There are many complex and important issues that face Texas legislators each session. The one bill they have to pass each session is the Appropriations bill — the legislation that funds state agencies and programs and keeps the state running (to some extent). This is probably the hardest thing legislators face each legislative session. But there are other — controversial and largely conservative — issues that have come to dominate the political (and, thus, the legislative agenda) of many. Issues such as taxpayer-funded, private school vouchers; charter school certification, accountability and funding; voter identification; stand-your-ground; sex education and religion in public school settings; the powers of the State Board of Education; implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”); et cetera. These, and others, are the hard ones — the issues one side of the aisle or the other doesn’t want debated, analyzed and/or implemented as law. But maybe it’s time to confront these “culture war” and other issues head-on.
A time should be set aside — a special session, if needed — to bring these issues to the floor of each chamber and have it out.
But first everyone must agree to one thing: Independent research and policy development organizations will analyze each issue and report — as objectively as possible — their findings in publicly available and understandable resources. Do these policies help or hurt Texas students? Consumers? Businesses? Are they worth experimenting with and spending taxpayer money on? Are they empirically supported? Pros? Cons?
Then, we can have the debate. He or she who strays from the recommendations risks being exposed as swimming against the tide merely for ideological purposes, unless he or she has a better idea.
Most of these issues have been beaten to death — researched, analyzed, manipulated, politicized. But let’s have one more report — one the public can understand and trust. Then, once the bloodfest is over in the legislature, we’ll let the courts figure it out. Because, if one thing is clear, it’s the desire to drastically alter the meaning of the state and federal constitutions that some of these issues (and their supporters) seek to accomplish.
Actually, now that I think of it, forget all of the above. The acrimony will never end — no matter how many reports are issued (“Someone has to stand up to experts,” as Don McLeroy said), how many votes are taken and how many court decisions — until “moderate” is no longer a negative label to pin on a politician/lawmaker. The fight will just continue by different lines of attack: Amending the Constitution to take the issue out of the hands of the courts, etc.
So, really, all of the other suggestions I made are really just (a) pipe dreams and (b) ways to waste state money on trying to get to the facts and enact good public policy.
Forget I said anything.