Pulpit Bully

Robert Talton, Republican, Pasadena, 58

Robert Talton's legislative program consists primarily of trying to enact his prejudices into law. He is far from the first to come to the House for such a purpose, but what sets him apart are the fury of his biases and the extremity of his remedies. Take, for example, his bill disqualifying homosexuals or bisexuals from becoming foster parents. It makes the Patriot Act look like the Bill of Rights. First, it requires social-service workers to inquire whether the foster parent has a naughty sexual preference. Then, if the answer is no, the workers must still conduct an investigation to determine whether it's true. How are they supposed to do that? The imagination teems with prurient possibilities.

The bill was so awful that Speaker Craddick sent it to a committee with a Democratic majority to ensure a quick and permanent burial. Talton didn't get the hint. He drafted a new version that applied to unmarried individuals. Worried that the gay and lesbian lobby might want to discuss the bill, he posted DPS officers at his door to prevent them from entering. Again, the bill died, but not before Talton, trying to escape media questions, batted away a TV reporter's microphone.

Talton once dominated a committee hearing for around 45 minutes, holding forth on his support of the death penalty and its biblical origins. "None of the books of the Bible do away with capital punishment," he said. "Some say that the government slayed Jesus. That is not where it came from and why." He talked about how God punishes the wicked and how one of the ways he does so is by death. When a witness tried to disagree, he said, "I'll be glad to go and get my Bible on my desk and show it to you."

At the end of the session, Talton was at it again. This time the object of his ire was gambling—namely, bringing Powerball to Texas. If he was successful, the budget wouldn't have enough money to balance and a special session would be necessary. The governor's office wanted him to relent. No chance. Instead, they had to round up the votes to beat him. Count your blessings.

Tags: POLITICS

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