Bad Bills

A Compendium of Unusual Legislation

PRAYER DAY

H.B. 583 Rep. Mary Denny (R–Aubrey)

Mary Denny, a favorite of the American Family Association, is proposing that the first Thursday in May be known henceforth as “Texas Prayer Day.” On this special day, according to the bill language, “the people of Texas may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.” Since most people spend their Thursdays not in church but at the office, the proposed law would seem to encourage wanton demonstrations of sanctimony in the workplace. An unappealing prospect in the case of ordinary praying, though things could get interesting if this meant, say, a group of quality control engineers down in the break room walking on coals or slaughtering a calf or something.

…AND GUN DAY

H.B. 686 Rep. Suzanna Gratia Hupp (R-Lampasas)

Suzanna Hupp, (unconcealed) standard-bearer for the National Rifle Association, has introduced a bill to designate September 25 as Bill of Rights Day. On this freedom-lovin’ occasion, “appropriate programs in the public schools and other places” would do their best “to inspire a greater appreciation and understanding of the founding of the nation and the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.” It’s not too hard to guess which zealously overinterpreted gun-related amendment Hupp had in mind when she penned this proposal–so that every schoolchild in the state might know that he has a right to own a gun.

CAMPUS POLITICS

H.B. 683 Rep. Rick Green (R–Dripping Springs)

Green wants to make it harder for colleges to grant money from student activity fees to “political” clubs. His bill would prevent an institution of higher learning from charging a student “any portion of a fee” that would support “an organization that engages in political or ideological advocacy” unless the student gives his approval.

Alas, such a law would burden those institutions with the onerous job of determining which organizations are ideological, and polling every student as to which of those she dislikes. It also departs from a unanimous Supreme Court ruling last year, which found the neutral distribution of mandatory fees to student groups to be constitutional. In the wake of that ruling, the mandatory fee issue was a hot topic at the Republican National Convention, and the GOP platform written there included the following non sequitir: “At many institutions of higher learning, the ideal of academic freedom is threatened by intolerance. Students should not be compelled to support, through mandatory student fees, anyone’s political agenda.”

REASONS NOT TO LIVE IN EAST TEXAS

H.B. 258, H.B. 280 Rep. Wayne Christian (R–Center)

Some bills, written to address some specific incident or situation that has arisen in a legislator’s district, reveal more about the district than the legislator. Consider these two bills by Wayne Christian. The first one, co-sponsored by Reps. Leo Berman and Joe Driver, would penalize persons who appear at official proceedings, meetings, or parades brandishing deadly weapons and refuse to leave. The second imposes various penalties on anyone who taunts, torments, strikes, or throws something at a police service animal. (The bill also proscribes entering the animal’s “area of control,” feeding the animal without authorization, injuring the animal, or killing the animal.)

Written though they are in the dry dialect of legislatese, these two bills invoke a certain sense of place, suggesting what lazy afternoons in Center must be like.

Hey, you wanna drive over to the Poultry Days Festival and wave our guns around? —Nah, we did that yesterday. Let’s go taunt the drug dog they’ve got chained up over by the police station and then throw garbage at it. —All right. Can we kill it? —Yeah, let’s kill it.

(A call to Christian’s office confirmed that both bills were introduced in response to particular incidents. The weapons-brandishing, however, occurred not during Poultry Days but at the trial of James Byrd’s killers, where “Black Panthers with AK-47s and Klu Klux Klan members carrying rifles” strutted their stuff outside the courthouse in Jasper, according to a Christian aide.)

BIG BROTHER WANTS YOU TO DRIVE SAFELY

H.B. 1115 Rep. Joe Driver (R-Garland)

The aptly-named Representative Driver proposes that municipalities be authorized to install a “photographic traffic signal enforcement system.” This “system” is one of those newfangled contraptions that couple a camera with a vehicle sensor in order to take pictures of cars that are “not operated in compliance with the instructions of the traffic control signal.” Presumably that means “running a red light,” and presumably the Driver law would enable the police to maintain photographic files of everyone who’s ever done so (or at least pictures of their cars).

NOT JUST A GOOFY-LOOKING COW

H.B. 727 Rep. Bob Turner (D-Voss)

Turner’s bill seeks to honor one of the state’s underserved minorities: bison. In response to the state’s lack of a bison policy, Turner would like to amend the Agriculture Code to recognize that bison “are wild animals indigenous to this state,” that they “are distinct from cattle, livestock, exotic livestock, and game animals,” and that they may be raised either commercially or for “the purpose of preserving the bison species.” According to Turner’s office, the bill serves no practical end, but “we just want to identify them as their own species,” according to a spokesperson.

artists in decline

H.B. 1216 Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie)

The artist’s age-old endeavor to be recognized by society takes yet another hit in Pitts’ H.B. 1216, which amends the definition of “artist” in the Occupations Code (for the reasonable purpose of discontinuing the requirement that certain talent agencies register their clients with the state.) Whereas existing law defines seven categories of artists, the amended version would include only category A (actor) and category F (model). Category B (musician or musical director), category C (writer), category D (cinematographer), category E (composer, lyricist, or arranger of musical compositions), and category G (other) are eliminated.

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