Texas Lege Preview: These Bills Deserve to Die

Four of the worst measures filed (so far) for the 88th

Art by Zeke Barbaro / Photos by Jana Birchum, John Anderson, Getty Images

Texas reps have filed a combined 1,635 bills so far this session, and many oughta die. These ones better do it quick.

The most cruel while stupid award goes to: Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, whose Senate Bill 300 would give pharmacists the authority to refuse to dispense not only abortion-inducing drugs (which, under current law, would only be prescribed to save the life of the mother), but also emergency contraceptives such as Plan B, which doesn't end a pregnancy but, as the bill defines, "prevents pregnancy." Hall's co-sponsorship of a fentanyl testing strip bill does not offset the damage he does elsewhere.

The least-baked award goes to: Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, whose anti-drag show House Bill 643 would convert a huge number of popular venues into "sexually oriented businesses," regulated just like strip clubs. Patterson's definition of a drag show is a performance in which someone presents (in any way – clothes, makeup, etc.) as a gender other than that on their birth certificate. Besides the infeasibility of requiring all performers to show their birth certificates before performing, and the blurry lines of defining a misgendered appearance, this would define many Shakespeare and ballet performances, as well as TED Talks and library programs with transgender speakers, as on par with live nude dancing.

The gasoline-on-a-dumpster-fire award goes to: Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Wallisville, who thinks he's finally gonna get Texas a "school choice" program this year, diverting money away from public schools just as the state faces a crisis of teachers quitting over unlivable pay. The Texas Parental Empowerment Program proposed in SB 176 sounds great – for each child opted out of public school, parents would receive vouchers for the average amount of money it costs Texas public schools to educate that child (about $10,000 per year). Proponents of public education (both Dem­ocrats and rural Republicans) point out that reducing class sizes while reducing funding doesn't work out for many schools – keeping the lights on, getting increasingly empty buses to school each morning, and paying teachers and janitors living wages all cost the same with fewer students enrolled.

The kicking 'em while they're down award goes to: Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian. If HB 822 passes, anybody applying for benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program must take a drug test, and if they test positive for cannabis they are ineligible to receive benefits for a year. This is true even if they're applying on behalf of a child who presumably does not smoke weed but still needs food, medicine, and a roof over their little head.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at austinchronicle.com/opinion.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Maggie Q. Thompson
Why 60,000+ Central Texans Could Lose Access to Ascension Hospitals Next Month
Why 60,000+ Central Texans Could Lose Access to Ascension Hospitals Next Month
Ascension Texas faces accusations of putting profits over people

Jan. 13, 2023

Rep. Lulu Flores, HD 51
Rep. Lulu Flores, HD 51
“I’m gonna stand the line on rights for women and children and gay and trans folks.”

Jan. 6, 2023


88th Texas Legislature, Jared Patterson, Mayes Middleton, Bob Hall

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle