There are many competitions in our society, in our country, and in our world. Children, adults, colleges, corporations, etc. are constantly striving to be ranked at the top. States even compete so they are ranked high for things like the best place to work, raise a family, and live. So why does Texas, and the Texas Republican Party, strive to be last? Following are just a few of the decisions, laws, and actions contributing to the race to the bottom in the country:
Environmentally, no other state has deregulated dams like Texas, said Lori Spragens, executive director at the National Association of Dam Safety Officials. The law "just doesn't make any sense from a safety standpoint," she said. Spragens was referring to the fact that Texas stopped inspecting 44% of the dams in the state, following passage last year of a state law that exempted most privately owned dams from safety requirements by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Texas gave permission for unsafe environmental measures to go unchecked (Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2014).
In education, Texas ranks last among the 50 states in the percentage of high school graduates. Rather than working to improve their status, Texas chose to cut billions from education funding and lower standards for students to graduate.
Texas is not always at the bottom. It is in first place with the highest proportion of people without health insurance, and we are also number one in releasing the most carbon dioxide and hazardous waste of any state.
Texas ranks number one again, having more gun dealers -- about 8,500 -- than any other state, according to statistics kept by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (USA TODAY, February 18, 2013)
Texas Republicans without a doubt are pro-life, but are they really concerned with a person's life itself or just a person's life before it is born? The state's lax gun laws, which have no required state registration of firearms, no waiting period, no limits on type or number of guns, make Texas a prolific source of guns for criminals and the ire of national gun-control advocates, according to John Rosenthal, co-founder of the Newton, Mass.-based Stop Handgun Violence.
If Texas Republicans are pro-life, why was the Republican state legislature passing legislation allowing guns on college campuses, rather than helping people through the recent floods that took their homes, their businesses, and their lives?
In 2014, Texas, with the blessing of the Supreme Court, passed one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country. Texas voters were required to present one of seven forms of identification to vote. Student IDs at state-run universities were not included on the list of acceptable forms of identification but, concealed handgun licenses were. The Justice Department said more than 600,000 mostly blacks, Hispanics, the elderly and the poor, currently lack any of the eligible IDs to vote. A federal judge compared the Texas' tough voter ID rules to a poll tax meant to suppress minority voters and he blocked Texas from enforcing it just prior to the midterm election. (DMN, October 9, 2014)
Texas lawmakers believe they are beyond having to follow the Constitution and laws of the land. They have proclaimed that if the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a Constitutional right to marry in all 50 states, they will just disregard it. Additionally, on May 11 the Senate gave tentative approval to protect pastors who want to refuse to perform a same sex marriage.
According to Planned Parenthood, abortion restrictions clearly violate Texas women's Constitutional rights and drastically reduce access to safe and legal abortion statewide. On October 3, 2014, the second round of HB2 restrictions took effect, leaving only 8 of the original 36 clinics in Texas. The only cities that still had clinics after this constricting legislation are Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston. (Fund Texas Choice, 10/14/14) With so few clinics now available, Texas is depriving impoverished women who have to travel long distances for access to a clinic, great emotional, physical and financial hardships.
How do Republicans justify being for smaller government? How can Republicans claim they care what citizens' want when they override local laws? Denton County citizens banned fracking in their own backyard, yet Governor Greg Abbott's legislature banned the ban.
Governor Abbott asked the State National Guard to track Jade Helm 15 this summer, which is a scheduled military teaching program, calling the maneuvers a Conspiracy Theory of Obama to enforce a martial law takeover of Texas.
Jon Stewart, comics, and newscasters all mocked Abbott's fiasco. Bill Maher was clear on his Real Time show. "Have you heard of Jade Helm 15?" Bill Maher asked. "It is actually a code name for a routine training exercise the U.S. military is planning to conduct in the Southwest which the tea baggers in Texas are convinced is actually an Obama plot to invade Texas, take their guns, and impose a new world order. Yes, because we hate Lubbock for its freedom."
Texas Senator Ted Cruz actually called the Pentagon just to make sure that wasn't the case. Cruz, who is now running for president, made his announcement at Liberty University, an evangelical school founded by Jerry Falwell -- disregarding the Constitutional idea of separation of church and state.
I think citizens should ask: "When is Texas going to elect competent leaders and visionaries with ideas and solutions to today's challenges that include climate change, education, and healthcare?"