Bad Bills

Pick of the Litter


A Gay Time at the Lege

H.B. 38 Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa)

For years Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) has fantasized about gay people–shutting them out of civic life in Texas, that is. For three straight sessions, all the way back to 1997, Chisum has dreamed that someday he would pass a bill that would deny recognition of same-sex marriages.

However, thanks to moderates like outgoing Speaker Pete Laney, Chisum’s fantasy remained just that. But sometimes, Virginia, fantasies become reality. So this session H.B. 38, the Defense of Marriage Act, will probably get out of committee for the first time, thanks to the new Republican leadership. If it does, its chances are good. “This bill is on a fast track,” Chisum told the Houston Chronicle on November 12, the first day for prefiling bills. “I am convinced it will become law quickly.”

Daffy Does Robin Hood

H.B. 232 Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston)

Look out Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham is on the way–and it’s the cartoon version. The first salvo in the attack on the Lone Star State’s school financing system comes from Galveston Democrat Craig Eiland. The representative has no answers on what would replace the current system but he wants to abolish it anyway. The legislation would require the education commissioner to draw up a new funding plan. If the commissioner is smart enough to pass on that ticking time bomb, it would fall to the governor or legislative budget board.

Abortion Abomination

H.B. 15 Rep. Frank Corte, Jr. (R-San Antonio)

When a woman decides to abort a human growing in her body, it should be assumed she has given the matter careful consideration. But in case not, let her view full-color photos of fetuses. You know, to help ground her decision. That’s San Antonio Rep. Frank Corte, Jr.’s definition of “informed consent.”

The color pictures are just some of the information that H.B. 15 would require doctors to offer. More forms to sign thanks to the Limit Big Government crowd. Doctors would also make available materials that describe the gestational development of the fetus in high detail, list public and private services available during pregnancy, and remind the patient that she can get child support from the father, among others.

Informed consent, like the Defense of Marriage Act, is right from the Christian right playbook and has been discussed for a generation. Corte inherited stewardship of the bill in 1997 and has shown it around the legislature for three sessions running without ever getting it out of committee. With Craddick wielding the gavel this year, all bets are off.

Blame the Victim

S.B. 12 Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Lewisville)

The first bill out of the tort reform flood gates comes from Lewisville Sen. Jane Nelson. Focused on medical malpractice cases, it will lower the limit on noneconomic damages (like mental anguish) by half, to $250,000 from $500,000. This bill will penalize victims of bad doctors and limit attorney fees, but won’t lower insurance rates for physicians’ insurance, consumer groups complain. In order to do that, legislators would have to force the state board of medical examiners to actually regulate doctors as well as bring some stability to the insurance market. “[Tort reform] is the flag that’s waving,” says Lisa McGiffert of Consumer’s Union. “Our fear is that it’s the only thing that will get saluted, but it won’t solve the problem.”

An Earful of Silence

H.B. 87/S.B. 83 Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D-San Antonio), Sen Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio)

What parent wouldn’t sometimes agree that there should be a law to shut kids up? Unfortunately, that’s not what motivates Sen. Jeff Wentworth and Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon to sponsor bills that provide a “moment of silence” in public school classrooms. Are they trying to organize state-sponsored prayer during these silent moments? Wentworth answered that question, the Waco Tribune-Herald noted, when he titled his press release “Sen. Wentworth files school prayer bill.” A-ha!

The Texas Freedom Network’s Samantha Smoot believes far-right legislators can be expected to bomb the bills with amendments explicitly funneling the silent prayers toward Jesus. Let’s take a moment of silence ourselves to thank the powers that be for Wentworth and McClendon. After all, it’s diverting that they won’t be concentrating solely on the budget, the insurance crisis, or school funding. Foisting something completely pointless on the public–schools already can designate moments of silence and kids already can silently pray–might keep them too busy to do other damage.

Bad Bills are compiled by the Observer‘s Bad Bills Girl, who rises vampire-like from hibernation every two years to suck the blood from vile or absurd state legislation. If you have a likely candidate for “Bad Bills,” please fax her at (512) 474-1175, or e-mail [email protected].