Copyright © 1998 Henrietta W. Hay
The Lege Has Gone Home
May 22, 1998
We can all relax again. The Lege has gone home, if I may borrow Molly
Ivins' word for Legislature. Lege watching is a special hobby of
mine. I learned it from Molly, who reports on the activities
in Texas with much glee and acerbic wit.
According to her, "The Legislature is, among other things, the finest
free entertainment in Texas. Better than the zoo. Better than the
circus." Our bunch in Denver doesn't put on the show the Texas branch
of state government does, but it has its moments.
Although it didn't take place on the House floor, I did like the story
of Rep. Lewis Entz of Hooper. He was hunting down coyotes by plane and
accidentally shot off his plane's propeller with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Not a bad argument for gun control.
And the story of Sen. Ben Alexander of Montrose and a high school
honor student kept the western slope amused for weeks. The kid wrote a
rambling essay on how our freedoms are being been taken away and we
need to start complaining. The Senator took exception. Of course
he should not have called the kid "a worthless piece of ____." But
like any good legislator, he seemed more concerned with the content than
the writing style.
Back in 1994 I started choosing the annual Most Ridiculous Piece of
Legislation Award. This was a tough year. The session was really
pretty dull. But I do have to wonder about spending 120 days and a lot
of my money arguing about a football stadium - and finally kicking it to
the voters. Sounds like a Homeowners' Association. So I will break
new ground and make the Stadium bill the first two-time winner. (It won
first in 1994 and they have been talking about it ever since).
Theoretically it involves only the six metropolitan counties, but our
own Tillie Bishop says that is really a statewide issue. "I have yet to
come over here when my wife didn't shop, didn't pay for that tax." Go
Several good bills did get passed. Funding for the Children's Basic
Health Care plan was increased to cover 50,000 kids not covered by
Medicaid, or whose parents don't have health insurance. And the Lege
now requires that hospitals and insurance companies provide for a
hospital stay of at least 48 hours for mothers after childbirth. I'll
bet the women all voted for it.
On social issues the Lege was divided. To their credit they defeated
the parental notification bill, which would have required that parents
be notified before minors can have legal abortions. And the bill to
let school boards mandate a "moment of silent reflection" for students
was defeated. Lawmakers both for and against school prayer joined
together, which must have amazed them all.
On the other hand, for the third year in a row on strict party lines,
Republicans killed a bill which would make female genital mutilation
illegal. The current law does not specify this vicious practice as
child abuse, and those who are entrenched in the cultures which practice
it do not consider it to be abuse and go right on doing it.
I think this year we should give hazard pay to our legislators who had
to fight snow and landslides, and really bad plane service getting back
and forth to work.
A few quotes bear recording. Senate Minority Leader Mike Feely,
answering a question about the legality of the tax-study bill: "Let me
answer the question directly: Is it OK? I don't know."
Rep. Steve Tool: "If you want to get involved in issues, run for
Rep. Mary Ellen Epps to Rep. Mark Paschall, who had been discussing air
quality standards: "Would you please speak in language I could
Sen. Dave Wattenberg certainly knew his mind when voting for the Bronco
stadium bill. "Damn right aye."
The Lege discovered the truth of the old adage that says to be careful
what you wish for. You may get it. Term limits were established in the
U. S. constitution 200 years ago. The method was called an election.
But we had to go mess with it, and now Tillie Bishop has lost his job.
After 28 years in the Lege, Tillie is job hunting. He has served us
well. Happy future, Tillie.