Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 14: But It's An Emergency!

Today is the 14th day of the 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature. The House and Senate will both reconvene at 1:30. The Senate is expected to begin debate on voter suppression legislation today. The House will likely adopt its rules either today or tomorrow.

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You know those audio recordings of 911 calls that go viral every few months? The ones where someone calls because McDonalds is out of McNuggets, or because they need a ride to the liquor store and are too drunk to drive? Gov. Rick Perry is pulling the legislative equivalent of that.

The Governor has the power to declare emergency items that the legislature must take up more quickly than other legislative priorities. The intention of giving the governor that power is to allow the state to respond quickly to emergent issues - things like natural disasters or war breaking out. Gov. Petty has decided that he instead wants to use his gubernatorial 911 line to push partisan GOP priorities to the front of the line.

So far the Governor's list of "emergencies" includes:
  • Eminent domain reform
  • Forcing municipal law enforcement to arrest undocumented immigrants
  • Balancing the federal budget
  • Voter suppression legislation requiring photo identification at the polls
  • Requiring women considering termination of a pregnancy to view sonograms of the fetus
Each and every one is a long-standing and controversial issue, but are any of them an emergency? Texas is facing a 25 billion dollar state budget shortfall and the Governor wants the legislature to focus on the federal budget? We have the highest rate of uninsured residents among the 50 states, but the governor wants us to spend money to show pregnant women sonograms? (Not the ones who plan to have a baby mind you (they have to pay for their own prenatal care), just the ones who don't want to be pregnant.)

Perry keeps calling 911 to complain about the things he wants-right-now, as, I'm sure, the McDonalds lady who called about the McNuggets wanted-them-right-now, but neither are emergencies.

These are issues most people have strong opinions about. Some of us really want to see Perry's priorities go into effect, some of us don't, but by placing them at the front of the legislative line the Governor has delaying action on every other issue before the legislature, including things like efforts to curb bullying, ending insurance and job discrimination, and removing "homosexual conduct" from the criminal code.

Perry needs to learn that sometimes you can't get McNuggets when you want them, and stop wasting the 911 operator's time.

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