommended compromise. Unless given special permission, they can only compromise on the parts of the bill that are different between the House and Senate versions, anything that’s identical in the two versions must stay. Why does this matter to LGBT Texans? Well, one of the bills that’s in conference committee right now is Senate Bill 215. Rep. Matt Krause of Fort Worth attached an amendment to SB 215 in the House that would prohibit state universities from enforcing non-discrimination policies with officially recognized student organizations that receive support from the university. The amendment is specifically designed to insure that LGBT students don’t have access to all aspects of student life. The fate of that amendment, and the fate of LGBT students around the state, now rests in the hands of the 10 person conference committee, most strongly in the hands of the two committee chairs: Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury, SB 215’s author, and Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas, the bills House sponsor. After the committee reaches its compromise, these two members will have to return to their respective bodies, explain the compromise, and recommend whether the compromise should be accepted or not. Generally the recommendation of the author and sponsor is followed, so Anchia and Birdwell are in a very powerful position to influence the process. Rafael Anchia is one of the strongest allies the LGBT community has in the legislature. His chairmanship of the conference committee gives me great hope that future generations of LGBT students will have their right to participate in student life defended. There are two key deadlines coming up for the conference committee. The compromise has to be published and distributed to legislators by midnight tomorrow, Saturday May 25, and has to be voted on by midnight on Sunday, May 26. So we’ll find out the fate of this amendment at some point in the next three days. Until then, I’m Daniel Williams, Field Organizer and Legislative Specialist with Equality Texas.