Note to legislators: Your work is done

by Richard Greene, special to the Fort Worth Star Telegram—

You may have heard that some legislators in Austin are wearing “20 for 20” buttons.

Others are sporting ones that say “Sunset and Sine Die.”

The first are on the lapels of those who support the passage of all 20 of the measures on Gov. Greg Abbott’s list that he has called the special session to achieve.

The second identifies what those members believe is all that needs to be done — resolve the unfinished business of renewing the work of a few state agencies left over from the regular session.

Sine Die essentially means a quick end to the special session allowing the legislators to go home.

If I could get my hands on any of those second ones, I would happily wear it wherever I go.

That’s because there are significant concerns about the governor’s list and what he wants achieved in the special session now underway in the state house.

Most of those items pose the risk of the whole affair evolving way beyond just the simple descriptions of the 19 other things on his agenda.

In fact, in just the opening days of the session, a couple hundred bills and resolutions had been filed. And there are more coming.

Of special concern are the initiatives that would rip the control of cities from the hands of their citizenry and hand it over to the state.

News reports across the state cite quotes from members in the Senate and the House that confirm their beliefs that the state, in its infinite wisdom, should supplant the decision-making authority of local governments.

It doesn’t seem to matter to them that mayors, city council and school board members all across Texas have pleaded with them not to deny those basic precepts of self-government to the people they represent.

Since those initiatives are rather stealth masquerading under appealing titles such as “tax reform” it takes a while to realize the threat to home rule authorities that have served us well throughout history.

But, there’s no missing the damage to the state’s economy and the toll it would take on the entertainment and sports industry if any sort of “bathroom bill” becomes law.

The captains of industry, tourism directors, and chambers of commerce executives among many others have tried to get the authors of this very bad idea to understand its nothing more than an unneeded solution looking for a nonexistent problem.

The consequences of such a law are potentially catastrophic.

Readers have sometimes asked me if I had anything supportive to say about Democrats. Now seems the time for me to affirmatively answer that question.

Democrat Chris Turner, who represents parts of Grand Prairie and Arlington and chairs the House Democratic Caucus, was quoted in a news conference characterizing many of the current agenda items as “dangerous,” “divisive” or “nonissues.”

He’s right on all counts.

Turner’s counterpart in the upper chamber, El Paso Democrat Jose Rodriguez, standing next to him, wisely suggested, “Let’s spend our time on measures that actually matter to people, that move people’s lives forward.”

Then came the voice of Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, offering the idea of a constitutional amendment letting the people of Texas decide how much of the state’s budget should be dedicated to public education.

Houston Democratic Rep. Shawn Thierry wants to address high rates of maternal mortality and suggested such an effort was where “we can all find common ground.”

The problem for such ideas worthy of consideration is that their Republican colleagues control the Legislature.

I usually think that is a good thing.

But for the next few days at least, hand me one of those buttons that say it’s time to turn out the Capitol lights and go home.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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