What is it withTexas? Is it just because it’s so big that it presents such colossal idiocy to the world? Or is their stupidity just more noticeable than in other states? “Good thing we’ve still got politics inTexas—finest form of free entertainment ever invented,” said columnist Molly Ivins, who left the world poorer when she died at the age of 63 in 2007. One of her joys was writing about the Texas Legislature, “The Lege”: “Practice, practice, practice, that’s what Texas provides when it comes to sleaze and stink. Who can forget such great explanations as ‘Well, I’ll just make a little bit of money, I won’t make a whole lot?’” Ivins would have had a field day writing about the current antics of the Texas legislature. I miss her.
Last year I marveled as I watched Gov. Rick Perry declare that they should secede from the Union, an act that would save the U.S. money because the state gets $1 more per person from federal taxes than they pay in. But I really started paying attention when a friend sent me news that Gov. Perry was asking everyone in Texas to pray for rain, declaring the last weekend of April as Days of Prayer for Rain. (I don’t know if it paid off.)
Texas has the worst state budget crisis since World War II. The Texas House has decided that the solution to this problem will be huge cuts to education, nursing homes, and health care for the poor and—pay attention—a tax break for anyone who wants to buy yachts costing $250,000 or more. They call it “economic development” because Texans may start buying their yachts in Florida. This act will lose $1.4 billion to add to the $27 billion shortfall they currently have. But think of all those happy yacht-owners.
Then Texas decided a sex change wasn’t a change. It was one of the last states to allow transgender people use proof of their surgery to get a marriage license. But then came the terror of same-sex marriage. “The Texas Constitution,” Sen. Tommy Williams said, “clearly defines marriage between one man and one woman.” He wants the biological gender of a person to be used in perpetuity. I got to thinking. A man becomes a woman but still wants to marry a woman. In a real world, that would make this person a lesbian and unable to legally marry in most of the United States. But she can marry a woman in Texas because that state declares that person a man. Voila! Legal same-sex marriage!
Still focusing on “sex,” the Texas House passed a budget bill requiring any public college with a student center on “alternative” sexuality to provide equal funding for centers to promote “traditional values.” A column in The Texas Observer said, “Imagine the plight of the heterosexual student stepping on to a college campus for the first time. How will he fit in? Should he tell his new roommate about his alternative hetero lifestyle?” Others have asked if this would mean that public colleges with “Christian Centers” should also require “Atheist Centers.”
Private parts seem to be an ongoing concern to Texan politicians as shown by the proposed law to prevent security pat-downs at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. HB 1937 would make it a felony for a security officer to intentionally touch someone’s “junk”—even on top of clothing—unless there is cause to believe that there is something illegal in the area of the “junk.” In case you’re interested, of the 61,000,000 plus entries about the subject on the Internet, the bill opposing invasive pat-downs captured the majority of these entries, hands down.
And women’s rights? The Texas Senate has passed the bill requiring doctors to perform a sonogram 24 hours before an abortion to “allow” a woman to see the fetus. There’s no “allow” to it: women are required to look at the sonogram and hear a detailed explanation of any limbs or internal organs that have formed. Patrick Duncan, who commented on an article about the bill, got it right: “Conservative legislators in Texas get between a doctor and their patient, proving they are hypocrites when it comes to less government interfering with our lives. A tragedy for women’s rights to privacy with their doctor.”
Religion (as earlier shown by the need to pray for rain) is another focus of Texas politicians. State Rep. Leo Berman (R) has introduced a bill to protect the state from Sharia law, prohibiting a Texas court “from enforcing, considering, or applying a religious or cultural law.” “We want to prevent it from ever happening inTexas,” he said. (He had heard on the radio that Dearborn, Michigan, was being ruled by Sharia law.) To give Texas a little leeway, 15 other states, including its neighbor Oklahoma, are joining this collective insanity. If the legislature passes the bill, it could appear on the ballot in Texas this fall. I assume that their intent is to protect their state from the Islam culture, but does passing this ballot measure prevent ruling by Christian law?
In keeping with the ignorance demonstrated during the Sharia law debate is the bill protecting from discrimination any teacher or professor who doesn’t believe in evolution. It appears that right-wing conservatives have their own definition of “diversity,” one that avoids facts. More ignorance? The Texas Senate has tentatively approved a bill allowing jurors in sexual assault cases to hear testimony about similar allegations against the defendant. It doesn’t matter whether the previous incident resulted in a conviction or even criminal charges—just any old accusation could be used against a defendant.
Texas does wish to avoid the federal Department of Justice (DOJ). One state bill would circumvent the DOJ by directing its redistricting or Voter ID bills to a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. for “pre-clearance” under the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (This requires Texas and some other mostly southern states to get federal approval before making major election law changes.) With great speed Texas passed a bill requiring photo ID from voters last January. The urgency of this issue led the Senate to suspend key rules and omit regular committee hearings while it rushed the bill through in two days. The House concurred in March.
Population control seems to be of interest to Texas legislators. A current bills would raise the speed limit to 85 mph from 80 mph on some highways. During 2009 nearly 450 people were killed in Texas because of speeding. Raising the limit should continue to decrease the number of Texas residents. (They did miss their chance to get rid of more people when they decided to shelve the bill allowing concealed handguns on college campuses.)
A bill of great practicality for any Texas wishing cheap servants (or maybe slaves) came from Tea Party favorite Debbie Riddle (R-TX). House Bill 2012 would jail anyone who employed illegal workers—except employers who hire “help” for their homes, including those who garden, clean the house, and care for children.
A friend asked me if Texas laws were worse than Florida laws. She can decide after reading this. Each state has its approaches: Wisconsin wants to bust unions, Michigan wants the governor to be a dictator, and Texas? Texas just applies a scattershot approach toward craziness in legislating.