Okay, so the 79th Texas Legislature didn’t accomplish anything in their two special sessions this summer, but there were plenty of bills passed in the regular session which will take effect this Thursday.
For example, Texans can now carry handguns in their vehicles, as long as they are “traveling”. Actually, it’s always been legal, but the law has been clarified to state that one is “presumed to be traveling” if in a private vehicle, not engaged in a criminal activity (other than minor traffic violations), and is not a member of a criminal gang.
There’s still a lot of gray area here, folks, and law enforcement ain’t gonna be loose in their interpretation
. Although this legislation was backed by both the NRA and the ACLU, it was opposed by virtually all law enforcement organizations, and for good reason. The Harris County District Attorney’s office alone handled about 5000 weapons cases last year, and there are currently more than 237,000 Texans that hold a concealed handgun permit. And this bill was designed to allow those unable to get a permit to carry a weapon in their car.
I can see the scenario now. “I was
traveling, officer. Didn’t you see my wheels turning?” And the reply, “Well they’re not turning now, hotshot, so you ain’t traveling no more. Let me see your carry permit”. “I don’t have one, officer, I defaulted on my student loan." "You have the right to remain silent…”. And the ending depends on whether the cop already has his gun drawn or not. Nice society we live in, eh?
Also on the books is a law that will prohibit doctors from performing an abortion on an unmarried female under 18 without parental consent (it used to be just parental notification), or during the third trimester (with exceptions).
An interesting side effect of this legislation is that any doctor who violates this law – either by stealth or clerical error – could face the death penalty
. According to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, the fetal protection law enacted in 2003 which defines an embryo or fetus as an “individual”, combined with the capital murder law which covers the death of a child under 6 years old, would make violators liable for capital murder charges, which in Texas usually means the death penalty.
The bill’s sponsors and supporters are backpedaling furiously.
Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, who pushed the parental consent measure, said in a prepared statement that her legislation was strictly limited to giving parents the right to consent when a minor is considering an abortion and to preventing late-term abortions.
"There were no discussions about the death penalty during our legislative discussions of this issue," Nelson said.
Rep. Ray Allen, R-Grand Prairie, who sponsored the 2003 bill defining an embryo or fetus as an "individual," said the law may need clearing up in a future legislative session.
"I don't see the Legislature wanting to charge doctors with capital murder based on a technical legal issue over whether parental consent was properly documented," Allen said.
Other items of interest include:
- On the alcohol front House Bill 168 allows certain venues to begin selling alcoholic beverages before noon on Sunday at festivals, concerts, etc., while House Bill 2868 holds adults responsible for damage resulting from allowing alcohol to minors.
- And speaking of minors, HB 383 allows parents and guardians to spank their kids, legalizing corporal punishment in the home and greatly reducing the ranks of domestic criminals. Now if the just legalized marijuana, crime rates would go way down.
- Also on the kid front, HB 2930 sets the minimum age to have a paper route all by yourself to 11 years old, while HB 183 requires children under the age of 5 years and less than 36” in height be secured in a child safety seat while in a moving vehicle.
- Other vehicle related laws include regulation of drivers idling their trucks while in the sleeper berth in HB 1540 , and HB 1584 which requires that vehicle storage lots accept payments other than cash to release towed vehicle. Anyone who’s had to bail their car out of one of these lots on a Sunday morning in the pouring rain will appreciate this one. Especially after first trying to remember where they parked, realizing it’d been towed, and then stalking ATMs to get enough cash to free the stupid thing.
- And speaking of stupid things, I guess Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff’s troubles are starting to make some changes in the system. HB 1508 addresses reporting expenditures by lobbyists, HB 2202 prohibits conflicts of interest by lobbyists, and HB 1664 requires reporting of contributions and expenditures of political committees.
The above referenced legislation is just a sampling of the over 700 new and improved laws on the books in Texas as of September 1. If you ever have trouble sleeping, I recommend you peruse the list. There are just a few more I’d like to point out though – some that really point out the red-statedness that we deal with here in Texas on a regular basis.
The Oxymoronic House HB 137 not only dictates that all “Welcome to Texas” signs (at all state and national border crossings) include the phrase “Proud to be the home of President George W. Bush”, but also the anti-thesis “Drive Friendly – the Texas way”.
There are also two bills, HB 540 and HB 55 that name two separate highways as “The Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway”, one in Dallas (IH-20) and one in Houston (US-290). Now I don’t want to get on a rant here, but I already have to deal with the George (aitch dubya) Bush Airport and now we’ve named a stretch of highway (on the blue side of town, no less) after a retired actor-turned politician from California who got into the game as a liberal but became as right-wing as they come, leading to the mudslide we’re currently experiencing because of his VPs ineptness and his subsequent offspring’s ignorance, ego and greed.
I don’t see why they call themselves “conservatives” anyway. Doesn’t that mean “one who conserves”? They don’t conserve energy. They don’t conserve the environment. They don’t conserve our natural resources. They shouldn’t be called “conservatives”, they should be called “consumatives”. The only one’s who are conserving are those that can’t afford to consume. We go without a vacation because of the price of gas, and they keep filling up their stretch Hummers to drive two blocks to the country club.
But I digress. The point is this: the times, they are a' changin'. The ground beneath us is rapidly shifting to the right. And, similar to the handgun bill, in the trembling someone's gonna shoot themselves in the foot (or somewhere more fatal). And we're liable to take a whole lot of other people, and quite possibly the planet, with us.
It doesn't have to be that way. We can take this country back and once again steer our society towards equal rights and opportunities for all. We can stop supporting the campaigns of religious fanatics and corporate lawmakers.
All it takes is a committment to vote en masse in 2006 and 2008, and make an effort to understand the issues and consequences of each item on the ballot. Information is the downfall of rhetoric and spin.
Be informed. Be active. Only then can we truly be proud to be an American.