The 84th biennial Texas Legislature convenes on Tuesday, and based on recent developments -- namely the sweeping Republican victories in the midterms -- this session is going to see one of the most conservative crews ever to sit down and legislate in Austin. But never fear, all is not lost.
A tightly held Republican state legislature (a.k.a. the best every-other-year reality show around) will feature the usual focus on abortion rights (and how to get rid of them) and education funding (and what else can be cut after the budget was already scraped to the bone back in 2013.) But there are also going to be some extra-special ridiculous bills being looked at over the next few months. We've rounded up some of our favorites so far ("favorites" translates to "the ones that made us want to smack our head on the desk") of the more than 700 bills already filed since back in November. Keep in mind that state legislators will be able to file bills until March, so what follows is by no means the last word on that which some (a.k.a. we) see as just this side of crazy-pants crazy.
5. The one where everybody gets all the guns. HB 195: Relating to the carrying of handguns; providing for the open carrying of handguns; and removing the requirement that a person who may lawfully possess handguns obtain a Concealed Handgun License in order to carry a handgun lawfully in the state of Texas.
There are lots of Open Carry bills that have been filed, but the one by Rep. John Strickland is a real honey of a creation. See, Strickland not only wants to allow people to openly carry pistols and the other smaller firearms, he wants to make it so that all the people can carry all the guns all the time. HB 195 even proposes getting rid of concealed handgun licenses entirely. It's practically impossible to see how this one could, you know, backfire. Despite what you'd expect, this being shoot-em'-up Texas and all, the Lone Star State has had a 140-year ban on openly carrying firearms. If this or any of the other bills filed actually get through the Lege, Texas will become the largest state to allow this type of pistol packing.
4. The one that's trying to quash gay marriage just in case it becomes legal in Texas. HB 623: Relating to the funding, issuing, and litigation of certain marriage licenses.
It's hard to believe it, but as of right now, gay marriage has been recognized in 36 states that contain roughly 70 percent of the country's population. It's quite possible that Texas may become one of the next states to be legally on board with same-sex marriage judging from the response of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last Friday. But of course, Texas lawmakers can't just go quietly and get along on this issue.
Last week Rep. Cecil Bell filed HB 623, a bill that will, among other things, prohibit the use of taxpayer funds for the licensing and support of same-sex marriage. It will also bar any government employee who recognizes gay marriage from being paid. Gay marriage is such a hot-button issue right now, this is only one of a slew of bills filed touching on the subject. However, considering where things stand and the fact that Texas may well be on the brink of becoming the next state to recognize same-sex marriages, the timing of and calculation behind this bill make it particularly exasperating.
3. The one where Texas wants to build its own Fort Knox. HB 483: Relating to the establishment and administration of a state bullion depository; authorizing fees.
Despite the fact that this idea didn't gain any legislative traction during the 2013 session, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione is once again hoping to create the Texas Bullion Depository. Basically this bill would allow Texas to set up its very own Fort Knox. Outside of Texas once again trying to wing it as its very own independent country -- and keep in mind that whole secession thing went so well for us last time -- there doesn't seem to be any actual reason to create such a thing, unless scientists have figured out a way to allow people to swim through piles of gold just like Scrooge McDuck. But despite the fact that this bill doesn't have much of a point, Capriglione is heading once more into the breach. Fingers crossed that it's the last time.
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2. The one that's trying to make the cowboy hat the official hat of Texas. HCR 35: Designating the cowboy hat as the official State Hat of Texas
This one, cooked up by Rep. Marsha Farney, is pretty self-explanatory, but the mind-boggling part is that lawmakers are going to spend actual time, actual taxpayer dollars and actual effort on deciding once and for all that the cowboy hat is hands-down the quintessential hat of Texas. Because somehow that is a thing that needs to be conclusively decided and put down for the record so that everyone for time immemorial will know we are all about the cowboy hat versus, let's say, the ski cap.
1.The one that's trying to legalize discrimination. SJR 10: Proposing a constitutional amendment relating to an individual's or religious organization's freedom of religion.
The summary sounds innocuous enough, but state Sen. Donna Campbell's second attempt to legalize gay discrimination is anything but harmless. If passed, the law will allow Texas business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers if they feel that serving them would violate their religious beliefs. Aside from the tiny fact that it's arguable that any religion that would sanction, let alone command, such behavior must be pretty horrid, this isn't even the first time Campbell has tried this shtick. She filed a nearly identical bill back in 2013 and nothing came of it, but despite the fact that there could be all kinds of problems triggered by such broad legislation, she's going for it again.