“Maybe we pulled some wrong bullets out of the scabbard,” State Rep. Wayne Christian told members of the Allied Communities of Tarrant and other interfaith groups.
The occasion was a recent Texas House committee hearing on a packet of immigration bills. And while the Republican legislator’s metaphor may have been mixed more thoroughly than the pharmaceutical cocktail in Anna Nicole’s bloodstream, his meaning was clear: Uh, sorry folks, but we screwed up. Christian had signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill to deny citizenship rights and benefits to Texas-born children of undocumented immigrants and was admitting, belatedly, that the proposal, as he said, “isn’t gonna work.” (One of his co-sponsors was none other than Bill Zedler, founder of Decency in Arlington and a guy who fights Hooters as if they were staffed by al Qaeda terrorists, albeit very curvaceous ones with names like Tiffany.)
The bill, initially filed by Tyler Republican Leo Berman as part of a mostly nasty set of anti-immigrant legislation, would have denied benefits such as public school education, college education, professional licenses, pensions, and healthcare to such children. And leaders of ACT, along with members of other grassroots groups from across the state, had come to Austin to fight it. (When a Democratic rep from Dallas filed a bill to impose sanctions on employers who hire illegal workers, even the state’s largest business lobby group had joined the opposition.)
Fortunately, cooler heads than Berman’s prevailed. Rep. David Swinford of Amarillo had asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to review the bills. Most of them, the AG said, would violate the Texas or U.S. Constitution or both. So Swinford, chair of the State Affairs committee, said the bills would not be brought to a vote. He told reporters that allowing such legislation out of committee would be a waste of taxpayer money – not to mention embroiling the capitol in a hugely divisive debate over measures that really aren’t in the state’s purview to begin with.
So now, the Lege can get back to its previously scheduled program of feuding with a governor whose recent ideas have been about as bad as the no-citizenship bill and failing to truly fix the school funding problem. But hey, at least the politicos are actually starting to think about energy policy measures that would reduce Texas’ pollution, gas-guzzling, and greenhouse gas emissions, ditching school vouchers (again), and adding some kids back to the state health insurance rolls.
As the late House Speaker Billy Clayton once said, let’s give ’em a rising handshake.
Cool heads, bipartisanship, human feeling in the Texas Legislature – who said snow in April was the only miracle we’d seen in these parts recently?