Tuesday, April 19, 2011

...what emergency?

There are some weird definitions emerging from the 82nd Legislative Session.  But I could be wrong.  I always thought an emergency was an urgent matter needing immediate attention.  Failure to deal with an emergency, I thought, could lead to impending doom.

Either I or Governor Perry have the wrong view of what constitutes an emergency.

As our elected officials have been meeting in Austin to wrestle with knotty state problems, several matters have appeared to me to present themselves as true emergencies.  First, the State’s $27-billion deficit, I believe, should rank at or near the top.  And in the running for a state emergency could be the impending layoffs of tens of thousands of Texas teachers; also it might constitute an emergency that, next school year, Texas students will not have new books.

And at the top of my list are the many Texans who feel that health care for seniors or the shortage of over 650 state police officers also might have merited some early concern as possible emergencies.

Obviously, our governor knows something we don’t.  You can tell by the things he has placed on the state’s agenda by declaring them emergencies and needing immediate action.  Our governor’s number one emergency was directing the Legislature to immediately deal with requiring voters to show a picture id before casting a ballot.  Well, Governor Perry surely has some terribly secret information on this voter fraud emergency because, from all the reports emanating from the Attorney General’s office, only one or two possible voter fraud cases have been filed as a result of a 2-3 year investigation by that office.

Second in rank of importance on our governor’s list was a bill to prevent Houston, and a few other cities, from being a sanctuary to illegal aliens--a law obviously and sorely needed by persons other than the officials of the city of Houston, who were unaware that their city was under attack, and who instead have been humanely furnishing a safe harbor from the warlords killing and pillaging just south of our borders.

Finally, I’m certain most women seeking an abortion did not realize how helpful it would be to have imposed on them the requirement that they watch a sonogram prior to having such a procedure. This is not one of those ‘jelly on the belly’ procedures--in early pregnancy, a sonogram requires a probe inserted in the vagina to take a picture. Surely doctors, not legislators, should be the judge of whether this is an emergency.

Defining frivolous lawsuits also has me confused.  Based on reports from all the groups claiming to be about improving our legal system, frivolous lawsuits clogging our courts, if you can believe it, are at a crisis level and are the focus of trying to streamline the system by ridding us of these merit-less matters being filed in our courts.  The Texas Association of Business, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and fellow travelers seem to believe that it is the frivolous lawsuits and their costs that is spiraling this country toward destruction of our entire free enterprise system.

In checking the definition, I discovered in The New College Dictionary that ‘frivolous’ is defined as “a matter characterized as lacking seriousness or sense.”  The second definition is, “lacking any serious purpose.”  These definitions are in part the source of my confusion.  If so-called tort reform is aimed at frivolous lawsuits, I’m having trouble understanding why the so-called tort reform groups are backing bills to require a litigant Plaintiff, or a claimant for serious injuries, to pay the insurance company’s lawyer if they fail to get all the money they claim. And there's a bill by Senator Tommy Williams that would allow a company like British Petroleum, after killing more than two people, or injuring more than five, to simply shutdown a lawsuit and cutoff discovery by a mere offer of settlement.  Also, it would require the family of a worker killed in such a negligently caused explosion to pay the company’s legal costs, if they fail to obtain more than the offer by the company...which is a concept somewhere beyond heinous, to my way of thinking.

This brings to mind the question that thus far has been unanswered:  How can a lawsuit that is filed because more than two people were killed --or more than five were seriously injured-- be frivolous?  The last time I checked, the lawsuit over the death of the breadwinner of a family was a serious matter.  At least it is for the victims of wrongdoing.  

I suppose whether or not a lawsuit is a frivolous lawsuit is determined sort of like the way one might determine whether or not surgery is major or minor.  Clearly, our governor would define minor surgery as that surgery performed on someone else.

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