For yet another year, the inherently conservative structure of the legislative process in Texas is working to thwart the radicals who call themselves “conservative.” The short timeframe of each session, the numerous informal rules that stymie legislation, and a pretty miserable work ethic (the session amounts to a long series of lobbyist parties), make it nearly impossible to get anything besides a budget passed. Even with a massive legislative majority and a certified whacko running the Senate, most of the worst plans of the far right are slowly dying.
Here’s a general overview of where legislation stands as we head into the final days of the session:
Private school vouchers: probably dead
The effort to privatize the state’s education system has stalled. Given the opposition from House Speaker Strauss it will be nearly impossible for this plan, which passed the Senate, to ever reach the floor of the House for consideration. There just isn’t time and there’s no indication that the Governor would call a special session for it. It’s probably dead.
Marijuana legalization: dead
This never really had a solid shot anyway. What made it interesting was its sudden, unexpected arrival on the legislative agenda and the support it gained in committee. Expect this to be an issue to watch in the next session. Someone is bound the recognize the opportunity here.
Protecting you from imaginary Sharia Law: passed, pending Governor’s signature
Like I said, it is very difficult to pass any legislation of consequence in Texas, so the lege likes to rally around show-bills. This is a bill that does absolutely nothing. Seriously. Take a look at the text. This bill has one purpose – to prove to the paranoid bigots that drive Texas politics that their legislators are just as worried about controlling scary foreigners as they are. If anyone should understand the dangers posed by religion creeping into civil law, it’s the Texas legislature.
This year’s unconstitutional restrictions on abortion rights: passed the House, headed for Senate vote
Every legislature must demonstrate its righteousness by inventing a new way to harass women carrying unwanted pregnancies. This time they are about to impose rules that will make it practically impossible for minors to get an abortion without parental consent. The state’s women are grateful for the caring intervention of their benevolent overlords.
Efforts to block high-speed rail: probably dead
Every good Texan knows that Satan rides the rails. The state is ripe for high-speed rail, with several major population centers just far enough away to make fast rail useful and not quite far enough away for air travel to make sense. But pouring money into public transportation is always unpopular. After all, how are you going to keep
black people thugs from using it? They could sit down right next to you, or even your daughter!
Nonetheless, a consortium has formed that thinks they can make high speed rail a reality in Texas without getting a dime of state money. They can’t, of course, and the effort itself is a bit of a sham, but that hasn’t stopped rural legislators from taking action to kill the project in its crib. Their bill would effectively block the state’s transportation agency from even participating in any potential plan. It looks like they will fail, but their failure won’t make the prospects for rail in Texas any brighter.