On Tuesday, the same day two men opened fire at Houston's Lone Star Community College, a bipartisan trio of state lawmakers unveiled a plan aimed at reducing school violence.
Dubbed the Texas School District Safety Act, the measure would allow voters to approve special taxing districts that would pay for the cost of additional security measures at K-12 campuses.
One of the authors, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Williams, a Republican from The Woodlands, called the bill "a Texas solution to save lives without sacrificing and trampling our freedoms," according to the Austin American-Statesman. Another, Houston Democrat John Whitmire, emphasized that it offered "local option, local control." It was greeted by the Texas PTA as a "measured, conservative approach."
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But it wasn't quite conservative enough for three of Texas' most influential conservative groups. In a press release today, and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility dismissed the proposal out of hand, referring to it as "well-intentioned legislation that appeals to the emotions of lawmakers and citizens but will prove ineffective" and "just another tax."
"School shootings are horrendous and every taxpayer wants kids safe in schools," they say in the release. "However, citizens should realize that the proposed legislation is a tax increase that is not going to make their schools safer."
Their contention is that taxpayers are already paying plenty in taxes to combat school violence, the rate of which has been declining since 1993. They point to the proliferation of special taxing districts in recent years, a phenomenon chronicled by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs in her "Texas Its Your Money" series of publications, which, despite the rhetoric they are couched in, are actually pretty useful.
It's not surprising that Americans for Prosperity, Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility would go after a proposal that maybe, might possibly lead to higher taxes. That's what they do. But it does yet another layer of complexity to the already byzantine gun debate simmering in the Legislature.