BILLS If there’s any upside to having an end-of-session breakdown in legislative progressbeyond the sheer, dopey spectacleit’s that a lot of bad bills end up in the resulting pile of dead legislation. \(See stories, pp. 3 and 5t session of the Texas Legislature, the Observer’s intrepid legislative interns, Reeve Hamilton and Susan Peterson, sussed out and exposed dozens of rotten pieces of legislation. Here we’ve selected the worst of the worst from the nearly 7,500 bills filed during the sessionno easy task. Though none of these stinkers made it to the governor’s desk this time around, chances are that they will be revived in 2011 because, sadly, most of the authors will be back for more. And we’ll be back to dog them. THE BIG EMPTY Senate Bill 362 TROY FRASER, R-HORSESHOE BAY Under the misleading banner of preserving “voter integrity:’ Sen. Troy Fraser’s SB 362universally known as “voter ID”singlehandedly wrecked much of the session, sucking up the energy and attention of legislators, reporters and concerned citizens. To prevent the virtually nonexistent crime of voter impersonation, Fraser’s bill would have required Texans wanting to vote to present identification that some traditionally Democratic voters don’t have. This desperate Republican ploy to pilfer votes brought out the ugly in Democrats, too \(see FOR SHAME Senate Bill 182 DAN PATRICK, R-HOUSTON Brought to us by the tech-savvy Sen. Dan Patrick, the latest “informed consent” bill to show up this session took a multimedia approach to shaming women who opt for abortions. Like its less-successful companion, House Bill 36 by San Antonio Rep. Frank Corte, SB 182 would have required doctors to provide even unwilling pregnant women with ultrasounds. The bill allows women to avert their eyes, but in this case it’s their ears that matter: Women would have to hear doctors narrate what they see on screenfetus size, heart activity, organ development, arms, toesand listen to the heartbeat. Fortunately, after passing the Senate, this nasty piece of legislation died during the stalemate in the House. BACK-PACKING Senate Bill 1164 JEFF WENTWORTH, R-SAN ANTONIO Sen. Jeff Wentworth and Republican Rep. Joe Driver of Garland filed companion bills under the misguided premise that the way to improve security on college campuses which are already exceptionally safeis to allow concealed handguns. Driver argued that the bill would apply only to a “small part of the campus population” because you have to be 21 to be eligible for the necessary license. At UT-Austin alone, this “small part” could add up to thousands of armed students. After HB 1893 failed to move in the House, SB 1164 passed the Senate on a 20-11 votebut thankfully, that’s as far as it got. NEEDLE WORK House Bill 1135 KEN LEGLER, R-PASADENA In a session in which the Legislature desperately needed ance benefits to draw down federal stimulus money, Rep. Ken Legler opted, instead, for downright stinginess. HB 1135, which mandated drug testing for the rapidly increasing number of applicantsand denied benefits to those testing positive. Rick Levy, legal director at the Texas AFL-CIO, marvels at the sheer counterproductivity of the proposal: “We should be doing everything we can to get people back to work, not devoting precious resources to ferret out the drug-using unemployed:’ NUKING PUBLIC INPUT House Bill 2721 DAN FLYNN, R-VAN One problem with building potentially hazardous, ecosystem-altering nuclear facilities: People aren’t always keen on the idea. Republican Rep. Dan Flynn of Van thought he’d figured out how to sidestep that hang-up: Keep us out of the picture entirely. It’s bad enough that HB 2721 tried to fast-track the process for obtaining the water permits needed to build nuclear plants. \(That’s right: Build more water-guzzling factories in a state that’s periodically wracked by drought, and build ’em from challenging those water permits in court. This two-in-one assault on the environment and democracy never made it out of committee. ROUND ‘EM UP House Bill 254 LEO BERMAN, R-TYLER You might wonder why we’re singling out Rep. Leo Berman’s HB 254, which makes the impossible demand that undocumented Texans be rounded up and restricted to “sanctuary cities:’ Why not the potential gubernatorial candidate’s House bills 253, 256, 260-263, 370, or any of the other stabs Berman made at making life rougher for what he prefers to call “illegal aliens”? Well, we had to pick just one, and among stiff competition, this one stood out for its sheer, vaulting madness. Berman’s quintessentially ineffective legislative agenda has nothing to do with good public policy; it’s all about proposing mean-spirited bills and, knowing they won’t get anywhere \(which they you willovercompensation for being born a Yankee, perhapsbut, undeniably, it’s legislating at its worst. * JUNE 26, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.