Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Editorial: No one safe when special session starts

The Texas Legislature will be going back to work next month after Gov. Greg Abbott this week called for a special session so that lawmakers can tackle a host of issues that would really best be left alone.

Your editor agrees with the governor on one point. He said that a special session was entirely avoidable, and it was. But like happens too often, some self-important politicians got caught up in pursuit of an agenda. The result is that real issues get pushed aside and a circus takes over.

The driving, burning issues of the day that are so important to our state’s political leaders are these: local property taxes and bathrooms.  Some of them are also still focused on abortion.

Roger Estlack, Editor

Local property taxes is an issue that Austin loves to meddle in. Despite touting themselves as champions of “local control” for decades, Republicans are more and more showing themselves to only be in favor of local control as long as it doesn’t interfere with their world view.

For one state senator, Paul Bettencourt, that world view is limited to the county and area in which he lives. Folks down there have a problem with rising property values and rising tax rates. Bettencourt and his buddy Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are really hot and bothered to fix a few people’s problems by hamstringing local governments across the state and their ability to raise revenue.

Texas already has provisions to control rising property tax values, and the ultimate solution is the ballot box. If you truly believe that tax rates are out of control, and enough of your fellow taxpayers agree with you, elect someone else to run your county or city. Bettencourt, however, prefers the ham-fisted approach and cares nothing about how his proposals will impact economically disadvantaged counties like Donley County.

A full treatise on the foolishness and potentially damaging impact of “property tax reform” is a subject that would require its own column. Suffice it to say that this issue is not one critically important to our part of the state; but if it passes, it will potentially put local boards in quite a bind.

Another burning issue of the day are bathrooms. Apparently, there is a crisis about who’s peeing where. This was not something that was even imagined until a year or two ago, and now it has some people’s drawers in a real bind.

In short, Gov. Abbott is really intent on making sure that the folks using the women’s room are genetically female as listed on their birth certificate, and likewise legal “men” should use the men’s room.

The question becomes, who’s going to enforce this? Are we all supposed to carry our birth certificates with us just in case we need to take a leak in a public rest room? Will we have to show our papers to some toilet cop or potty supervisor?

The entire issue is beyond ridiculous and it is an embarrassment that our state legislators are going to have to debate this topic and likely put a law on the books about it.

Abbott says the issue is one of safety for the children of Texas. He apparently thinks that transgender people are all pedophiles. But as a father, I don’t worry about cross-dressers. I worry about real predators – who I think dress pretty normal. In fact, who lets their small children use a public rest room without proper supervision or being nearby?

If Abbott wants to do something to protect children, he should focus on making the laws tougher on people who actually hurt children instead of bringing up a debate that makes the state look like a laughing stock.

Forget about checking birth certificates for going to the bathroom. Let’s check intelligence before serving for public office. Let’s check on caring about what’s best for Texas instead of rabidly pursuing agendas.

The children of Texas – and the grown-ups, too – are generally at far greater risk when the Legislature is in session than from any man in drag using the women’s room. If we really want to keep our society safe, we need to do our damnedest to keep our lawmakers limited to their usual sessions once every two years and keep them out of having special sessions. It’s just too risky to let them run loose like this.

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