Bad Bills

Naughty Cons, Coughing Kids


Caged Heat II

HB 406 Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville)

What hope is there, in this session of neophytes, if even the presumptive Republican caucus chair doesn’t have a clue about what’s behind the bills he files? Rep. Sid Miller, whose district includes the majority of Texas’ female prisons, says he wants to stop inmates earning money from websites–particularly pornographic websites where they pose nude. (Has the representative seen one too many chicks-in-chains flicks, we wonder?) Miller claims wardens informed him some inmates are making $7,000 to $9,000 on their porn sites. The only problem is that it’s not true. Texas already restricts inmates’ computer use to school classes, and even then no web surfing is allowed. So, if there’s no real danger of porn shoots in correctional facilities, what prompted this bill?

When queried, Miller’s chief-of-staff contradicted his boss and provided a more logical explanation: A female death row warden demanded the legislation out of annoyance that people on the outside maintain websites and 1-900 numbers for the condemned. Miller’s chief of staff admitted he had not seen those sites, but insisted they were “pay-per-view.” Existing legislation stops inmates from selling their stories to the media, but Miller’s bill expands this provision to prohibit inmates raising funds by telling their story on websites or on the phone. A target of Miller’s bill is likely convicted-killer Darlie Routier’s website, which is not pay-per-view, but those interested in her innocence claims can contribute to her defense fund by purchasing Routier-themed t-shirts, bumper stickers and even silver brooches.

For Texas’ death row population, many of whom are indigent and suffering from the effects of underpaid legal representation, a website with a defense fund address may be the last hope to prove their innocence before the inevitable lethal injection. Miller, though oblivious to his bill’s origins, intuitively understands what its effect would be: “That would sure get ’em wouldn’t it?,” he crowed.

Let’s See That Phlegm

HB 340 Rep. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio)

An unseen menace has crept silently into our cities in recent years. As our leaders slept, the menace spread through our poorest neighborhoods, clutching at our young people, stealing into their bodies, clouding their minds, numbing their blood. But due to the efforts of a valiant House legislator we now know this menace by name. Yo. Robitussin in the house.

The menace is a practice known in the ‘hoods as “sippin’ the syrup,” or simply “‘tussin’,” a recently invented bit of urban kid culture wherein one imbibes cough syrup mixed with soda pop and listens to slowed-down rap music. The cough syrup’s psychoactive ingredient, dextromethorphan, creates a downer effect. According to federal authorities, in the year 2000, 2,189 people nationwide were admitted to emergency rooms after overdosing on dextromethorphan. To put the number in perspective, about 137,000 injuries to children occur in playgrounds each year. (Maybe they should be the next target?)

You can bet your pants that Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) has never succumbed to the sordid pleasures of ballin’ (partying), swangin’ and bangin’ (cruising and playing the stereo), or sippin’ the syrup. Looking such evils squarely in the face, he proposes HB 340, which would place medicines containing dextromethorphan out of reach of customers and ban their sale to minors. We say God bless Uresti. If government doesn’t exist to regulate the delivery of cough syrup what exactly is it’s purpose?

Goolsby Is a Whiner, Nah-Nah

HB 248 Rep. Tony Goolsby (R-Dallas)

What is Rep. Goolsby trying to do–send a whole generation of Texas youth to reform school? That could be our future if he manages to pass HB 248, the so-called “bully bill.” HB 248 would expel any student who engages in “written or verbal expression or physical conduct”(bullies are threatening people in writing these days?) that results in “significant emotional distress” to another student. Could this be worded any more vaguely? The offending student would be sent off to hone his bullying skills on the hardened criminals of the local alternative school. Pam Uhr, a mother of three normal teenage boys who has signed up to help the ACLU fight Goolsby’s bill, is aghast at its sweeping scope. Kids tease each other all the time, she notes. “Did you ride the bus coming back from school when you were a kid?,” asks Uhr, who is hopeful Goolsby might modify the bill. A crusade against bullying is about the last thing one would expect from a Dallas Republican, even a moderate like Tony Goolsby. And maybe bullying needs to be addressed, but not by punitive state legislation so broad it can only be applied arbitrarily. Besides, Goolsby should think twice about a bill that could adversely affect his party down the line. Where are the next crop of Republican leaders like Dick Armey and Tom DeLay to spring from, if not the ranks of experienced bullies?

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,” fax her at (512) 474-1175, or e-mail [email protected].