Bad Bills with a Bullet

In addition to the bills mentioned in the main text, here's a handy selection of most odious, preposterous, comical, or simply incomprehensible bills filed as of mid-December. -- M.K.

HB 38 (Chisum, R-Pampa): The Defense of Marriage Act, Warren Chisum's perennial determination to prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages or "civil unions" is a pointless, hot-button exercise in gay-bashing, and it will finally have the votes to pass. Nervous heteros can sleep peacefully once again.

HB 194 (Talton, R-Pasadena): Robert Talton would forbid otherwise qualified gay or lesbian couples from acting as foster parents, who are hardly overabundant regardless of their orientation. Condemn gays, punish orphans: What could be more statesmanlike?

HCR 13 (West, R-Odessa) : Ever since his county sheriff was busted for possessing child pornography, George "Buddy" West has been on tear about cyber-sex. He's got a palm-ful of sex-crime bills -- this concurrent resolution would memorialize the U.S. Congress to pass the "Protect Children From E-Mail Smut Act of 2001." While the rest of us are calmly deleting bucketloads of spam, Buddy is on High Alert against the porn merchants.

HCR 16 (Flores, D-Mission): Ismael "Kino" Flores' soulful homage to corn, peppers, onions, and tomatoes would anoint "tortilla chips and salsa" as the Official State Snack. Nothing to wash it down? Get a rope.

HB 173 (Griggs, R-North Richland Hills): It's not certain which of freshman Rep. Bob Griggs' insta-filings is dumber: HB 163, which would mandate "virtues" education in public schools (the bill itemizes the "virtues," alphabetically, from "attentiveness" through "wisdom"), or this one, which would require 50% of school textbooks to be "electronic" by 2005, 95% by 2007. On the public school priorities list, this bill ranks below "Z," for zany.

HB 214 (McCall, R-Plano): Brian McCall's bill would allow "home-schooled" students to attend public school part-time, to take part in labs and online courses, or to participate in extracurricular activities. In short, to cherry-pick whatever public school services the parents desire while avoiding whatever they object to. McCall would allow the school district to count the student for state attendance purposes, creating a built-in incentive for administrators to preside over the balkanization of their schools. Give it an F.

HB 133 (Isett, R-Lubbock): Carl Isett's a little distracted by his bid to replace U.S. Rep. Larry Combest, but he had time to file a bill that would limit the growth in state spending to the percentage growth of total personal income in the state. The bill presumes the absurdity that state services are already adequately funded, and it ties appropriations to income as no other state fiscal policy does. If radically amended -- to include a state-mandated living wage, universal health care, and a progressive income tax -- it just might be supportable.

HB 168 (Christian, R-Center): Wayne Christian is apparently suffering from the delusion that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (formerly known as "Train-Wreck") has been going gangbusters at enforcing citizen complaints against polluters. HB 168 would require a citizen complaint be "credible" and subject to investigation before enforcement -- that'll certainly stop those inspectors from just arresting polluters all over the state on a neighborhood whim.

HB 40 (Chisum, R-Pampa); HB 161 (Flores, D-Mission): Twofers for Chisum and Flores! For some reason, Texas Snowbirds are presumed to be excluded from the obligations of lesser mortals. At least that's what it seems from these bills, which (accompanied by a constitutional amendment) would exempt "travel trailers" not used for income from ad valorem taxation. The measures would make more sense if the birds could really fly -- presumably putting less wear and tear on roads, water, utilities, and the other public services that the rest of us are required to pay for. end story

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