The fight from the right againt Straus
Mon January 5, 2009 4:44 pm

An anonymous commenter posted a list of Straus’s votes that did not sit well with social conservatives as a response to my article of Friday night, “Can Straus hold the votes?” I have researched the issues that Anonymous mentioned and will discuss them below. The comment begins:

Unfortunately, Rep. Straus has a clear voting record which has demonstrated hostility toward unborn life and traditional family values. Rep. Joe Straus supported:

1. Making it easier to perform late-term, third-trimester abortions. (SB 419, vote 672, 2005)

My comment: Hartnett sought to amend the Sunset bill for the State Board of Medical Examiners to add the following language to the list of prohibited practices for physicians:

“A physician … commits a prohibited practice if that person … performs an abortion on a woman who is pregnant with a viable unborn child during the third trimester of the pregnancy when the abortion is not necessary to prevent the death of the woman.” The amendment was amended by the author to exempt abortions from criminal penalties in cases of severe, irreversible brain injuries. Patrick Rose then offered an amendment to the amendment  that struck the Hartnett amendment and substituted language that effectively exempted abortions from criminal penalties when performed to prevent the death of the mother, or a substantial risk of impairment to the physical health of the mother, or when the fetus had a severe and irreversible abnormality. Hartnett’s motion to table prevailed by a vote of 84 ayes, 51 nays. Hamric, Woolley, and Straus were the only Republicans voting nay. The Harnett amendment, as further amended, was eventually adopted with Straus voting aye. I suppose this is a case of “He voted against it before he voted for it,” but he did vote for it.

2. In the 2007 session, he received a 100% voting record from the radical pro-abortion group NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) and the pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood contributed to his reelection campaign.

No comment necessary; this does not involve legislation.

3. Homosexuals as foster parents (SB 6, vote 327, 2005). This was the was a memorable battle over the Talton amendment to the Child Protective Services reform bill, whose authors were Nelson and Hupp, both Republicans. Talton created a new section in the act called “Foster Parent Disqualification.” He mandated that CPS ask an applicant serving, or seeking to serve, as a foster parent to state whether he was homosexual or bisexual. Regardless of the response, CPS could then investigate whether the applicant or foster parent was in fact homosexual or bisexual. If CPS found that an applicant or foster parent was homosexual, the agency was required to deny the application to become a foster parent or remove the child from the care of a foster parent. The vote occurred on a Villareal amendment to change the title of the section from “Foster Parent Disqualification” to “Foster Parent Information.” It allowed CPS to ask about sexual orientation but it struck the portion of the Talton Amendment requiring termination of the foster parent relationship on the grounds of sexual orientation. Talton moved to table. The motion prevailed by a vote of 94-43. Casteel, John Davis, Goodman, Hunter, Keel, Seaman, and Straus all voted no.

Expanded casino gambling (HB 10, vote 939, 2007)

This was Norma Chavez’s Indian gaming bill. It died on verification by a tie vote of 66-66, with Speaker Craddick voting present. Republicans voting for the bill: Haggerty, Hamilton, Hardcastle, Hildebran, Jones, Kuempel, Merritt, and Straus.

5. Increased gambling (HB 2265, vote 749, 2007)
Haggerty amended the bill on second reading to reduce the maximum prize to $2,500. The vote was on Haggerty’s third reading amendment to reduce the maximum prize to $250. It passed by 105-31. This seems like a vote to REDUCE gambling rather than increase it. Ultimately the bill was vetoed by the governor.

6. Increased sale and consumption of alcohol during Sunday morning church hours (HB 168, vote 357, 2005). This bill by Deshotel simply stated that alcoholic beverages may be sold and consumed at a festival, fair, or concert between 10 a.m. and noon, notwithstanding any other provision of the code. Current law at the time provided an exception for “sports venues.” The effect is to allow sales and consumption on Sunday mornings at the stipulated events. No witnesses testified against the bill in committee and the bill passed on a voice vote. Under House rules, any member who does not vote against a bill on a nonrecord vote is considered to have voted for it. Only Bohac, B. Brown, C. Howard, Riddle, Talton, and Wong registered a vote in opposition.

7. Making it easier to sell alcohol without community approval, as is currently required (SB 1626, vote 852, 2005).

Before an election can be held pertaining to the sale of alcoholic beverages in a community, proponents of a proposed change in the law must submit petitions with a required number of signatures. This bill by Whitmire/Kuempel reduced the required number from 35% of the registered voters to 35% of the number of voters in the affected political subdivision who voted in the previous gubernatorial election. Ten witnesses registered for the bill at the Senate hearing, variously representing certain cities and the beverage industry. The bill passed the House by a vote of 123-22, with Straus voting for.

8. Increasing state budget spending by an amazing 19 percent over only two years (SB 1, vote 946, 2005).

This was the vote to adopt the conference committee report on the general appropriations bill. It passed the House by a vote of 104-40. Straus voted for. Debbie Riddle voted for. Only 11 Republicans voted no: Harper-Brown, Hartnett, Hildebran, Hughes, B. Keffer, Kuempel, Laubenberg, Paxton, Phillips, Seaman, Talton. The 19% increase in state spending was not “amazing.” It represented a partial restoration of deep cuts in state services during the budget crunch of 2003.

1. Using statistically-proven methods to strengthen marriage and reduce divorce by encouraging pre-marital counseling (HB 2685, votes 384, 437, and 1407, 2007).

Everybody remembers this one—a Chisum bill that raised the price of a marriage license from $30 to $60. Couples who enrolled in an eight-hour pre-marital counseling class would have their fee waived. Those who chose not to faced in effect a $60 “marriage penalty.” The vote was on passage to second reading. Straus joined fellow Republicans Haggerty, Madden, McCall, Merritt, and Talton in voting no. On third reading, Thompson offered an amendment to reduce the fee for a marriage license to $30. Chisum’s motion to table failed, 61-76, with Straus voting no. The House later voted to concur with Senate amendments, one of which struck Thompson’s amendment and restored the marriage penalty by raising the fee for a marriage license to Chisum’s original $60. Straus joined Jones and Merritt in voting not to concur. The motion to concur prevailed by a vote of 84-56.

2. Parental rights, opposing a bill to let parents know the service referrals school counselors are making for their children (HB 2136, vote 592, 2007).

Readers will remember this bill too. It was Kelly Hancock’s bill to require school counselors to reveal to whom where they were referring students. It was transparently intended to pry into whether counselors were sending girls to Planned Parenthood. Ellen Cohen and Hancock engaged in a vigorous debate. The bill failed to pass to engrossment on a 73-73 vote. After a postponement, Hildebran moved to reconsider. The motion prevailed, 73-53. The bill passed to engrossment on verification, 74-69. Republicans voting no were England, Geren, Goolsby, Hamilton, Jones, S. King, and Straus.

3. School Choice (HB1, vote 235, 2007).

This was Heflin’s revised vouchers amendment to the House appropriations bill, reading, “It is the intent of the legislature that none of the funds appropriated above may be spent the program uses state tax dollars to pay for tuition vouchers for children in any grades between grade 1 through grade 12 to attend a private school.” The vote for the amendment was 129-8. Straus voted for. Republicans voting against were Berman, B. Brown, Chisum, Eissler, Flynn, Hartnett, C. Howard, and Laubenberg.

* * *

This is a most revealing post, a case study of why the Republican party is in trouble. With the possible exception of school vouchers, not one of these bills has anything to do with the problems facing the state. It is all about the social issues, period. Republicans have completely abandoned their libertarian tradition of individual freedom. Kelly Hancock’s bill should never have gotten out of Calendars. How dare the Texas Legislature peer into where school counselors are referring students. The Democrats are concerned about public schools and kids without health insurance, and the Republicans are fixated on Planned Parenthood and gambling. No wonder they are losing seats.

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