Monday, June 6, 2005

Stupid jesus tricks

I write this waiting for my 8am history of england course to start, and having just listened to today's news report, i'm depressed.

the texas legislature meets for just 140 days every two years, and this year was under state supreme court order to come up with a constitutional way to fund texas public education.

if you haven't been following the story, right now texas school districts are funded by a combination of funds from property taxes, state supplements, and federal funding. but districts with disproportionately high tax bases were found to be spending disproportionately more money on their students (and had correspondingly better schools) in, if i recall correctly, the early 1990s. at the time, the state courts ordered the legislature to come up with something that would equalize the situation, and they came up with a funding system known as "robin hood." the literary reference is most obviously intentional.

under robin hood, rich districts send money to the state based on some student attendance formula. poor districts get that money to fund their schools. as a consequence, to provide the level of services their constituents and students have come to expect, some districts have raised their property tax rates, near or all the way to the tax cap. in texas, a state-wide property tax is unconstitutional, and in this round of litigation, the rich districts have argued that robin hood amounts to a state-wide property tax because everybody's at the same rate and local control has effectively been lost.

the rich districts won, and while an appeal is pending before the state supreme court, the current order is for the legislature to come up with something that's legal or stop funding the schools entirely beginning october 1, the start of the state's fiscal year.

last year, governor goodhair called a 30-day special session to try and straighten this mess out. (this is the same governor goodhair who gave us not one but two special sessions devoted to gerrymandering texas congressional district boundaries that did things like oust democrat martin frost in a bitter display of texas partisan politics. remember the people running to oklahoma and new mexico to keep a quorum from forming? yes, that governor goodhair.) the 30-day school session ended without any progress.

so now you know the background.

so everybody went to austin, fresh off the november elections, promising to reform the way texas public schools are funded.

they failed.

instead, we got right-wing fundamentalist bullshit for our tax money.

Yesterday governor goodhair made an appearance at one of those protestant evangelical schools (on a sunday, no less) in fort worth for a bill signing. After a speech liberally peppered with religious references, he signed two bills near and dear to every texas jesus-freak bent on imposing their brand of morality on the rest of us.

The first was a texas constitutional amendment that would outlaw same-sex marriage. While largely symbolic because it must be approved by voters (where it will sail through with, I predict, something approaching 80% approval), this blatant sop to the right simply proves again that texas remains, at least politically, a staunch part of the backward sheep-fucking old south. Remember that this is a place where it's illegal to sell even one, or posess more than six dildos (go to a sex toy shop, most of which have been pushed out of city limits, and you'll see stickers on them that say things like "for massage of upper extremities only"), and church-based blue laws are still in effect. For example, it is illegal to sell cars on one day of the week (so for all practical purposes, that means sunday), and many counties are dry, where it is illegal to sell alcohol. The theory is that prohibiting alcohol sales reduces crime and alcoholism. The reality is that people just cross county lines to get what they want.

Remember also that the texas constitution is the last reconstruction-era constitution left in the united states, and it has more amendments tacked onto it than any other state except (i think) alabama. You check it out of the library as a two-volume set, mostly because you don't want to have to buy a new one every two years after the legislature again tries to fix what's wrong with the constitution's micromanagement of state government.

This bullshit amendment, like all the others of its kind (with the exception of the just-narrowly-defeated one in california that would have defined marriage as between two people, rather than a man and a woman) is nothing more than a homophobic slap at honest people who live differently than us. It is absolutely no different than anti-misogyny laws, which forbid interracial marriage. While interracial marriage still sometimes raises eyebrows, it is legal everywhere. Who I fuck and how in the what's-left-of-privacy in my home has zero effect on the "moral fiber of the nation." what is that anyway?

in texas in 2002, the state recorded 84,394 divorces, affecting 67,548 children. spending tons of money on a prohibit-gay-marriage propaganda election won't change that.

the other bill that governor goodhair signed during his appearance at the evangelical jesus-freak church was the late-term abortion restriction and parental consent (not notification) bill that julia so bravely testified against.

In a state that already has so few late-term abortion providers you can count them on one hand with fingers left over anyway, it is now more difficult for women like julia and cecily to get the medical care they need, without doing anything that would actually prevent the use of abortion as a means of birth control.

mine is an unscientific study, but in my years as a friend of bill i've met, talked to, and shared with, many women who've had abortions.

i've never once come across one who'd had an abortion purely for convenience. it was always a heart-wrenching decision for each and every one of them, and many of these women still live with the emotional scars of their choices 20 and 30 and 40 years later. in discussions on moral inventories where it's come up in open meetings (and it does occasionally), this is a recurring theme for women who've had "elective" abortions, often leading to marking entries on their 9th step lists in recognition. you don't have to tell me that there's an effect.

there are some things i really hate about living in texas. living in a state filled with people who elect bigots and homophobes to our legislature is one of them.

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