By Faith Chatham - June 5, 2015
Some of the awful bills that were filed in the Texas Legislature this session died. Other truly awful ones were passed and in a totally irresponsible fashion, Gov. Abbott is bragging about signing them into law.
Brian Birdwell and Konni Burton head our Senate Wall of Shame this Session:
Birdwell, a decorated military man who was injured when the plane flew into the Pentagon, earns our biggest Senate Blaggard Award. It was a hard choice but he stands out on two fronts.
1. Attacking the benefits of other military veterans and their descendants with his bill that would reduce the number of Texas Veterans who qualify for education assistance under the Hazlewood Act. Birdwell's proposed eliminating eligibility for reservist and national guard who were called to active duty to qualify under the Hazlewood Act. Those men and women who were called to Active Duty during the Bush and Obama administration, many of whom were deployed abroad into combat for long tours of duty and retained abroad when those tours ended are disqualified for Hazlewood Act Benefits under Birdwell's bill. Birdwell also proposed shortening the number of years in which the education benefits could be used. For many soldiers, their children would not be old enough for college before the benefits expired. Thank You Brian Birdwell for being so callous to other Veterans! This bill is deplorable and Birdwell is too callous to even comprehend how very mean spirited this bill is. His service to this nation is noted. His attack on the welfare of other veterans takes him down several knotches in my estimation. This bill dishonors the uniform he wore and the nation he served. He ranks as blaggard for refusing to honor the service of other veterans.
2. Birdwell earns the nickname of "Tote those Guns on Campus" for sponsoring the Campus Carry bill which was passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Abbot. As drafted, the bill did not allow State Universities to prohibit guns anywhere on campus. To get it passed, it was amended to allow universities the option of establishing gun free zones. Because Birdwell represents Waco, in self-preservation when Baylor University objected to campus carry, Birdwell exempted private schools from having to allow guns on campus and reworded it to apply to State School. Gee. What a creep. I truly hope he has a strong opponent in the Republican Primary who takes him out in 2016. I hope there is a strong candidate in the Democratic Primary who wages a good fight in the General Election. He's gotten a free ride in too many election cycles. His assault on Veterans removes the advantage he had from military service. Would be great for another vet (or 2) to challenge him and one of them claim that seat.
Then we come to Senator Konni Burton. She jumped in and carried water for the Oil and Gas Industry and put her name on an abominable anti-local governmental control bill which I think violates both the Texas and the U.S. Constitution. Named Senate Bill 40 because the Oil and Gas industry is said to be 40% of the Texas economy, the bill removes the right of local citizens to petition their government and vote in ordinances which regulate underground activities. Citizens in Denton, a city which is far from a liberal stronghold, voted overwhelmingly to ban fracking. Burton's bill not only restricts local governments from banning fracking, it nullifies all local ordinances which have been passed in the past five years which pertain to any underground activity.
Cities such as Arlington can no longer prohibit injection wells. With the rash of earthquakes in the Barnett Shale, which evidence shows are probably related to injection wells, and other Oil and Gas activity, passage of this bill places local landowners at greater risk of property damage. The sponsors of this bill are so proud of their service to the 50% yet they put the rest of the economy and all residential property owners at greater risk by removing local oversight totally from the Oil and Gas Industry. If the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or the Texas Rail Road Commission actually did their job instead of being a full time state sponsored lap dog of the industry, state oversight would be a very different thing. Texans have litte reason to expect State Regulators to enact reasonable controls. Cities such as Fort Worth and Arlington which have hundreds of wells are pretty well screwed. Those who signed gas leases were informed of stricter local ordinances. Now that those ordinances are null and void thank to Konni Burton and a cadre of other fossil fuel agents, the environmental realities in many neighborhoods will probably deteriorate. It is a shame that Burton tired of her Wedding Planning business. She is more suited to such endeavors than she is to legislation. Unfortunately, Senators serve 6 year terms and Senate District 10 is probably stuck with her until 2020!
Oh, there are rumblings that two of the freshmen have established policies that exclude constituency service to anyone who did not vote for them. Mollie White (TX-H Belton) and Konni Burton (TX-S 10) seem to fail to realize that once elected, they are supposed to serve EVERYONE. These two are reported to have instructed staff not to schedule appointments for people who live in their districts who were not their supporters! Senate 10 has 602,461 Voting Age Residents. Since she only got 95,532 votes so according to her policy it appears that she intends to serve less than a 6th of the district! Maybe she can get 1/6 of her stipend and salary. Granted, the Legislature doesn't make that much, but for those who choose to cherry pick who is and who isn't constituents, they deserves less than they get!
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