Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Texans Less Embarrassed in 2009

Twenty million Texans breathed a sigh of relief on June 2, when the state legislature ended its five-month session. It was probably the least shameful of their biannual meetings in more than a decade!

They even accomplished a few things:

* They refused to confirm the Governor’s proposed Chairman of the State Board of Education. He doesn’t believe in the science of evolution.

* Improved compensation for the many innocents now being released from Texas prisons on DNA evidence

* For a change, they didn’t pass every right-wing crazy notion proposed, including pre-abortion sonograms, more guns on campus, more guns at work, and
"Choose Life" state vanity auto license plates

* The anti-democratic forces fixated on limiting voting rights with a “Voter ID” bill lost out, although they tried. Lord knows they tried. The Governor may still call a special session for it

* They gave every Texas teacher a one-time bonus, minimum $800

* They didn’t re-elect the former all-powerful iron-fisted dictatorial Speaker of the House, Tom Craddick

* To a limited extent, they let some Texas schoolchildren escape the deathly grasp of compulsory standardized testing

* They limited the ability of private businesses to exploit prison labor

On the other hand:

* They gave a green light to the insurance companies raping the population with the highest rates in the United States

* They refused to improve the state’s disastrous workers’ comp laws

* In the face of the economic crisis and overwhelming budget deficits, they issued a tax cut to certain businesses, and specifically to the Chambers of Commerce

* They refused to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program to tens of thousands of Texas children. The Governor was threatening to veto it anyway.

* They failed to adjust the state’s extremely backward unemployment compensation rules in order to get $555 in federal stimulus money. The fund is going broke.

In general, the State Legislature majority wasted its time trying to force the “Voter ID” bill, which would deter seniors and disabled Texans from voting, past a growing minority of Democrats. The Governor and others are setting the stage for next year’s tiny Republican primary, because they anticipate an election in which only the craziest, most backward, and most anti-worker candidates can win.

From the point of view of those who have watched the disaster of Texas politics since George W. Bush was first elected governor, the 2009 session could be characterized as “less unbearable!”

--Jim Lane

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