Legislation that would create the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission has been signed into law by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Senate Bill (SB) 482, introduced by Sens. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) during the 81st regular session, creates an unpaid, 18-member commission to help ensure that educators in Texas have the guidance and resources necessary to teach children the lessons of the Holocaust and other contemporary genocides.
The bill, which was initiated and backed by Holocaust Museum Houston, was passed unanimously by both the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate and signed into law by Perry on June 19. The legislation takes effect Sept. 1, 2009.
Under provisions of the legislation, the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House of Representatives will appoint the 18 commission members. The commission would include the state commissioner of education, the commissioner of higher education and the executive director of the Texas Veterans Commission.
The commission will work under the auspices of the Texas Historical Commission to provide advice and assistance to public and private primary schools, secondary schools and institutions of higher education regarding implementation of Holocaust and genocide courses of study and awareness programs.
The commission is also charged with compiling a list of volunteers such as survivors of the Holocaust or other genocides, liberators of concentration camps, scholars and members of the clergy who have agreed to share verifiable knowledge and experience regarding the Holocaust or other genocides. It would also coordinate state events regarding the United Nations’ designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Twelve other states have similar councils or commissions.
Co-sponsors for the bill in the Senate included: Sens. John J. Carona; Bob Deuell; Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa; Eddie Lucio, Jr.; Kel Seliger; Leticia Van de Putte; Jeff Wentworth; and Royce West.
House Bill 795, the identical partner to Senate Bill 482 was authored primarily by state Reps. Warren Chisum and Ellen Cohen, with additional authoring by Reps. Elliott Naishtat, Senfronia Thompson and Dan Branch. Co-sponsors for the bill in the House included: Reps. Alma A. Allen; Carol Alvarado; Leo Berman; Dwayne Bohac; Angie Chen Button; Norma Chavez; John E. Davis; Al Edwards; Veronica Gonzalez; Ryan Guillen; Will Hartnett; David Leibowitz; Sid Miller; Joseph E. Moody; Solomon Ortiz, Jr.; Tan Parker; Mark Shelton; and Randy Weber.
The idea for the commission was supported by other museums around the state, including the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education & Tolerance, El Paso Holocaust Museum and Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio.
Many other organizations — including the Anti-Defamation League Southwest and North Texas Regions; Ballet Austin; Jewish Federation of Greater Houston; San Antonio Darfur Interfaith Coalition; Department of Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars and the national organizations Genocide Intervention Network, Save Darfur, STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition — also expressed support for the legislation.