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Legislator: Some Republican men tried to retaliate over “masturbation bill”

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, questions Health & Human Services chief Charles Smith regarding state contracts for health clinics during a State Affairs Committee interim hearing on Aug. 15, 2016. Photo courtesy of Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune.

by Cassandra Pollock | The Texas Tribune

State Rep. Jessica Farrar accused some Republican men in the Texas House of engaging in "a retaliatory effort" against her over her filing of a bill that would fine men $100 for masturbating.

On Tuesday, a separate and unrelated bill from Farrar — a measure that would allow attorneys' fees to be recovered from other legal entities in the state — was taken up on the House floor. As Farrar laid out that measure, House Bill 744, she was asked by state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, whether it was a "satirical bill."

"I'm specifically focused on this bill and whether or not this is one of the satirical bills you filed," Rinaldi said to Farrar.

Last week, Farrar filed House Bill 4260, a set of "proposed satirical regulations" that would penalize men for masturbating and create a required booklet with information about benefits and concerns regarding men seeking a vasectomy, a Viagra prescription or a colonoscopy. In explaining her motivation for the bill, Farrar said men in Texas should be subject to the same "unnecessary" and "invasive" procedures women in the state often had.

The House initially voted 73-72 in favor of HB 744 — following a point of order and an added amendment to the measure. Because of the close tally, a verify vote was called, requiring each member to sit at his or her desk as the House clerk reverified votes one by one. That vote resulted in a 75-70 count, with Reps. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, and Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, switching from their initial no votes.

"A group of Republican men were looking to put a woman in her place," Farrar told reporters on Tuesday, referring to the tight vote as a "retaliatory attempt" by some in the House who only voted against HB 744 to showcase their opposition to HB 4260.

Farrar pointed to an identical bill she authored last session that received seven no votes in the lower chamber. Reps. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and Dan Flynn, R-Canton, were among the seven legislators in 2015 who also voted against HB 744 Tuesday.

In a statement to The Texas Tribune, Rinaldi said, "When a representative admits to filing bills for satire and treats serious matters of life and death like abortion as a laughing matter, it calls into question the intent behind their entire body of work."

"While [Farrar] is filing bills for comedy," Rinaldi said, "Republicans are busy working on a budget, securing our borders, and providing tax relief."

Farrar said HB 744 was a "simple fix" to ensure consistency for all government entities. The modern business climate, she said, allowed some legal entities to collect attorneys' fees from corporations, but not the other way around. She added HB 744 was unrelated to HB 4260.

"Unfortunately, we have to deal with these shenanigans," Farrar said. "We are telling young women you can grow up to be anything you want to be, except when you disagree with certain Republican men."

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