04 May 2014

AUSTIN, Texas -- Don't worry about a thing! The Texas
Legislature is riding to the rescue. Oh, sure, we still have a $10 billion
deficit, but the House just outlawed gay marriage. At last, we're safe from
the hideous threat of gay marriage, which would have directly ruined our
entire lives.

Meanwhile, the House has:

-- Eliminated 10,810 state jobs;

-- Cut 250,000 poor children off the Children's Health Insurance
Program and about 365,000 from health insurance through Medicaid;

-- Cut prenatal care and delivery for 17,000 pregnant women and
services for 366 women with breast and cervical cancer;

-- Closed one state school for the mentally retarded and one
state mental hospital;

-- (This one's my favorite) Cut $22 million from a criminal
justice program that provides medication and treatment for mentally impaired
offenders who are out on probation or parole. (Isn't that nice? They'll be
wandering around the state without their meds.)

But fear not, as our peerless leaders have passed a 24-hour
waiting period on abortion and included state-provided color photographs of
fetuses for women to study while they wait. So, don't worry about higher
education. (If you don't see the logical connection there, you're not ready
to serve in the Texas Ledge.)

The ugliest fight of the session, which naturally had nothing to
do with the $10 billion deficit, was over tort deform, yet again. As you
recall, the state has already been through two major rounds of tort deform,
and each time we are promised that if we will just give up even more of the
right to sue doctors and corporations that have done us terrible damage,
insurance rates will fall, "frivolous" lawsuits will disappear, our teeth
will be whiter, our breath fresher, and there will be sunshine and joy in
Mudville. Every time, they promise us the world, and every time it doesn't
work -- because we never regulate the insurance companies. So they come back
and do it again.

Since Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the tort-deform business lobby,
paid for the election of the new Republican majority in the House, it
naturally expected value-for-money -- and got it. The debate in the House
went on for days, as nasty, uncivil and intolerant a display as I've seen
since Gus Mutscher was speaker. Speaker Tom Craddick didn't just ignore open
debate and fair play, he made a mockery of them. The D's, led by Jim Dunnam
of Waco and others, tried again and again to amend the hideous bill. They
deserve credit for a valiant and impressive stand -- they fell fighting to
the last man, in the great tradition of Texas liberalism.

During the days of debate in the House, three of the top donors
to Texans for Lawsuit Reform sat in the House gallery along with the
speaker's wife. This section of the gallery was christened "The Owners' Box"
by Democrats, and that's just what it was. The Texas Observer ran the
records on TRL's top donors and found that Dick Weekly, of Weekly Homes, has
been named a defendant in 10 civil suits in Harris County since the start of
2002, four involving deceptive trade allegations. Harlan Crow, son of
construction magnate Trammell Crow, has been named in 16 civil suits since
1986. But the winner is Bob Perry of Perry Homes, sued more than 60 times in
the past 15 years. And now, they're free at last.

Unless, of course, the Senate should come through for us. Tort
deform in the Senate goes to the committee headed by Bill Ratliff, former
lieutenant governor (he would have run for the office last time but Karl
Rove nixed him) and a notoriously civilized Republican. Upon Senate passage
of a budget that, while not as bad as the House version, still takes aim
directly at poor children so under-taxed Texas corporations will not have to
pay a single additional nickel, Ratliff made a moving speech in which he
rebuked his colleagues: "I don't think this is worthy of the great state of

The Senate under Lite Guv David Dewhurst, much to the amazement
of many (and that definitely includes me -- mea culpa, I was wrong about
this guy), is turning out to be a stopper for the most horrible impulses of
both the House and the governor. It's always dicey when a known liberal such
as myself praises a Texas Republican -- I'm always afraid it will be used
against them in the next primary. As far as I know, Dewhurst does not have a
liberal bone in his body. What he has, unlike Craddick, is respect for the

You'll be happy to know that Bill Zedler, R-Tarrant, has
introduced a bill concerning pubic hair (about which I cannot say more,
since the rest of the bill is totally unprintable). Zedler's against pubic
hair. We still have a $10 billion deficit. I love living under Republican

To find out more about Molly Ivins and read features by other
Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web
page at www.creators.com.