This legislative session, at least in the early going, is threatening to become the year of the bully. The bullies certainly hope so. And, if members of the majority party at the Capitol don’t start standing up to them – and soon – it is going to become increasingly difficult to have serious debate and discussion over issues, such as public education, that are of critical importance to the 99 percent or so of Texans who aren’t bullies.
Legislative budget writers have held preliminary hearings on education funding, following two strong rulings from a state judge that our school finance system is inadequate, unfair and unconstitutional. But much of the early attention at the Capitol has been focused on guns.
Scheduled for a public hearing later this week is legislation that would allow Texans to strut their stuff wearing holstered pistols on their hips, ala Hollywood cowboys, and carry their firearms into college classrooms. These measures don’t address any emergency, except a pseudo-emergency created by the bullying tactics of a small group of gun rights activists who apparently enjoy trying to frighten people, including lawmakers.
Now, it has been called to my attention, the North Texas Tea Party is flexing its bullying muscles by proposing a “citizen’s trial” of the Legislature at the conclusion of the current regular session and/or special sessions. Legislators found falling short of tea party standards would be assessed a so-called “death penalty,” presumably the opposition of tea party members in the next election cycle. Even though the idea almost conjures up images of the Salem witch trials, the proposal is pretty ludicrous and likely to be ignored by most legislators.
But the tea party is influential in the Republican primary, and it has helped elect a number of lawmakers who might march through the Capitol rotunda every day at noon in their underwear if tea partiers demanded it. These same lawmakers also are ready to slash spending and taxes at the tea party’s behest and at the expense of public schools, educators and students.
So far, the strong-arm antics are mostly a sideshow, but, as the debate over firearms has shown, they can get out of hand. To its credit, the Legislature in years past has taken steps to address bullying in public school classrooms. Now, it’s time for lawmakers to fight back at the bullying on their own turf and focus on what really matters for the vast majority of Texans.