At this time last year, Arizona was facing a catastrophic budget crisis, the byproduct of building an entire economy on a real estate bubble that finally burst. It was a pretty daunting challenge, and so legislators chose to take their minds off of things by inventing new problems, and then solving those instead. As Ken Silverstein noted in Harper’s:
Lawmakers have turned racial profiling into official policy…Another new law bans the funding of any ethnic-studies programs in the public schools, while a third prohibits “intentionally or knowingly creating a human-animal hybrid.” Lawmakers declared February 8 the “Boy Scout Holiday,” took time out to discount fishing-license fees for Eagle Scouts, and approved a constitutional right to hunt.
Mischief managed. Now, a similar situation is playing out in Texas. The Lone Star State faces a $25 billion budget deficit in 2010, so naturally, Gov. Rick Perry has put the legislature to work on a package of entirely unrelated emergency items. Politico says this means Perry’s running for president, in which case his agenda is great fodder for potential primary voters. It’s less great, however, for women, immigrants, and poor people. Here’s a breakdown:
- Mandatory ultrasounds: Per the Texas Independent, “State Sen. Dan Patrick’s Senate Bill 16 mandates that a woman seeking an abortion first view a sonogram, hear a verbal description of the image and listen to the fetal heartbeat.” Patrick, a Houston talk-radio host who founded the legislature’s Tea Party Caucus, made news four years ago when he suggested that the state pay women a competitive 7 cents/hour to have babies. Hearings on the bill begin on Wednesday; we’ll update our map as necessary:
- Abolish “Sanctuary Cities”: As red meat goes, this one’s little more than empty calories. Perry wants to look tough on illegal immigration without doing anything that would substantially halt the flow of cheap labor into the state. Moreover, while Perry says he wants to crack down on cities that consciously don’t crack down on undocumented workers, Texas itself is more or less a sanctuary state. So far, his most cogent explanation of what this entails is: “If the shoe is fitting you, then you might not want to be wearing it.”* So chew on that. The quote, I mean; not the shoe.
- Voter ID: With his plan to require all voters to have a valid, government-issued photo ID, Perry has taken dead aim at the only kind of voter fraud that pretty much never happens. The bill, which has already passed the state senate, acknowledges the inconvenience of checking IDs, but makes an exception for just one of the affected demographics: seniors. As our Kevin Drum put it, “Hmmm.”
- Balanced Budget Amendment: The Texas constitution already mandates that the state have a balanced budget; Perry wants the legislature to pass a resolution calling for the federal government to do the same. It’s not just talk; the idea, which has taken hold on the right, is that if two-thirds of the states do the same, they can call a constitutional convention to propose the amendment themselves.
*Bonus Rick Perry footwear quote: “I’m pretty sure the only thing that works for one-size-fits-all, are gym socks. Not government.” And here he is giving a speech in front of a big shelf full of cowboy boots.