The Texas legislature has been at it for a week now. I really miss Molly Ivins at times like this. She was always amazingly upbeat and jocular in the face of the most heinous adversity perpetuated by the more moronic segments of our political culture. Her iconic statement upon the opening of a new legislative session was: “The legislature is in town, and many a village is missing its idiot.”
Unfortunately, I have been unable to work up much joviality when contemplating the likely plight of our state following the 2011 session. I just have a sick feeling that the outcome is going to be really revolting.
I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised (very pleasantly and very surprised) that House Republicans voted seventy percent in their caucus to keep Joe Straus as Speaker. It’s possible that the margin by which the GOP endorsed him was in reaction to the intense ugliness that was being spread about Straus by members of his own party. If so, that says something positive about those who were among the seventy percent.
Unfortunately, Rep. Tan Parker (R-63rd District) chose to be one of 15 who voted against Straus in the full House (the vote was 132-15), and Denton County Republican Chair Dianne Edmondson publically criticized the county’s other two representatives, Burt Solomons and Myra Crownover for their pro-Straus votes, saying that they chose to ignore the wishes of their constituents. The rift between moderate conservatives and far-right ideologues in the GOP keeps getting wider and wider. I’m looking very forward to see how this will play out locally.
Of course, the vitriol directed at Straus was due to his not being sufficiently right-wing enough for many Texas Republicans. Some took it to extremes, attacking him for simply being Jewish, stating that Texas should have installed a Christian as Speaker. I think his biggest “sin” for his critics was simply that he treated House Democrats fairly in the 2009 session.
Of course, our governor didn’t disappoint with his lack of leadership in the first week relating to one of the state’s greatest fiscal crises in its history. Facing an approximate $27 billion deficit over the next two years, he took bold action in the first week by declaring an emergency……but not over the budget. No, he announced that he would make it possible to fast-track two items: outlawing so-called “sanctuary cities” in Texas, and making eminent domain more difficult to employ in the state. These are both hot-button issues for the far right, but do absolutely nothing to address the real emergency.
This week we are told the Senate will determine whether to change the current “two-thirds” rule required to bring up legislation. They are doing this in order to get around allowing Democrats the ability to prevent the most egregious bills from coming up for a vote. Normally I would agree that a two-thirds vote is too high of a bar to meet to handle state business, but I think a Machiavellian outlook is in order under the circumstances, given the extreme right-wing nature of this legislature. (This truly is an extraordinary time.) Unfortunately, I look for the rules change to be made.
Governor Perry, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, and the Republican leaders of both houses continue to insist they can balance the budget without raising taxes. They can keep saying it all they want, but it can’t be done without causing great harm to the most vulnerable citizens of our state, those who are already suffering from Texas’ “bottom of the heap” status when it comes to providing safety net services. We Texans are already pathetic at taking care of “the least among us”. I’m going to have to peruse the dictionary further to find suitable words to describe the mess that’s likely to emerge from this session.