Riddle in an Enigma: Puzzled by Austin's Odd Priorities

Get this Tea Party started: Well, that didn't take long. If you wanted a hint of how next year's session of the new tea-soaked Texas Legislature is going to go, then consider this: State Representative Debbie Riddle camped out at the Statehouse over the weekend to be the first in line to file bills in the House. No. 1 on her agenda? A positively brilliant plan to plug the looming $25 billion hole in the state budget, maintain public services and avoid a tax increase.

Ha. We kid. No, it was nothing as mundane or useful as that. The Harris County Tea Party darling—she who famously and fatuously warned of foreign "terror babies" being raised as a diapered fifth column on these very shores and who declared that the notion of free education "came straight out of the pit of hell"—did her sleepover so could she submit a bill requiring voters to bring picture identification or two other forms of ID to the polls. (As the Observer's Sam Merten reported on the paper's Unfair Park blog last week, even Troy Aikman couldn't vote this month until he went home in the rain and got some identification, as the law already requires. You'd think a Super Bowl ring would be enough in Texas.) Riddle followed that up with a bill mimicking Arizona's SB 1070, the universally beloved law that has so successfully turned the tide on the problem of illegal immigration by declaring illegal immigrants trespassers.

Still we kid. Not about the $25 billion part. That's real.

"My constituents want to see that their representative is just as serious about getting the job done this session as they are," Riddle said on her website. "They've got a real fire in their bellies, and I'm here to show them that I'm ready to match that tenacity."

Say, did we mention that $25 billion—that's in U.S. greenbacks—potential shortfall? We're all in favor of tenacity; we're just not sure we agree on what constitutes "getting the job done."

No, instead let's focus on those belly-firin' issues: passing a redundant voter ID law that likely will lower turnout and passing a trespass bill similar to one that's already stalled in the federal courts. Then the House can get down to the important business of redrawing legislative district boundaries to ensure GOP incumbents' safety. (That'll be a good chance for the Dems in the Legislature to visit lovely Oklahoma, as they did the last time the GOP led redistricting.)

Our prediction: Two special sessions.

Makes you wanna buy a case of Tums, doesn't it?

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams