“Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise
If I don’t stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?”– Roger Waters
The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days every two years. So, each legislative session is supposed to be finite by design. In days of yore, the last few days (which ends at the end of the month) resembled a kind of cattle call. Bills would be passed in as little as 15 seconds to get it in under the wire. Emergency sessions were rare. They constituted well, you know, emergencies.
However, the special session has become the norm the last several cycles. What are the titans of legislative brilliance going to tackle this time around? Maybe they will address the burgeoning power issue that reared its ugly head this winter. Maybe they will look at education funding since they’ve never managed to get in compliance with a Supreme Court ruling about education funding. Maybe they will address infrastructure. If you guessed any of these you would be wrong.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick laid out the agenda for the special session. Two of the bills are laughable on their face and would be hilarious if Patrick and the GOP weren’t deadly serious. The third one is just obscure. We start with the obscure. Patrick wants to bar local governments from using tax dollars to pay for lobbyists. Seems like an idea, but the two big questions are unavoidable. First, is this really a problem? Second, does this really constitute an emergency?
I could do an insane amount of research and answer both of those questions. How much do local governments spend on lobbying? If you want to go down that rabbit hole you are more than free to. Of course, what constitutes an emergency is in the eye of the beholder. I would think that whether we have power and how we are protecting ourselves from a worldwide pandemic might be more pressing, but then again maybe that’s just me.
The other two bills are predictable in their cruelty. Patrick wants to ban transgender kids from playing sports as their preferred identified gender. In other words, we don’t want children that used to be boys playing girl sports. I think if you pinned them down this is the main thrust of it. I don’t think they really care about children that used to be girls playing boy sports.
They’ve been dancing around this topic for years. The first iteration was the bathroom issue. You had boys “pretending to be girls” so they could go in and get a peek while they potentially assault women and girls in the restroom. Again, I don’t think they were worried about girls becoming boys so they could do the same.
The last bill seeks to punish social media companies for censoring political speech. In point of fact, both of these proposals probably deserve their own space so we can analyze their draconian nature. In this space, it is just instructive to point out that these are the things that Patrick and company deem an emergency.
The social media one is particularly onerous in terms of analysis. Free speech has never been completely free and this particularly true when it trickles down to private platforms. The company has a right to police itself to a certain degree. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are often heavy handed in enforcing their terms of service, but their platform is not required for me to exercise my free speech rights. The fact that they are mostly concerned with conservative speech that has been censored for sparking an insurrection is not lost on most of us.
The transgender bill is just cruel on a number of fronts. First, how many kids are we talking about here? Our school has a couple of these kids and neither play sports. The ignorance is palpable. You picture Juwanna Man dominating UIL basketball when not so little Jeremy throws on a dress and becomes Jacqueline. That’s not how any of this works.
It is a lengthy process with hormone treatments and other procedures. The idea of a boy getting cut from the team and then choosing to be a girl so he can play basketball is so stupid it’s offensive. More importantly, it’s also rare. It’s so rare that you don’t need a bill to block it. You can simply allow each student to petition the UIL and allow the UIL to make the call individually.
The cruelty of the transgender bill and the transparency of the social media bill would be enough, but the fact that they require a special session for it tells you what the GOP has become. Then you throw on the unqualified carry and the restrictive voting bills and you get a fuller picture. There is no humanity left.