The growth of colonias – unregulated subdivisions lacking basic services – has finally been slowed by several pieces of legislation and the A.G’.s gradual application of the Model Subdivision Rules. But colonia developers haven’t given up, and their control of county governments that issue permits has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in state and federal funds earmarked for roads, potable water, and sewers for residents of existing colonias.
H.B. 644 is a developers’ bill, granting a loophole to avoid providing basic services, changing the definition of residential lots from five acres to one acre, and shifting prosecution from the A.G.’s venue of choice to local courts (where developers have more influence). But the bill’s sponsor ran squarely into Valley Interfaith, the church-based grassroots advocacy group working in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
When Representative Flores was invited to defend his bill before 200 Valley Interfaith community leaders gathered at a church in Peñitas, he made his excuses and backed down, promising to withdraw the bill. Presuming Flores keeps his promise, Valley Interfaith receives the Bad Bills Girl’s “First Bad Bill Killed Award.” (We hope it can be biennial.)
H.B. 152 Joseph Pickett, D—El Paso
Graffiti’s a problem but Pickett’s well-intentioned bill goes too far, making the act of marking graffiti on a school or institution of higher learning a state jail felony.
If passed and enforced, look for increased adolescent enrollment – in state jails.
THIS SPACE AVAILABLE
S.B. 87 John Lindsay, R—Houston
It was bad enough when Compaq purchased the naming rights to the Summit, a Houston landmark with a perfectly good (if altitudinally preposterous) name. Now Lindsay wants to rename a section of State Highway 249 the “Compaq Expressway.” Besides yet another indicator that Lindsay has too much time on his hands and even more favors to repay, this direct public advertising subsidy of a private business stinks to corporate welfare heaven. If he wants to pimp local corporations, the Senator should stamp their names on his forehead.
ARM THE CHILDREN
H.B. 1020 Suzanna Gratia Hupp, R—Lampasas
Rep. Hupp rode her Arabian horse into the Lege on a one-issue campaign in 1996: the right of Texans to carry concealed weapons. As that right is now a law in Texas, she is working to expand it. H.B. 1020 would extend the right to carry to Texans younger than twenty-one – if they are members of the armed forces, reserves, National Guard, or the Texas Militia, and at least eighteen years of age.
Members of the Republic of Texas are apparently not covered by Hupp’s bill.
JOHNS, JAIL, AND JOURNALISM
H.B. 279 Miguel Wise, D—Weslaco
Maybe it’s a gratuitous swipe at Republican Senator Drew Nixon, but Miguel Wise’s attempt to require newspapers to publish photos and lists of men arrested for solicitation of prostitution is less than enlightened legislation. Setting aside the public preoccupation with “vice” that already drives too much law enforcement, by allowing local authorities to determine news content and where it should run (“in the manner most likely to be seen and read by the greatest number of the newspaper’s readers”), Wise is putting into effect a Gresham’s Law of News Coverage – perhaps suitable for the Fox Network Cops ‘R’ Us News, but not for any newspaper editor with half a brain.
Even considering the many hours given over by the Lege to the passing of honorary resolutions, this bill seems a waste of time.
TERM LIMITS REDUX
H.J.R. 24 Robert Talton, R-Pasadena
Rob Mosbacher Jr. used it in several failed political campaigns, Newt made it the cornerstone of his Revolution – and Bob Talton is still trying to get it onto the law books in Texas. Talton would impose a twelve-year limit on state offices (six House, two Senate, and three executive- office terms). No mention, of course, of term limits for the lobbyists – who would only derive more power from a more transient legislative body. The bill is unlikely to pass, considering the difficulty of persuading senior lawmakers to legislate themselves out of office. A grandfather clause added as an amendment, exempting anyone currently holding office, might make it more palatable and therefore more dangerous – reps love to make laws that they don’t have to follow. (For a dismal demonstration of term limits in action, look south to the state and federal legislatures in Mexico, where no one can hold any one office more than a single term.)
H.B. 33 Tony Goolsby, R—Dallas
Tony Goolsby, an affable pro-business Republican from Dallas, apparently spent too much of his New Year’s Day watching bowl games. Goolsby’s bill would require any state college or university participating in intercollegiate sport “or any other competition involving substantial physical ability of physical skill” to require its team members to wear the state seal on all uniforms. Furthermore, the seal would have to be prominently displayed in a size as large as any other logo on the uniform, except the team logo and the players’ numbers.
BAD SAMARITAN LAW
H.B. 54 Ray Allen, R—Grand Prairie
Perhaps inspired by the final episode of Seinfeld, Ray Allen here attempts to deputize everybody by the creation of the offense of “failing to assist a police officer.” If an officer requests help in arresting someone or preventing a crime, and a citizen refuses or ignores the request, the offense would be a misdemeanor.
If you have a likely candidate for “Bad Bills,” please fax the Bad Bills Girl at (512) 474-1175, or e-mail “[email protected]”.