It’s no surprise that in the state that gave us personalities like Representative Ron Paul, Governor Rick Perry, and Senator Ted Cruz, legislators have proposed more than their fair share of outrageous laws. Nearly failing to extend Medicaid benefits to the state’s disadvantaged, moving to make English the state’s official language, and putting forward a constitutional referendum that would prohibit tax increases only scratch the surface in the Lone Star State..
Here are the 5 worst ideas to come from Texas’s right-wing government:
Suing The Obama Administration 25+ Times
Texas’ attorney general sure knows how to put taxpayers’ money to good use. Greg Abbott takes pride in the fact that he has sued the Obama administration more than 25 times since February, 2010. “In all, Abbott’s federal cases have cost the state more than $2.8 million,” according to a Texas newspaper. “That includes $1.5 million-plus in salaries for state employees working on the cases, nearly $250,000 in court costs and the travel expenses of attorney general’s office personnel, and roughly $1 million for outside counsel and expert witnesses.”
Abbott, who once insisted that Democrats are more of a threat than North Korea, sued the federal government and lost in cases of discriminatory voter-ID laws and gerrymandered district maps, costing the state well over $1 million in these two cases alone.
Making It Illegal To Introduce Or Implement Any New Federal Gun Laws
Texas lawmakers took their Second Amendment paranoia to an entirely new level in April with the proposal of HB 1076. This law “would ban state agencies from enforcing any new federal gun laws, including background checks,” according to MaddowBlog. “The bill passed the Republican-led House on a largely party-line vote Monday, but legal experts say the attempt to ‘nullify’ possible future federal laws likely wouldn’t pass the scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Texas Republicans have given themselves full authority to ignore federal laws that place any restrictions on gun sales. The proposed law states that the American people have a right granted to them by the U.S. and Texas Constitutions to bear arms, and any law that threatens those rights—even a law instituting simple background checks—will be immediately rejected.
Placing Armed Guards In Texas Schools
While you will not see any new gun laws in Texas that limit gun purchases, Republican legislators won’t think twice about implementing laws that increase the use of guns—even in schools. Gun-loving Texas lawmakers introduced a proposal that would put “school marshals” in every one of the state’s K-12 schools.
According to the Dallas News, “Marshals will be allowed to carry a gun and their identity would only be known to the school’s head administrator and law enforcement. If working in a classroom or around children, the school marshal’s weapon will be locked away but within reach.”
Following the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were killed in a school shooting, Republican lawmakers in Texas decided the best response to this was to put more guns in the hands of citizens—and to put those citizens in our children’s schools.
Defunding Planned Parenthood
Pro-life legislators in Texas who were working to defund Planned Parenthood and close down all locations in the state suffered a minor setback when the case was taken before a Texas judge—but they overcame that obstacle when the judge ruled that the state has the authority to defund the women’s health organization simply because it advocates for abortion rights. State Republicans were even making absurd claims that Planned Parenthood was pushing teenagers to get pregnant, in an attempt to bring in steady business.
Texas lawmakers were also seeking to keep funds from the Women’s Health Program—a government program that provides low-income women with preventive care—away from Planned Parenthood. This issue was also taken to court, where the same judge voted again in their favor, despite the fact that states do not have the authority to block health providers (such as Planned Parenthood) from receiving Medicaid funds.
After a backlash from voters and a report from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that projected a significant increase in births among low-income women, Texas Republicans have quickly worked to reverse their initial actions against Planned Parenthood and women’s health organizations statewide.
Rewarding Companies That Deny Contraception To Employees
Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts supplier chain, recently sued the U.S. government over the health care law that requires they provide their employees coverage for contraceptives. Hobby Lobby president Steve Green cited his Christian values as his reason for standing against this women’s health law.
“When a business is being stressed nearly to the point of bankruptcy by punitive federal taxes, of course the state should give them relief,” Texas State Republican representative Jonathan Stickland stated. “The Obama administration’s mandate and their threats to bury Hobby Lobby with $1.3 million per day in tax penalties aren’t just unconstitutional, they’re unconscionable. It is simply appalling that any business owner should have to choose between violating their religious convictions and watching their business be strangled by the strong arm of Federal mandates and taxation.”
Stickland’s efforts through House Bill 649 to grant tax breaks to Hobby Lobby so they can cover the cost of contraception for employees would actually keep them from paying any state taxes at all. The state of Texas would lose over a million dollars in tax revenue from Hobby Lobby alone.
By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, May 15, 2013
“From Poor Regulation To Terrorism”: Texas’ Wild West Approach To Protecting Public Health And Safety
You might think the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, that leveled the town and killed 14 people would have given pause to those conservative policymakers and boosters in the Lone Star State who proudly boast of a “Texas Way” in which job-creators aren’t hassled by pointy-headed bureaucrats and regulators or income taxes or any of those other new-fangled socialist devices. But no: under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, we learn from a New York Times story today, Texas government and business officials are going out of their way to reiterate that this is a place where the Bidnessman walks tall, and poor living standards and high workplace risks are just the price of keeping job creators fat and happy.
Texas has always prided itself on its free-market posture. It is the only state that does not require companies to contribute to workers’ compensation coverage. It boasts the largest city in the country, Houston, with no zoning laws. It does not have a state fire code, and it prohibits smaller counties from having such codes. Some Texas counties even cite the lack of local fire codes as a reason for companies to move there.
But Texas has also had the nation’s highest number of workplace fatalities — more than 400 annually — for much of the past decade. Fires and explosions at Texas’ more than 1,300 chemical and industrial plants have cost as much in property damage as those in all the other states combined for the five years ending in May 2012. Compared with Illinois, which has the nation’s second-largest number of high-risk sites, more than 950, but tighter fire and safety rules, Texas had more than three times the number of accidents, four times the number of injuries and deaths, and 300 times the property damage costs….
“The Wild West approach to protecting public health and safety is what you get when you give companies too much economic freedom and not enough responsibility and accountability,” said Thomas O. McGarity, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law and an expert on regulation.
So I’d bet today’s news that Texas law enforcement officials have launched a criminal investigation based on reports that federal agents found bomb-making materials in the possession of a paramedic who was on the scene in West is going to generate a lot of excitement in the state’s conservative circles. True, the suspect who was arrested by the ATF isn’t an Arab or even a Chechen, and no one knows at this point if he had anything to do with the explosion, and if so, what his motives might have been.
But Lord a-mercy, wouldn’t it be nice if it was a terrorist and not an industry or lawmakers or regulators we ought to be looking at in connection with this tragedy? The very possibility must be worth toasting in certain circles during today’s Texas happy hours.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 10, 2013
Like all such monuments that former presidents construct to edify the public, the George W. Bush Presidential Center – opened with great ceremony in Texas yesterday — is mounted from its subject’s point of view.
My own invitation to the festivities must have been lost in the mail, so I have yet to view the super-cool interactive exhibitions that reportedly allow visitors to become “the decider” on Iraq and other debacles. But the point seems to be that the 43rd president came under sustained pressure and, if he screwed up to an unprecedented degree, then he doesn’t think you or I would have done any better.
That pointless comparison would no doubt elicit Bush’s trademark smirk. He is said to feel well-satisifed with himself, no matter what the world thinks.
Still the overall tone of the remarks by President Obama, former President Clinton, and others who attended the library dedication was appropriately generous, as befits such a civic occasion in a democracy – even in honor of a man who ascended to office by trampling democratic values. Obama drew attention to the good works that Bush did to combat HIV/AIDS while in office, perhaps his single most important achievement, as did Clinton, who also generously praised Bush’s fitful effort to reform immigration and his work with Clinton in post-earthquake Haiti.
But does that mean Bush may now take for granted the verdict of historians, many of whom consider him America’s worst president? Not so fast, please: There are a few salient questions that Bush (or at least his library) ought to address before the rehabilitation begins.
Everything changed abruptly after September 11, 2001, as the Bush library depicts so dramatically – but what should have changed in the White House before that horrific day? Why did Bush and Cheney ignore the warnings about al Qaeda delivered by Bill Clinton, Richard Clarke, and other authoritative figures when he took office? What were they trying to conceal when the Bush White House first opposed and then tried to weaken the 9/11 Commission?
Why did he and Dick Cheney (barely mentioned in the Bush library, according to NBC’s David Gregory) permit Osama bin Laden and the Taliban’s Mullah Omar to escape from Tora Bora after allied forces invaded Afghanistan? Was it wise to neglect the Afghan conflict while launching an invasion of Iraq?
The library portrays Bush as a dauntless advocate for “freedom” around the world. But did the invasion and occupation of Iraq establish liberty in that country and if so, for whom? Why is the authoritarian Shiite government in Baghdad now among the closest allies of the theocratic dictatorship in Iran? (And wasn’t that a predictable outcome of Bush’s Iraq policies?)
Finally, do the library’s exhibits or archives mention anywhere the hundreds of thousands of people killed, crippled, wounded, and driven from their homes as a consequence of the Iraq invasion? Is any attention devoted to the total financial cost of the war, last estimated to be approaching three trillion dollars?
Those traumas will always haunt the Bush presidency, no matter how many coats of red-blue-and-whitewash are applied in Dallas during the years ahead. And that is why Barbara Bush, his acerbic mother, sounded so wise when she said of the potential presidential candidacy of his brother Jeb, “we’ve had enough Bushes.”
By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, April 26,2013
It’s been a difficult week for so many Americans. As recently as last weekend — which seems like months ago — many were concerned about a missile test from nuclear-armed North Korea. Since then, we’ve seen the bloodshed in Boston, the deadly explosion in Texas, the ricin letters, Midwestern flooding, and a Senate minority ignoring the will of 90% of Americans.
It can be a bit much, and when people are feeling on edge, they need to see their elected officials operating at their very best. The vast majority of officials, known and unknown, have been exemplary.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), however, appears to be falling far short of this standard.
It didn’t take long for a lawmaker to pick up the latest right-wing conspiracy theory about the Boston Marathon bombings. Just hours after controversial terrorism expert Steve Emerson reported [Wednesday] night on Sean Hannity’s show that unnamed “sources” told him the government was quietly deporting the Saudi national who was initially suspected in the bombing, South Carolina GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan grilled Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the rumor at a hearing [Thursday] morning.
Duncan, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, presented the conspiracy theory as fact, chastising Napolitano for deporting a terror suspect (who, in reality, isn’t being deported and isn’t a suspect). Napolitano, annoyed, replied, “I don’t know where that rumor came from.”
As it turns out, it came from Hannity’s show, and was pushed very aggressively by Glenn Beck. Drudge and Erick Erickson talked it up, too. All of them were completely wrong.
And while that’s unfortunate, right-wing media personalities aren’t on the House Homeland Security Committee. Duncan is, and he used his official platform to pester the Secretary of Homeland Security, in a public congressional hearing, with bogus information he presented as fact, all because he couldn’t tell the difference between reality and silly conspiracy theories.
Worse, when Napolitano tried to set the record straight, Duncan pressed forward, saying, “He is being deported.” Except, of course, the person in question is not. When the far-right congressman continued to spout nonsense, Napolitano effectively gave up, saying Duncan’s inquiries are “full of misstatements and misapprehensions,” and “not worthy of an answer.”
Wait, it gets even worse.
Aviva Shen noted a separate exchange from the same hearing.
In a House hearing Thursday morning, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was sidetracked from her testimony on the DHS budget when Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) asked her to respond to an online conspiracy theory about the DHS supposedly stockpiling ammo for an attack on Americans. Duncan argued this was more credible than mere “Internet rumors” because the Drudge Report, a popular conservative aggregator, said it was true.
It’s a difficult time, and Americans need sensible policymakers to keep their heads on straight, serving at the top of their game. In other words, the country needs officials who aren’t acting like Jeff Duncan.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 19, 2013
“Inside The Anti-Obamacare Resistance”: A Facinating Glimpse Into Warped Conservative Ideology And Tactics
The two largest states that have so far failed to join in the Medicaid expansion provided for in the Affordable Care Act are Florida and Texas, where Republicans control the legislature and the governor’s office. Looking more closely at the intra-Republican battle over how and whether rich new federal funds can be captured without “surrendering” to the hated Obama provides a fascinating glimpse into conservative ideology and tactics.
Florida offers the murkiest situation. Gov. Rick Scott, who was beginning to look rather toasty in his 2014 re-election prospects, roiled conservative circles in his own state and nationally by suddenly coming out for Medicaid expansion in exchange for permission from the Obama administration to move Medicaid beneficiaries into private managed care plans. But Scott’s been stopped cold by GOP legislators, who in turn seem split between outright rejectionists centered in the state House and those in the Senate who want an even better “deal” that would utilize the state’s CHiP program, which is a privatized premium support scheme, instead of Medicaid for the expansion.
A conservative Florida reporter presents the views of the rejectionist camp quite vividly:
Tom Lauder, a reporter for Media Trackers Florida, which is closely following the Florida Obamacaid debate, says House Republicans appear likely to stand firm….
“Grassroots conservatives are particularly upset with Gov. Scott using the language of the left in his efforts to build momentum for Obamacaid,” Lauder explained. “When Scott argues, ‘I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care,’ he asserts that the only time people have access to goods and services is when government gives it to them as an entitlement. Scott has enraged his conservative base by making this big-government argument. This isn’t a question of whether government should give Medicaid to the poor and disabled, because the poor and disabled already qualify for Medicaid.”
At issue, Lauder says, is the rejection of Scott’s argument that federal funding will come without cost to state taxpayers.
“Scott’s conservative base also resents Scott talking about federal funding as if it were free money,” Lauder added. “Even if the federal government kept its promise to fund most of the Florida Medicaid expansion, which many conservatives doubt will be the case, Floridians pay federal taxes in addition to state taxes. Federal dollars flowing into Florida are not free dollars, even for Floridians.
In other words: Florida’s “true conservatives” don’t much care what mechanism is being used to expand coverage; they’re just flatly against it.
In Texas, meanwhile, the rejectionist camp is led by Gov. Rick Perry, as Ron Brownstein explains in a National Journal column:
Republican state Rep. John Zerwas, a health care leader who represents a district outside Houston, says legislators are getting an earful at home from providers and local officials worried about the state rejecting the money.
Against that backdrop, Zerwas and some GOP state House colleagues are searching for ways to steer Texas into the expansion. They assume the state will not move more people into the existing Medicaid program. But they consider it misguided to simply reject the federal money and deny insurance coverage to so many people who could obtain it. “We are not going to make this better … without doing something that substantially reforms how we deliver Medicaid,” Zerwas says. However, “we have to have a solution for this group of people.”
Last week, Zerwas introduced legislation that would authorize state health officials to negotiate with the Obama administration to expand while delivering coverage for the newly eligible through new means. He likes the deal the administration is discussing with Arkansas, which could allow the state to use Medicaid expansion dollars to instead buy private insurance for its eligible adults, and he believes that approach could be “sellable to the governor.”
Many here, though, wonder if Perry would take any deal. The widespread belief is that he intends to seek the GOP presidential nomination again in 2016, and accepting more Medicaid money would smudge his image of Alamo-like resistance to Obama.
This is an interesting scenario given recent efforts from the Perry camp (outlined earlier this week in another National Journal piece by Michael Catalini) to depict the swaggering, gaffe-prone Texan as “ahead of his time” in understanding the need for Republican outreach to Latinos. Notes Brownstein:
[I]f state Republicans reject federal money that could insure 1 million or more Hispanics, they could provide Democrats with an unprecedented opportunity to energize those voters—the key to the party’s long-term revival. With rejection, says Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas, Republicans “would dig themselves into an even deeper hole with the Hispanic community.”
It’s unclear how this will all play out in Florida and Texas. But nobody recently has lost any money betting on the hard-core conservative approach, particularly on an issue as incendiary to the Right as Obamacare. That rejecting any sort of coverage expansion beyond that absolutely required by the ACA would mean leaving vast sums of federal money on the table would in fact be considered a badge of honor by a lot of the people involved.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 22, 2013