ABFE Statement on Governor Abbott Signing HB900 into Law

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

ABFE is extremely disappointed that Governor Abbott ignored the outpouring of opposition from booksellers and Texans across the state and signed HB900 into law. HB900 is an onerous law that will chill speech, and it could threaten the livelihoods of independent bookstores. The governor described HB900 as “empowering parents,” an ironic statement at best. The government dictating what other parents’ children can and cannot read is hardly empowering to parents or students. 

From the day this bill was introduced, ABFE and independent bookstores in Texas have fought against HB900. Now that HB900 has been signed into law, ABFE will pursue every option available to ensure independent bookstores do not suffer its consequences. 

Notes on HB900

HB900 requires book vendors to identify any books that are “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant” before selling them to schools. Books that are rated “sexually explicit” cannot be sold to schools. The legislation would require bookstores that sell to schools, to issue the very subjective “sexually explicit” and “sexually relevant” ratings for books sold to schools. This would  limit or inhibit students’ access to legal materials as librarians and vendors would inevitably err on the side of caution by not selling or carrying a book title for fear it might run afoul of the law. Whether or not a book or materials are “sexually relevant” or “sexually explicit” is inherently prejudiced and could result in different ratings from different vendors.
Moreover, simply from a pragmatic standpoint, abiding by these strict guidelines would almost be impossible — resulting in access to far fewer books than in the past. Most vendors (other than publishers) are not content creators and rely on professional reviews and information provided by publishers to describe and categorize the books they sell — they can’t read every book and they do not have the expertise to rate books. And it will be impossible for vendors to rate books they have sold to districts that are still in active use by September 1. Therefore, it is a real possibility that students would not have new library books in the 2023–2024 school year.