Tough Love and Bad Air
H.B. 642 & 1430 Wayne Christian, R—Center
Turn your cheek on this Christian and he’ll slap the other one. Okay, so H.B. 642 falls into the category of “Dumb” rather than the “Bad” bills. It requires Health and Human Services Agencies to review all legislation to ensure that no budgetary rules are promulgated that might discourage marriage, encourage divorce, or discourage participation in the work force. The bill itself encourages participation in the workforce, all right – for some low-level bureaucrat assigned the Herculean responsibility of vetting all rules to make sure they encourage marriage, discourage divorce, etc., etc.
H.B. 1430, on the other hand, is one of those pernicious pieces of fundamentalist Christian hatred that should have all of us checking our “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets. Essentially, H.B. 1430 would codify the biblical practice of ensuring that children pay for the sins of their fathers. Christian Rep. Christian would amend the state’s Human Resources Code to deny financial assistance to any child born to a “recipient of financial assistance at least ten months after the date on which the recipient began receiving the assistance.” Christian is at least fair; his proposed bill would also penalize any adult recipient of financial assistance that becomes the parent of a child while receiving assistance from the state and federal government. So both the parent and child will live in reduced circumstances – to punish the parent. Christian’s bill is sufficiently punitive that it might get him crosswise with the anti-abortion chorus in the fundamentalist congregation – as pregnant aid recipients anticipate reduced benefits for themselves and their “unborn children” and opt to terminate pregnancies.
IF IT AIN’T BROKE – BREAK IT
S.B. 1365 Chris Harris, R—Arlington.
Here is one of those bills that brings to mind George Bush’s 1994 campaign promise to abolish the Texas Education Agency. The agency is still functioning because it didn’t take too long for the Governor to understand that something had to stand between the Legislature and 1,034 independent school districts – you know, to make rules, and dispense funding, and implement statutory policy. The little things. Senator Harris, apparently concerned that the Department of Human Services is actually beginning to pay some attention to the regulation of nursing homes and personal care facilitates, has filed this bill to abolish the D.H.S. and spread its functions among other state agencies. Look for San Antonio Democrat Frank Madla, who along with Harris carries a lot of water for nursing homes, to get behind this bill before it dies a natural death. It will not die, however, without sending a foreboding message to a regulatory agency that (despite the bureaucratic proceduralism typical of large state bureaucracies) provides essential public services.
COLOR BLIND AND TRIGGER HAPPY
H.B. 2723 Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R—Lampasas
Rep. Hupp usually carries gun bills, so her anti-affirmative-action legislation is something of a digression – in thematic if not ideological terms. Hupp’s bill would prohibit the state from collecting racial and ethnic information in applications for public employment, public universities, and public contracting. Were putative Democrat Dan Morales still Attorney General, he would no doubt be awaiting passage so he could issue an opinion extending the law to private employment, private universities, and private contracting, as he did the Hopwood decision. There Dapper Dan took a narrowly defined federal court ruling pertaining to a minority admissions program at the U.T. School of Law and extended it to all higher education in Texas.
Hupp usually sticks to her guns, but here she is carrying water for the anti-affirmative-action caucus, led by Houston’s Ed Blum and his Campaign for a Color Blind America. Blum, determined to wipe out any attempt to ameliorate several hundred years of white privilege, saw Hupp’s bill and pronounced it good. “Representative Hupp is doing a great public service by introducing this important legislation,” Blum said. “We look forward to working with her and Governor Bush to prepare Texas for a colorblind twenty-first century.”
CHOKE ON THIS
H.B. 2504 Ray Allen, R—Grand Prairie
The other shoe has fallen on the Gov’s “voluntary” grandfathered air pollution program, and it stinks worse than East Harris County (where its supporters should be required to take up residence). Although Allen (Vice-Chair of Environmental Regulation) is nominally carrying the bill, it’s really Bush’s personal, shameless pro-polluters program. It’s so bad that the Gov’s office is already claiming one section – a new freedom-to-pollute standard permit – will be dropped in committee.
Don’t bet on it. The Bush policy remains, Give the Corporate Polluters Whatever They Want – and what they want is no restrictions on the grandfathered air pollution they have been happily spewing for thirty years. Among other dismally outrageous provisions, this bill would: (1) continue indefinitely the election-year “voluntary” reduction program, already an utter failure; (2) allow outdated, inadequate technology for phony cleanups; (3) create a fake standard-permitting process for grandfathered polluters, excluding normal public health effects review or public hearings; (4) substitute intra-company pollution shuffles or enviro P.R. projects for real pollution reduction; (5) maintain the volume-discount pollution subsidy: the more you pollute, the less it costs you.
This bill is a reward to polluters, a disaster for the environment, an insult to the citizens, and a disgrace to the Governor and the Legislature.
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