Senate State Affairs met on August 10 to discuss SB 5 (Hughes | et al.) and SB 3 (Hughes), the Senate’s social media and critical race theory bills. Part one of the hearing can be found here and part two can be found here. At the end of the hearing, SB 3 was voted out of committee (5-3). SB 5 was left pending, but was later voted out (6-3) when the committee reconvened.  


This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions. 


SB 5 (Hughes | et al.) Relating to complaint procedures and disclosure requirements for, and to the censorship of users’ expressions by, social media platforms. 

  • Hughes – Justice Kennedy called social media the modern public square, powerful mechanism to get one’s voice heard 
  • The biggest social media platforms are carriers of public/free speech 
  • Justice Thomas agreed that platforms should be treated as common carriers that are regulated due to dominant market share that creates the need for public concern 
  • Social media sites drive public narrative and have influence over news, elections, protests 
  • Many examples of censorship of conversative and progressive speech; Senator Warren agrees that social media platforms have undue control over free speech 
  • All sides suffer when one side of thought is muted; don’t want a partisan divide of the internet 
  • Under SB 5 social media platforms treated as common carriers 
  • Requires social media platforms to publicly disclose how they decide what content is shown to viewers and what the rules are 
  • Requires implementation of an easily accessible complaint procedure regarding illegal content 
  • Requires platform to report illegal content within 24 hours and allow users to protest removal 
  • Current rules give social media platforms tremendous power that government itself does not have over speech 
  • Under SB 5, social media site with over 50 million users in U.S. is unable to block or restrict based on user viewpoint, if found guilty, must pay user’s legal fees 
  • Under SB 5, users can go to any court in TX and sue the site; allows people to get back online 
  • Zaffirini – Attorney General can bring cases on behalf of ordinary citizens? 
  • Content moderation is important, but viewpoint moderation is free speech 
  • Private citizens can be represented by lawyers as well as AG  
  • State would be made whole financially if social media site found guilty and forced to pay legal fees 
  • Zaffirini – Does AG have time to do this? 
  • Have discussed with AG, and they said yes, especially considering payment if social media site found guilty 


Public Testimony 

John Bolgiano, Self – For 

  • Bill necessary to reign in social media censorship from companies like Facebook, Google 
  • Free speech and expression necessary part of freedom and liberty 


James Hines, Director of State Government Affairs for Southern Region at Internet Association – Against 

  • Social media sites are not common carriers rather private companies 
  • Common carriers generally refer to one company whereas social media sites and internet companies contain hundreds of entities 
  • Bill is unconstitutional, forces private companies to host content they otherwise would not 
  • Burdensome requirements would allow hackers and scammers to gain traction within sites 
  • Internet companies are open and accessible and aim to be platforms for free flow of ideas 
  • Hughes – What about the government working with social media companies? White House intervention?  
  • No position on security intentions of government intervention with social media companies 
  • Would it affect analysis of free speech if social media company worked as arm of government? 
  • As a lawyer, no, does not turn private companies into quasi government arms, so it would not impact free speech 

Michael Belsick, Self – For 

  • Social media regulates based on interpretation of the truth that shifts and evolves with time; leads to denial of mistakes later 
  • Need accountability of censorship; social media sites advertise as a public bulletin board, but they are not 


Servando Esparza, Executive Director for TechNet – Against 

  • Bill creates incentive for platforms to not take harmful content down, could keep up “lawful but awful” content 
  • Bill violates communications decency act by allowing harmful content to stay up 


Scott McCullough, Telecommunications Lawyer – For 

  • Companies he represents only take down and police user information when it needs to legally be taken down 
  • Consumer protection aspects of bill are important 
  • Bill still allows providers to remove harmful information, bill just prevents the sites which are common carriers from removing viewpoint/political posts 
  • Zaffirini – Can you explain your perspective of what this bill will do in terms of removing info? 
  • One person’s misinformation is another person’s truth; platforms have been allowed to decide what truth is depending on common narrative 
  • Supposed to be able to address both sides of analysis; having sites with this market power decide what is truth will ultimately impact democracy and constitutional rights 
  • Zaffirini – Could sites remove information regarding terrorist attacks? 
  • Upon notice from proper authorities, bill allows sites to be able to remove such information 
  • Nelson – Was written testimony sent to offices? 
  • Sent to country clerk, will be provided to senators 
  • Hughes – Does this bill allow criminal information to be taken down? 
  • Yes 
  • Hughes – How does this bill relate to Section 230 of Communications Decency Law? 
  • Bill does not attempt to override it; lewd and obscene content can be taken down 
  • Hughes – Have you had a chance to look at Florida statute and ruling? Wasn’t completely struck down, treated politicians differently than private citizens, exempted Disney World, more unique bill than SB5 
  • This bill suffers none of the deficiencies that Florida one does 

SB 5 left pending 


SB 3 (Hughes) Relating to civics training programs for certain public school social studies teachers and principals, parental access to certain learning management systems, and certain curriculum in public schools, including certain instructional requirements and prohibitions. 

  • Hughes – Critical race theory teaches that we should judge people by the color of their skin 
  • Critical race theory was not in classrooms until recently 
  • SB 3 prohibits teaching of critical race theory in our schools 
  • There will still be difficult things like slavery, the KKK, and eugenics in curriculum 
  • Teacher training will allow teachers to guide instruction, allowing students to make their own objective evaluations 
  • Rules allow parents to see curriculum while not placing a burden on classroom teachers 
  • Bill is a big step forward for transparency 
  • Prohibits teaching concepts that one race or sex is superior or held to blame for actions committed in the past 
  • Nelson – There was discussion about logical fallacy theory in the last session; want to make sure that is in this version of the bill 
    • Teaching students to spot logical fallacies is included in the form of media literacy 
  • Nelson – Won’t stop teaching things like the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement? 
    • TEKS elements are in the TAC and are developed by the State Board of Education 
  • Hughes – Teaching guilt and oppression moves us backwards 
  • Zaffirini – I’ve never heard of children being told these things; do you have evidence of that? 
  • There were books recommended to students in Highland Park ISD that taught students that they have success they don’t deserve because of their skin color 
  • Zaffirini – Why is there such a gap? Why do some people think these bills are great and others, like me, think they’re so bad? 
    • Texas is getting sucked into a national debate, so instead of coming together, the whole conversation is polluted by things coming out of Washington 
  • Hughes – This version of the bill adds transparency elements and removes the reading list, leaving curriculum up to the State Board of Education 
  • Nelson – We need to teach children the difference between fact and opinion 
  • Hughes – Leaving curriculum details to schools, no reading list; encouraging democracy, voting among students, but bills are overall very similar 
    • Reads excerpt from “Not My Idea”  
  • Nelson – Book is an example of why we need to teach how to differentiate fact from opinion; phones and ready access to social media will create similar need 

Public Testimony 

Michael Belsick, Self – For 

  • America has a rich history, all of which should be taught to children 
  • Politics currently focused on the bad parts of history 
  • Critical race theory is potentially divisive, teaching children to feel guilty about what happened before they were born 
  • Bill allows for full disclosure of past, but what makes America great as well 


Dr. Chloe Latham Sike, Deputy Director of Policy at IDRA – Against 

  • Never learned about America’s racial history  
  • Anecdotal story about her own experience with history classes as a white student and the lack of diversity she experienced in school 
  • Students can be trusted with the truth and teachers can mediate difficult conversations 
  • Hughes – Have you had a chance to see what is included in the curriculum in the bill? I think you’d be pleased 
  • Yes, pleased that there have been great strides in the curriculum; students can continue to be capable of learning 
  • Hughes – Anything in this bill that would prevent things from being taught? Are limitations on teaching about concepts of racial superiority restrictive? 
  • Concerns with eliminations/prohibited concepts from curriculum and that students can’t earn credit from engaging in civic society; could restrict conversation in classrooms 
  • Don’t necessarily need to encourage such conversations, just want everyone to feel safe in the learning environment 
  • Concerned about broader language that would restrict teacher training  
  • Chilling effect on how conversations can take place among students and teachers 
  • Zaffirini – What specific sections in the bill concern you? 
  • Section 5 regarding prohibited concepts that extend K-12 
  • Broad language and touches on a lot of conversations that could impact a lot of different perspectives and critical conversations in the classroom 
  • Zaffirini – As a representative of IDRA, how will this bill impact a teacher trying to teach mass violence in TX? 
    • While there are ways to teach holistically, not giving deference to one perspective could minimize the travesty that comes from such mass violence 
    • Bill could water down or dilute significance of the event 
  • Zaffirini – Teaching about slavery, how would this language impact your experience as a teacher?  
    • As a student and educator, these are events that are horrible marks on history that must be addressed and spoken about  
    • Discussion of racial gaps; if racial history isn’t acknowledged and clearly addressed, racial disparities in education will never be faced 


Ana Ramon, Deputy Director of Advocacy at IDRA – Against 

  • Bill undermines racial discussions and dialogue 
  • Huge gaps in history being taught, gaps include major events, figures, facts, letters that shed light on racism and inequality in the United States 
  • Lists dozens of historical examples that are currently not included in curriculum 


Alejandra Lopez, President of San Antonio Alliance – Against 

  • Chicano public-school graduate who experienced an education that left out a lot of Chicano history 
  • Anecdotal story of her own experience about not learning about Chicano history or culture in school 
  • Educators responsible for teaching history of racism in U.S. that is still present in society and government today 
  • Give students opportunity to learn from past and learn about their own cultures and communities 


Individual, UT professor – Against 

  • Personal experience teaching critical race theory in the classroom 
  • Bill similar to her experience in Beijing and the limitations on teaching 
  • Bill disempowers educators and students 
  • Similar stifling effect as when she was in China regarding education regarding minorities 


Carrie Griffith, Policy Specialist for the Texas State Teachers Association – Against 

  • Former teacher, curriculum specialist 
  • Bill could have negative impact on teachers and students; unintended consequences 
  • Prohibition on discussion of current events and civic society engagement limits conversation 
  • Learning comes from facilitation of student understanding; chilling effect limits what and how teachers engage students which will disrupt learning 
  • Zaffirini – To what section are you referencing? 
    • Section 5, teachers can’t discuss current events or controversial issues 
    • Disallowing giving course credit for civic engagement  


Emilio Zamora, UT Professor of History – Against 

  • Reads statement regarding an incident of teachers using a book to teach white supremacy; argues that one cannot draw conclusion from exception of incident 
  • Baseless claim that there is such racial discussion in classroom  
  • Bill lacks foundation, weak and very questionable 


Maggie Stern, Self – Against 

  • Frustrated with lack of virtual testimony limiting public testimony and opinion 
  • Feels bill leaves out diverse American narratives 
  • Narrows requirement of civic engagement learning to simply voting; should be more extensive to include younger audiences and those not eligible to vote 
  • Elimination of access to civic engagement opportunities 
  • Schools should give students opportunity to grow into active citizens 


Michelle Mostard – For 

  • Schools teaching a more left, divisive narrative 
  • Encourages an emphasis on equality; doesn’t want to focus on a narrative that blames students for what happened on past  
  • Go back to basics and teach what founding fathers did 


Koa Payne, Self – Against 

  • As a 5th grade student, wants to learn about full history of America 
  • Social studies class focuses on the “good” parts of history, and not the “bad” 
  • Uses World War II and Hitler, and George Washington’s history with slave ownership as examples of leaving out the “bad” from historical narratives 
  • Students need to know full history 


Victor Plua, Self – Against 

  • 7th grade student 
  • Bill opens door for teachers to use discriminatory language in the classroom  


Marlena Plua, Self – Against 

  • Bill encourages breaking American history down into certain pieces 
  • Still no appropriate teaching of Native Americans in U.S. 
  • Bill opens doors for more racist practices in and out of the classroom 
  • Bill ignores figures that are essential to our history and culture  
  • Trust teachers, but teachers need diversity and equity training 
  • To come together as a society, can’t cover up the past 
  • Teach about the past to improve the future 


Gerald Welty, Self – For 

  • Bill encourages integration in society 


Eliza Epstein, Self – Against 

  • Bill encourages censorship and ignores certain aspects of life such as privilege 
  • Impact of bill will be censorship 
  • Chilling effect of feelings of safety in the classroom 
  • Referencing past student testimonies who have experienced racism in the classroom 


Stephanie Perjone, Self – Against 

  • History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from it 
  • Impossible to teach American history without discussing race 
  • Such limitations on learning would disadvantage students on standardized tests and in higher education 
  • Students need to be reflected in the classroom and learn about their own cultures 
  • Disabled community deserves to be heard, limit on virtual testimony unfair 


Joseph Carcione, U.S. history teacher – Against 

  • Teacher cannot control how a student will feel, cannot control guilt 
  • Chilling effect of teachers avoiding current events 
  • Only encouraged civic activity is voting; a lot of other initiatives that could be included  
  • Good TEKS but bill limitations could create vagueness that teachers aren’t comfortable with 
  • Hughes – Bill doesn’t say don’t teach things that will make kids feel guilty, section prevents making students feel guilty 


Reverend Donald Odom, Self – Against 

  • Cannot teach children the truth when lawmakers don’t exactly understand critical race theory  
  • Anecdotal story about Bible edited for slaves to encourage slavery, warns against revisionist history 
  • References China communism regarding government alteration of what history in schools 
  • Systems must be uprooted or else they will grow back  

SB 3 voted out of committee to the full Senate (5-3) 



Senate State Affairs reconvened at 4:15 PM on August 10 to vote on pending business 


SB 5 (Hughes | et al.) Relating to complaint procedures and disclosure requirements for, and to the censorship of users’ expressions by, social media platforms. 

  • Hughes – Earlier today we did not vote this bill out; move the bill be voted out favorably to the full Senate 

SB 5 was voted out of committee (6-3) to the full Senate