Texans: You Are Your Legislators’ Boss, Now Act Like It

A Texas legislator seeks to make divorce inaccessible, while ignoring Texans' real problems...


A version of this story ran in the February 2017 issue.

‘That big pink building in Austin is as much yours as it is Matt Krause’s, or anyone else’s.’  Patrick Michels

Every other year, Texas lawmakers hoof it down to the state Capitol to spend 140 days either getting right what they got wrong the last time or, more likely, making things a hell of a lot worse.

There’s already a lot of rank tomfoolery this session as our leaders gear up to whine about solutions in search of problems and ignore problems in dire need of solutions. Hey, maybe those dead and dying foster kids will bootstrap their own selves out of state care this year! In the meantime, Fort Worth Republican state Representative Matt Krause is not sure you grown adult people of Texas really know what you’re doing with this whole divorce thing.

Krause, whose past achievements in small gub’minting include a failed attempt to require the state to appoint an attorney to represent the fetuses of clinically brain-dead people, wants to use his 140 days to eliminate no-fault divorce in Texas. In December, he filed House Bill 93, which would require all divorce filings to be fault-based, as well as House Bill 65, which would lengthen the waiting period for divorces from 60 to 180 days. There are a lot of reasons this legislation is an astoundingly stupid proposition. That it would empower abusers to effectively hold their spouses hostage and drive up the cost of divorce are two of many likely negative consequences.

But let me just ask the good folks in Matt Krause’s district one question: Of all your concerns, where do you rank My neighbors’ ability to extricate themselves from an unsustainable, unwanted or otherwise untenable marriage? Does the end of other people’s marriages chap your asses more than, say, your student loan payments? Or local regulations on fracking? Or the quality of your children’s education? Would you really rather Matt Krause use your money to stomp and flail about strangers’ relationships than see him bringing home dough for roads, schools, maybe a business incentive or two?

My guess is, you don’t give the first shit about making it harder for Texans to get divorces. My guess is, the idea hasn’t even crossed your mind. My guess is, you’re more worried about your health care, your job or your mortgage, because you’re not a good-for-nothing gossip transported here from the year 1950 with nada better to do than snoop around in other people’s private lives. My guess is, the prospect of forcing sad, split-up people (and their kids) to spend more time in front of a judge (and more time cutting checks to lawyers) actually sort of pisses you off. And my guess is, that goes for the members of Krause’s own Republican Party as much as it does their liberal neighbors.

That big pink building in Austin is as much yours as it is Matt Krause’s, or anyone else’s, so this is the part where you do something about it: You extend your involvement in the political process beyond yelling on Facebook, beyond signing an online petition, beyond voting. You’ve got a phone? Use it to call your representatives and tell them what to stop wasting your money on. You’ve got a computer? A literal pen and paper? Write letters — often! You don’t have to shrug away representation you don’t agree with; in fact, you have every right to demand representation that represents you.

Blessedly, this process works with just about any of our elected officials’ awful ideas. The onus is on us to not only vote, but to keep up with our leaders’ goals and positions — and especially not to presume that because they’re a member of your preferred party that they’re doing what’s in our best interest, or what’s in anything close to our interest, period.

People, particularly conservatives, say they want government to be run like a business, but we so often get the power structure backwards. Democracy isn’t a vote-and-done deal. Voting is just the start — it’s the hiring process, and you’re the boss. Think of the first day of the Legislative session as the first day of work for your new employees. You don’t hire a bunch of new graduates and tell them you’ll check back in a year to see if they got your product designed, manufactured, produced and shipped out; you check in every day and give them direction and advice.

Matt Krause, and so many of his fellow lawmakers who’ve been hired to make Texas government less intrusive, could use a little bossing around. Don’t be afraid to do it.