The Father's Day Massacre

A brief analysis of a number of Gov. Perry's vetoes

On June 17, Gov. Rick Perry vetoed 78 bills passed during the recently adjourned 77th session of the Texas Legislature. Earlier, he had vetoed three other bills, plus certain appropriations items in the budget bill, SB 1 for a grand total of 82 vetoes. The following are a few of the lowlights on the governor's hit list.

HB 236: Ban on Executing the Mentally Retarded

Perry's veto of this bill -- the last remnant of this session's efforts to restrict capital punishment in Texas -- was the most notorious, statewide, nationally, and internationally. Perry insisted that Texas does not execute the retarded, and claimed the bill took power from juries. Sponsor Sen. Rodney Ellis said the veto will make Texas appear "brutal as well as foolish."

HB 259: Ban on Discrimination Against Bikers

This was an innocuous public accommodations bill that would protect motorcyclists from discrimination for wearing "biker" clothing. Perry said it was unnecessary and invited lawsuits. Maybe he was absent when the recent yuppie biker convention hit town -- these guys vote, and they're pissed.

HB 396: Allowing Alternative Driver's License for Illegal Immigrants

This passed handily in both houses because it provides a means for immigrants to drive legally and obtain insurance -- thereby making Texas roads safer for everybody. Perry himself said he supported it earlier in the session -- his veto makes no sense except as an irresponsible gift to the anti-immigrant lobby.

HB 546: Judicial Training in Ethnic and Racial Sensitivity

Conservative groups hailed Perry's veto of this exercise in "political correctness," by which they mean exposure to any ideas they consider politically incorrect. It might have been a pointless exercise for the state's plague of hard right judges, but then consider SB 430, which creates an NRA-sponsored "Eddie Eagle" gun safety program in elementary schools. Political correctness depends on whose ox is shot.

HB 1001: Revise the Reimbursement Methodology for Nursing Homes

This bill (sponsored by Austin Democrat Elliott Naishtat) would have enabled a much-needed review of insurance payments, so that labor-intensive conditions (e.g., Alzheimer's) would not be shortchanged. It had wide bipartisan support (co-sponsored by Conservative Coalition chair Arlene Wohlgemuth), and industry and interest-group support, but Perry said "more studies" are not needed. Fingerprints on the veto: the insurance lobby.

HB 1004: Work Activities for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

This bill (also sponsored by Naishtat) would have allowed TANF to continue, under federal rules, when a recipient is engaged in work-related activities (i.e., training and education). Perry said it would tie the hands of workforce boards.

HB 1006: Exemptions for Work Requirements Under TANF

Also sponsored by Naishtat, this bill would have allowed certain exemptions for mandatory work requirements for TANF: e.g., age, disablement, caring for very young children. Perry's veto relies on "agency rules," making it more difficult to get people off dependency. The gov's staff told Naishtat that Perry was disappointed that the Lege didn't pass "full family sanctions" (i.e., punish the children for the parents' failings). Vetoes of 1004 and 1006 look like payback.

HB 1862: Prompt Payment for Health Care Providers

This veto pissed off doctors, now at the mercy of HMOs for timely reimbursements under multiple and confusing rules. The gov complained that the bill would allow doctors to sue insurers rather than using binding arbitration -- where the insurers always win. Translation: the insurance lobby owns the gov.

HB 2430: Insurance Ombudsman's Program

Another Naishtat bill, developed over many months with input from across the board, created a fledgling program to help consumers navigate insurance problems with state help. Perry said he vetoed it because it was "insufficiently funded" -- but that principle would end every state program except corporate welfare. This looks like a vindictive chop with a clumsy ax. Fingerprints: the insurance lobby.

HB 2807: Demonstration Project for Medicaid

Sponsored by Rep. Ann Kitchen and Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, 2807 would have drawn down federal matching money to help pay prescription drug costs for recipients, especially the elderly. The governor apparently wants Texas taxes to go elsewhere.

HB 2839: Low-Interest Loan Program for Green Building

Dawnna Dukes' bill would have allowed low-interest loans for energy efficient housing; the governor said that fund is earmarked for state agency green building. Apparently, nobody told him that public housing is just that -- and the bill would have saved money as well as energy.

SB 161: Transitional Support Services to former TANF recipients

This bill authorized (but did not mandate) local support services for former welfare recipients for a brief period while they are trying to maintain employment. Perry's veto concerns costs for these optional services. No explanation for this veto other than vindictiveness, and a lack of consistent commitment to helping people get off welfare.

SB 350: Living Wage for School District Construction

One of more than a dozen vetoes that greatly affected border regions, this bill would have required subcontractors on school district projects to pay a living wage. The Interfaith organizations denounced the veto, and Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) said, "Governor Perry's targeted vetoes sent a clear message to the people in Texas' 43 poorest counties about where border problems really stand on the Governor's list of priorities."

SB 512: Oversight of the Permanent School Fund

Republicans weren't immune to the Perry meat-axe -- this Terry Keel-sponsored bill would have reined in the out-of-control state board of education, which has handed the permanent school fund over to a cabal of self-interested investment managers. It would have required independent management for the fund -- Perry's veto indicates the wacky right still has his private number. Can anyone spell James Leininger?

SB 730: No Arrests for Traffic Violations

This broadly supported legislation was a reaction to the notorious Lago Vista case, in which a mother was arrested for a seat-belt violation. It would have limited the authority of officers to arrest for ticketing offenses. The U.S. Supreme Court had invited legislatures to solve the problem. Texas did, only to have Perry veto it.

SB 1156: Omnibus Medicaid Bill

Late in the session, the right wing got nervous about paying for Medicaid, as required by law. The governor did their bidding, making a mess for Texas cities and making the problem larger for next session. This is government by negation.

SB 1210: Court Clerks' Payola Outlawed

The Supreme Court Justices were p.o.'d because, under this bill, they couldn't allow their clerks to be subsidized by big law firms, an illegal practice hallowed by tradition. Perry's veto makes hash of legislative intent -- now the onus is on the Travis County D.A. to file charges if the court doesn't clean up its act.

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    Governor Perry and his 82 vetoes: Government by Negation

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Rick Perry, execution, veto, discrimination, mentally retarded, Rodney Ellis, bikers, NRA, Eddie Eagle, Arlene Wohlgemuth, nursing homes, Elliott Naishtat, Arlene Wohlgemuth, TANF, HMOs, ombudsman, insurance, Medicaid, Ann Kitchens, Barrientos

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