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
At abortion clinics, the presence of awnings, the width of doorways and the dimensions of janitorial closets have little to do with the health of patients. But by requiring that Virginia’s 20 abortion clinics conform to strict licensing standards designed for new hospitals, the state has ensured that many or most of them will be driven out of business in the coming months.
Just days after the state Board of Health approved the regulations this month, under pressure from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), they claimed their first victim. Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk, which for 40 years had provided reproductive health services, including abortions, closed last weekend.
Hillcrest was partly a victim of its own success in providing women with ready access to birth control. Like most other clinics around the state, it saw demand for abortions dwindle as more women took advantage of options to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Still, even after years of protests, arson, a pipe bombing and an attack by a man wielding a semiautomatic weapon, Hillcrest performed more than 1,600 abortions last year, about 7 percent of the state total. The principal reason it closed its doors was that complying with the regulations would have saddled it with $500,000 in renovations — an unaffordable expense.
That’s precisely what Mr. Cuccinelli and other advocates of the policy intended. According to a survey by the state Health Department, just one of the 19 surviving clinics meets the requirements. Fifteen of the remaining facilities estimated their combined costs of compliance at $14.5 million.
Some of the clinics, including those operated by Planned Parenthood, which has a national fundraising network, will survive. Many others, which are run as small businesses, probably will not. Most have no means to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to widen corridors, install state-of-the-art surgical sinks and expand parking lots.
What’s more, the upgrades they face are arbitrary manifestations of the state’s overweening power. Other types of walk-in clinics, including those that perform oral and cosmetic surgery, are unaffected by the regulations.
As Dr. David Peters, owner of the Tidewater Women’s Health Center in Norfolk, told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper: “I can do plastic surgery. I can stick needles in babies’ lungs. I can put tubes up penises and into bladders and do all sorts of crazy stuff in my office with no regulations whatsoever. No government supervision. But for an abortion . . .it just becomes nonsensical.”
The Board of Health had sought to exempt existing abortion clinics from the regulations, which were never intended for ambulatory clinics. But board members caved when Mr. Cuccinelli, the most political attorney general in Virginia’s history, threatened to withhold the state’s legal help if they were sued.
Regulation is essential for all health services. But there is no evidence that unsanitary conditions or slapdash procedures are common at abortion clinics in Virginia nor that women who seek services from them are at risk. The state’s assault on women’s reproductive rights is an ideological crusade masquerading as concern for public health.
By: The Editorial Board, The Washington Post, April 26, 2013
Since Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus introduced the “Growth and Opportunity Project” in mid-March, the party has proven over and over and over again that it just isn’t ready to change.
The latest example of the GOP being intellectually and politically stuck in the 2012 presidential primaries comes courtesy of one of the stars of those disastrous contests: former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. According to Santorum, the Republican Party’s path to revitalization is not a new round of engagement with women, young voters, and other groups that delivered an electoral landslide to President Barack Obama in November. No, Santorum has a different plan for saving the GOP: defunding Planned Parenthood.
The Raw Story reports that Santorum presented his three-point plan to save the party in a fundraising email over the weekend: mobilizing “pro-family conservatives,” “refuting the lies and half-truths that our detractors in the GOP are spreading about us,” and attacking the women’s’ health care provider.
“[W]e are going to push Republican congressional leaders to defund the monstrosity that is Planned Parenthood,” Santorum wrote. “Too many in the GOP want to ignore the millions of innocent lives that have been extinguished by this vile organization. Defunding Planned Parenthood is a winning issue. The polls prove it.”
In reality, polls prove the exact opposite — Americans oppose cutting the organization’s budget, and there’s reason to believe that Mitt Romney’s insistence on attacking Planned Parenthood cost him dearly on election night — but it comes as no surprise that Santorum, who lost his last general election by 17 points, would ignore the numbers.
But Santorum’s plan could signal a serious problem for the Republican Party. Despite the RNC’s effort to moderate the GOP’s tone with an eye towards the 2016 election, it’s clear that extreme right-wing rhetoric will still play a major role as the party settles on a nominee. In fact, Santorum himself may be the messenger once again.
All of the rebranding efforts in the world — even the NRCC’s nifty new website, which features a BuzzFeed-style “13 Animals That Are Really Bummed About Obamacare” listicle (but almost no mention of the word “Republican”) — won’t make a difference as long as the party is represented by ambassadors like Rick Santorum.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, April 8, 2013
We talked a couple of weeks ago about Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) annoying his colleagues by objecting to a routine Senate resolution commemorating Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. It had already been easily endorsed by House Republicans, but the far-right Texan was “unhappy with a clause in the resolution” — perhaps the one about “expanding access to medical treatment” for those affected with multiple sclerosis? — holding up its passage.
And then it happened again.
[In March], a deeply noncontroversial Senate resolution commemorating International Women’s Day had to be taken back and edited because someone objected to a paragraph — which had been in an almost identical version passed in the last Congress — stating that women in developing countries “are disproportionately affected by changes in climate because of their need to secure water, food and fuel for their livelihood.”
You may be wondering who the objecting senator was. Normally, these things are supposed to be kind of confidential, but in this case the lawmaker in question is proud to let you know that he is — yes! — Ted Cruz of Texas.
“A provision expressing the Senate’s views on such a controversial topic as ‘climate change’ has no place in a supposedly noncontroversial resolution requiring consent of all 100 U.S. senators,” a Cruz spokesman said.
Keep in mind, the measure didn’t talk about the causes of the climate crisis; it simply acknowledged that many women in the developing world are affected by the crisis. The same resolution was approved in the last Congress without incident, and there were plenty of right-wing climate deniers in that Congress, too.
But for Cruz, it was a bridge too far.
Three months into this guy’s Senate career, he’s already well positioned to be the least-liked lawmaker in the chamber, for reasons that have nothing to do with party. That Cruz seems to revel in his ability to annoy those around him says something interesting about his character and personality.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 2, 2013
Why should women vote for a party that’s actively working against their needs and interests?
On Monday, the GOP released a report detailing its “Growth and Opportunity Project,” a new initiative that explores reasons for the party’s November defeat and posits strategies for winning future elections. If it wasn’t evident before, it is now abundantly clear that the Republican establishment officially attributes its November loss to a failure in style, not substance. The 100-page report details the party’s inability to effectively communicate its policies and priorities to women, immigrants, young people, and people of color. It largely ignores the possibility that what motivated the majority of American voters, and in particular women, to give President Obama a second term was an aversion to the GOP’s outdated vision for the nation.
Acknowledging that Obama won the single women’s vote by a “whopping 36 percent,” the report’s authors suggest ways the party can be more inclusive of this critical voting bloc: Making a better effort to listen to female voters; fighting against the Democratic rhetoric against the “so-called War on Women”; doing a better job communicating the GOP’s policies and employing female spokespeople to do it; and using Women’s History Month to “remind voters of the Republican’s Party historical role in advancing the women’s rights movement.”
I’m glad they specified “historical” role in advancing the women’s rights movement, given that their current role seems squarely focused on rolling back women’s rights. It’s encouraging that GOP strategists in Washington want to spend more time listening to women voters, but there is no indication that Republican lawmakers will respond to that feedback. As Rachel Maddow said on her program this week, while Beltway leaders are “preaching about how to appear more reasonable to the womenfolk among us,” Republican governance has become a competition – a race – “to see who can get the most extreme the fastest.”
And a race it is.
This week Andrew Jenkins of RH Reality Check reported on some of the most recent Republican efforts to chip away at women’s access to care:
Arkansas just passed a bill banning abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, while South Dakota just passed a bill to expand its 72-hour waiting period, which was already one of the longest in the country, in a state with only one abortion clinic. The North Dakota Senate just approved a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the most restrictive in the country. And in Kansas, a state House committee just passed a 70-page bill that defines life at fertilization and requires that physicians lie to their patients.
That’s not all.
Republicans in Texas remain hard at work leading national efforts in steamrolling access to women’s health care. Previous budget cuts and funding restrictions have already closed more than 50 clinics and are making it more difficult, if not impossible, for nearly 200,000 women to access care. Last week the Texas Senate Education Committee moved a bill forward that would ban Planned Parenthood and other organizations from providing sexuality education in schools, and the governor recently promised to advance a 20-week abortion ban.
In Wisconsin, four Planned Parenthood clinics closed as a result of a GOP-led ban that prevents the organization and other clinics from receiving state funds. In Oklahoma, a major Planned Parenthood facility closed after the state’s department of health cut off funding through the WIC program, forcing low-income women to go elsewhere to obtain vouchers for themselves and their children. Last month, Republicans in Michigan introduced a bill that would require women to get a vaginal ultrasound at least two hours before obtaining an abortion.
Mississippi is about to close its only abortion clinic thanks to a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital (and local hospitals’ refusal to grant those privileges) – a move the Republican governor has applauded as being the first step in ending abortion in that state. Earlier this year, a Republican (female!) representative in New Mexico proposed legislation that would have allowed for women who terminated pregnancies resulting from rape to be charged with a felony for tampering with evidence. (She promptly rescinded and then proposed a new bill that would instead charge abortion providers with facilitating the destruction of evidence.)
The new GOP report also suggested that Republicans “talk about people and families, not just numbers and statistics.” In releasing his 2014 budget proposal last week, Paul Ryan certainly provided an interesting perspective into how the GOP proposes taking care of women and families. According to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Ryan budget includes significant reductions for “childcare and Head Start, K-12 education and Pell grants, job training, civil rights enforcement, women’s preventive health care, domestic violence prevention and more.” It would dismantle Medicaid, Medicare, and the food stamp program. It would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), denying nearly 15 million women access to affordable health insurance and Medicaid and forcing women to pay more for prescription drugs, including family planning. As NWLC pointed out, repealing the ACA would “allow insurance companies to continue charging women higher premiums than men, deny coverage to women with so-called pre-existing conditions like domestic violence, and refuse to cover maternity care.”
The ACA is certainly providing fertile ground for GOP lawmakers to show how much they care about women. Twenty states now restrict abortion coverage in health insurance plans that will be offered through the insurance exchanges, and 18 states restrict abortion coverage in insurance plans for public employees. Nearly all of those states are Republican-led. Additionally, 14 Republican governors have reported they will not participate in the Medicaid expansion programs that are a critical part of the ACA, denying access to a broad range of health services to millions of women.
On top of all this, 22 Republican senators and 138 Republican members of the House voted last month against the Violence Against Women Act, a critical piece of legislation that provides assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence.
In their report, the GOP strategists recommended developing training programs in messaging, communications, and recruiting that address the best ways to communicate with women. “Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them,” they state. Given the above-mentioned pieces of legislation, the GOP will be hard-pressed to convince women the party is fighting for them. It’s patronizing to think that using different language, new messaging, and female spokespersons will convince women to support a party that is so clearly working against their best interests. Women are smart enough to know that a party that calls itself home to lawmakers relentlessly fighting to chip away at family planning and abortion access, food stamps, affordable health care, education, civil rights, and a social safety net providing tenuous stability to millions of marginalized individuals is not a party committed to truly understanding or addressing their priorities.
Maybe next year the GOP will make a more earnest attempt at celebrating Women’s History Month. Although, by that time, their state leaders might have alienated half the women in the country, and it will be too late.
By: Andrea Flynn, Fellow, The Roosevelt Institute; The National Memo, March 20, 2013