Tuesday, May 17, 2011


For a long time I have maintained that tort reform is more about power and money than reforming anything.  Once again my belief has been affirmed.  

While Republicans claim the recent landslide victory in the Texas Legislature, leaving us with 101 Republicans and 49 Democrats, is a result of the outcry of the people for more conservative government, there may be another factor at work. A closer examination of the results of the last legislative election reveals that tort reform groups furnished at least a half-million dollars in each open legislative race in Texas, proving once again that money matters.

Just to show how much things have changed in the last few generations, in 1962 when I ran for the House of Representatives I spent almost $5,000 total on a primary race, a runoff and a general election.  Since Tom DeLay’s plan has taken effect re-arranging Texas House districts, it is not unusual to see $500,000 or more spent on a House race.

Tort reform groups would have you believe this is strictly about doing away with silly, frivolous lawsuits which cost good business people thousands of dollars.  Recently, the Texans for Lawsuit Reform have weighed in on a new issue. They are now criticizing reapportionment of the House districts.  

Reapportionment, as you know, occurs every 10 years, except when Tom DeLay, alias “The Hammer,” persuaded the Republican leadership of Texas to depart from tradition and re-divide the districts in the middle of a 10-year cycle.  Richard Trabulsi, chief lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, is now scurrying around the Legislature asking that the districts be made more conservative.  He is worried that because of certain growth populations, particularly among Hispanic communities,  his conservative strength will be diluted.  

Reform groups have long since done away with any opportunity for civil suit abuses and now it appears they are looking for ways to continue to justify their existence among the business community.  It is also obvious the business community is open to this long-term plan as evidenced by the millions and millions of dollars they continue to pour into the coffers of these groups to let them buy votes in the next election.

There is also more recent evidence that conservatives, including our governor, continue to play fast and loose with the truth. You will certainly recall our governor suggesting that maybe it was time for Texas to secede from the union, and repeatedly make the claim that Texans send more money to Washington than they get back.  A recent revelation by Rachel Maddow, who has a late-night political talk show, revealed research showing that Texans receive more money from the federal government than the amount all Texans pay in taxes.  

Conservative members of the House continue to demonstrate their hypocrisy while attacking the federal government as though it was a foreign power.  They gladly accepted the $13+ billion to balance the budget two years ago, and now are accepting $830+ million which is supposed to be spent on education--but likely will not. At the same time, our governor, who purportedly hates federal funding, is begging for money to fight wildfires in Texas.  

This is a little strange in that the Texas Legislature, under his leadership, in its recent budget, just cut funding to rural fire departments.

On the subject of the budget, look for a showdown between the Senate and House.  The Senate, in a moment of sanity, decided to dip once again into the rainy day fund to the tune of slightly over $3 billion, making the Senate budget on education $5.7 billion higher than the House version. The House is likely to win this battle in that it requires a two-thirds vote of the House in order to spend money from the rainy day fund.  This simply is not likely to happen with the governor’s threatened veto and the new Tea Party-backed Republicans vowing “no new taxes” and “no use of the rainy day fund.”  

It seems our present Legislature is totally dedicated to sacrifice the future of education in Texas on its vowed “no new taxes” even though Texans are taxed less than citizens of 48 other states.

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