The Texas Lege Dredge 2013

Now that the Special Session is approaching a feverish end, it’s time to share some thoughts about the 2013 Texas Legislature. I haven’t written much about the Lege on this blog, choosing instead to continue focus on local politics and select national issues for two reasons. The first being excellent coverage from fellow bloggers Texpatriate and Off the Kuff… They have monitored the many twists and turns with careful accuracy, and I highly suggest consulting their work. Secondly, as a frustrated Liberal, I just didn’t have high hopes for this legislative session. I expected some Republican legislators to waste the critical time and money of Texas taxpayers on things like Anti- women’s rights bills, which they did, and for them to continue to cripple our state’s vital educational resources, which they did.

Now don’t get me wrong… I’m very proud of the hard work of Texas Democrats like Senators Wendy Davis and Sylvia Garcia. They fought tooth-and nail to restore most of the massive cuts made to Texas schools in 2011. But across the state schools remain severely under-funded, especially when you consider that the state has roughly 140,000 MORE children than it did two years ago. That means Texas educators are still faced with an array of impossible choices. You’d think for all the boasting Republicans do nation-wide about the so-called “Texas Miracle” they’d want to invest in our children’s future. And you’d be wrong.

The other event I expected from this years session? For Governor Perry to kill what little bi-partisan cooperation occurred in a massive slew of vetoes. And that’s exactly what he did. Particularly hurtful to Senate Democrats was the Governor’s veto of the Fair Pay Act… a bill meant to tweak Texas laws to be more in tune with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Houston Chronicle reported the following reactions to Perry’s veto…

Davis, along with Sen. Kirk Watson, blasted Perry on Friday in a news conference, likening the veto and his addition of abortion issues to the special session call as a “concerted effort to attack and erode women’s rights and quality of rights.”

“Once again the governor has made women’s health and women’s rights a target in an effort to bolster his own political standing,” Davis said.

Watson added: “These are political decisions that are part of a political war. Women are, at best, the collateral damage in that war.”

No wonder the state’s nickname is Perry-stan.

And of course, no summation of Texas political events would be complete without mention of the deplorable Texas Redistricting drama. After November 2011, when federal judges concluded that the GOP-dominated legislature’s new redistricting maps discriminated against African American and Hispanic voters, three separate interim maps were drawn by a San Antonio federal court in 2012. Though a mild improvement over the lege, the federal maps are still drawn by people that have no input or understanding of the majority of Texas communities they’ve been asked to affect. It’s like you living in the same place for decades, and knowing how to get to the bank, but one day you decide to map it in Apple maps just to laugh at how illogical the computer’s map is. If the GOP can’t have their fantasy map, they’d much rather stick to the highly unfair status quo. So it appears that the kink-ridden, “Apple maps.0” version of Texas Redistricting will be made permanent.

As Rice University political scholar Mark P. Jones reminds us, it could’ve been worse. The Legislature was no where near as tragic as they were in 2011’s Tea-Party tantrum. And sure some of the state’s Democrats actually managed to get a few things done. But comparing the 2011 and 2013 sessions is like comparing Hurricane devastation to Tornado devastation… if it’s your particular house lying in a pile of rubble, you’re still the one that’s out of luck. Texas Democrats can breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t as bad, but if they ever want to put a true end to Perry-stan, it’s time to plan for 2014 and 2015 right now. Or else, the state is at risk to have another 2011… perhaps worse.