Capitol Cocktail Hour
A look at this week's happenings inside the Texas Legislature, from milk fights to civil rights
Welcome back to our weekly recap of all things Legislature. It was another raucous week at the Capitol! Just kidding. It was pretty tame. But here is what delighted us, confused us and made us think.
It’s a cow-eat-cow world
The House Public Health Committee heard from the public on HB 46, a bill that would legalize the sale of raw, unpasteurized dairy products. Long touted for its health benefits, raw milk is currently only legally allowed to be sold on farm property. If passed, HB 46 would allow farmers to take raw milk off-site and sell it to directly to consumers, opening up a whole new market for small dairy farmers in Texas.
It should be noted that in their coverage of the raw milk debate, the Austin American-Statesman described raw milk enthusiasts as “an eclectic coalition of Austin hippies, homeschooled children and subscribers to Ron Paul’s libertarian philosophy.” Personally, I’d love to see the reporter’s notebook for this piece. It’s probably filled with angry pictures of women with hairy armpits and socially awkward kids.
Pecan pie outrage
Grannies, children with nut allergies and those who subscribe to Paula Deen’s baking philosophy took to the hallowed chambers of the Capitol this week to protest legislation that would make pecan pie the Official Pie of Texas. Actually, none of that happened. But — and here’s the true part — there is a bill in committee that would make pecan pie our official state pie. And we still have hope that the grannies and Deen fans will come calling.
This week saw the proposal of a joint resolution eliminating the current constitutional definition of marriage as being strictly between a man and a woman, approved by voters in 2005. This measure, which requires another constitutional amendment, would outlaw any state or institutional definition of marriage. The measure doesn’t legalize same-sex marriage; it just negates any legal definition of marriage in our constitution and code, opening the door to future attempts to recognize same-sex marriages and civil unions.
If passed, Texans will be asked to vote on the measure November 3.
And speaking of marriage, another bill would allow lawmakers to perform marriage ceremonies, and they want to pass it because, well, we can’t figure out why they’d want to perform ceremonies. Maybe they need to supplement their measly $600/month salary for being in office. Yes, that’s six hundred. (Not much, though the benefits aren’t bad...)
The gun show
While the hot topic last session was “women’s reproduction,” this session it just might be “concealed handguns.” In the wake of Aurora, Oak Creek and Newtown, concealed handgun legislation across the country is being proposed and reconsidered. This week a bill was filed here that would require a proficiency course to be taken in order to receive or renew a concealed handgun license.
Scheduled for a public hearing this week is another bill that would make it mandatory to put a designation on a driver’s license when that person is allowed to carry a handgun. So, just like if you wear contacts or have a medical condition, you have a little letter on the back denoting your concealed handgun license. It’s just like that old saying, “There’s nothing quite as nice ... as guns and driving.”
Incidentally, a few lawmakers have also filed legislation that would refuse to recognize or forbid the enforcement of any federal laws taking away our guns. Those are mainly symbolic, naturally, a statement by the Lone Star State that the Second Amendment is still First Priority.
Voting rights act
Though it didn’t happen on our Capitol’s hill, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court revisited the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The law requires states (mostly Southern) with a history of racial discrimination (including Texas) to get federal approval before making any changes to how elections are held. Though Shelby County, Alabama, brought the challenge, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Shelby County. This is the same Abbott who appealed a federal ruling declaring Texas’ new redistricting maps and voter ID laws unconstitutional. At least he’s consistent.
So there you have it. From pies to guns, these are the legislative moments that grabbed our interest this week. While the 83rd Legislative Session may still be in the stage of filing bills and thinking about stuff, things are about to get interesting. Now that Downton Abbey is over, check back every week so that you and your friends have something to talk about over the weekend.