Turning of the Screw


Eileen Smith

There was hardly time for any reflection on the 82nd session before lawmakers were called back for a special session. A special session gives the governor an opportunity to tack on additional items to the official agenda of school finance and health-care funding, such as redistricting congressional Democrats out of the state and, if possible, the country. The special session will also give Gov. Rick Perry and his minions another chance to screw the people they forgot to screw during the last one.

Not to say that they didn’t accomplish a lot the first time around. In just one session, Republicans managed to screw children, women, gays, immigrants, teachers, the elderly, Hispanics, the unemployed and the uninsured. The only people who got off easy were white guys. Can’t imagine why.

Screw the Women: Conservative lawmakers—apparently confusing contraception and education with abortions on demand and abject immorality—attempted to defund family planning clinics such as Planned Parenthood. Family planning grants to these clinics help provide low-income and uninsured women with medical exams and screenings. The omnibus health-care bill, Senate Bill 7, will once again move to restrict tax dollars and grants by requiring that the funds be distributed by “priority,” which will leave independent clinics such as Planned Parenthood out in the cold.

A bill requiring sonograms for any woman seeking to obtain an abortion was signed by the governor last week, “Today is a great day for women’s health and for the protection of the unborn in Texas,” said Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston. Unfortunately the question of when life begins was left unanswered when a bill sponsored by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, died in committee.

Screw the Gays: The U.S. Supreme Court says you can’t criminalize homosexuality, but Texas’ penal code still does. “Deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex” still obstensibly invites a Class C misdemeanor and up to a $500 fine. A bill to strike that non-criminal crime from the penal code didn’t even get out of committee. And since homosexuals are deviants, the Legislature also scrapped a bill that would have made the process of same-sex adoption easier by establishing legal rights for both parents. That’s all Texas needs. A bunch of gay couples raising gay kids. Terrifying.

Screw the Immigrants: Despite the failure of numerous anti-immigration bills—determining citizenship of students before they enroll, the issuing of “temporary reports of alien birth” instead of actual birth certificates—the ban on so-called “sanctuary cities” is being resurrected for the special session. This was one of Perry’s emergency items which will fit in perfectly with his presidential campaign platform. Legislation in both the House and Senate prohibits the adoption of sanctuary city policies that bar law enforcement from verifying one’s citizenship. The more comprehensive Senate bill would mandate that everyone arrested, even for such offenses as traffic violations, has their fingerprints run through an FBI database.

Screw College Students: Despite the best efforts of Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, his bill to put more guns in the hands of college students failed. The ability to carry concealed weapons on campus could have saved countless lives, assuming that the college students were actually undercover FBI agents.

Screw the Feds: Republicans came out in full force to bash the federal government and the Obama administration, mostly over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There was even a special House Select Committee on State Sovereignty. But the most recent anti-feds bill came from Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, who introduced the “anti-groping” bill, which would prohibit “intrusive touching” at airport security checkpoints. Federal officials threatened to possibly close airports if the bill was enacted. After Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst caved to the demands of conspiracy radio host Alex Jones and his merry band of crazies, the bill will be taken up in the special session.

On a serious note, it’s hard to say goodbye to a legislator who has provided adundantly rich material over the years. Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, has announced his retirement. The man who fought tirelessly for “traditional” marriage and against same-sex adoption. The man who tried to take sex education out of our public schools. The man who would be speaker. But don’t worry. We’ll always have Leo Berman to kick around.