BAD BILLS Just Trust Us and Worship the Gipper Drug War Constitutional Drive By House Bill 65 Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon \(DRep. Ruth Jones McClendon’s HB 65 is that rare piece of legislation that manages to punish people even if there is no current crime committed. McClendon’s HB 65 would prohibit drug offenders from entering entire swaths of San Antonio, except to go directly to their home, school, or work. Those convicted of a drug offense would be banned from these designated drug-free zones for one year. Someone simply arrested for a drug offense, but not convicted, would be banned for 90 days. The Bexar County district attorney’s office brought McClendon the language for HB 65. Asked if the legislation would strip people of their individual rights, Cliff Herberg, assistant district attorney of Bexar County, responded, “The public’s right to security outweighs individual liberties [of those] who have been involved in prior crimes.” Critics charge that McClendon’s bill violates several rights thatunlike the so-called right to securityactually appear in the Constitution, including the right to due process of law and the right of free association. “Not only is this a bad idea in terms of public policy, but it’s also patently unconstitutional,” says Will Harrell, executive director of the Texas ACLU. The U.S. Supreme Court seems to think so too. In 2003, the high court threw out a nearly identical law to HB 65, enacted in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a ruling that the statute violated constitutional rights. HB 65 would affect only San Antonio. It would grant the city council the authority to create the drug-free zones in neighborhoods with high rates of drug arrests. Anyone banned from the drug-free zones would be placed on a police watch list. Law enforcement offi cers who have probable cause to question an individual in a drug-free zone \(e.g., they were hanging out on a corner the person’s name against the watch list, and arrest anyone found in a prohibited area. The penalties for entering the zones once banned have not yet been established, but will probably involve jail time or an extension of parole. Exceptions for an otherwise prohibited individual to enter the drug-free area would include meeting with an attorney, complying with a court-ordered obligation, and accessing a needed social service. While McClendon’s intentions of reducing drug activity are commendable, the bill, which remains in committee, is unlikely to pass. “Quite frankly we don’t anticipate using much capital defeating it,” says Harrell. “I believe it is a DOA: Dead on Arrival.” Rename One for the Gipper House Bill 110 The Texas Capitol is the second-most popular tourist attraction in the state right behind the Alamoand remains one of Texas’ enduring symbols, from the goddess of liberty atop the dome to the gates where protesters gather on Congress Avenue. So it would stand to reason that the circle drive that surrounds the Capitol would be named after a renowned figure from the state’s glorious past: Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, Ma Ferguson, maybe John Connally or LBJ. Instead, Rep. Martha Wong’s HB 110 would name the Capitol drive in honor of that noted TexanRonald Reagan. For the record, the actor-turned-politician was actually born in Illinois and spent most of his life in California, including two terms as its governor. The 40th president was never even a resident of the Lone Star State. He did, however, look dashing in at , least one movie set partly in Texas. That’s enough for Wong, who says Ronald Reagan Circle is the perfect name for the street surrounding the state Capitol. “Reagan was a person that was able to bring many people together; both Democrats and Republicans alike. He was a great communicator,” said Wong. She says she filed the bill because she was touched and inspired by the nation’s reaction to Reagan’s death last summer. “There was such an outpouring of love towards him. I thought Texas should do something to recognize him.” The bill would adorn the circle with Ronald Reagan street signs and a historical plaque honoring the conservative icon. Reagan’s name already graces an airport and a massive federal office building in Washington, D.C., and a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Conservative activists also are lobbying to name at least one street in every county in America after Reagan, to memorialize February Day, and to boot FDR’s visage off the dime in favor of you-know-who. Wong says the street signs and plaque shouldn’t cost taxpayers more than $1,000. For some of Wong’s House colleagues, though, the problem with HB 110 isn’t money, but good old-fashioned Texas pride. Should the Capitol drive be named after a Californian? Even Wong seems to recognize this problem. In an interview, she said she was “open to suggestions” for alternative roads to name after the Gipper. Wong mentioned that perhaps a Texas highway, like State Highway 290 would serve as a more appropriate tribute. “A Bad ‘ol Bill” House Bill 305 The biggest threat to the Open Meeting Act to have emerged so far this session is the product of a young local official: the author’s daughter. Currently, elect 16 HE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 4, 2005
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.