I am not making this up—As funds for education and vital state services in Texas are being slashed to the bone in the ongoing legislative session, the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives has passed a tax cut for the purchase of chewing tobacco.
“Members of the Texas House on Wednesday approved a bill to lower a tax on Red Man and other brands of loose-leaf chewing tobacco. When Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland , laid out House Bill 2599, one freshman House member from Central Texas couldn’t believe his ears. “I just had to clarify. It’s cutting taxes to chewing tobacco?” a shocked Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, asked from the floor. Isaac was the only member to question the measure, which passed 83-53. “We just created an incentive for people to use cancer-causing products,” Isaac said after the bill was approved. “When we have the fiscal problems that we have, it’s wrong to be cutting taxes on products like chewing tobacco.”
Yet at the same time, Texas is considering making it more affordable for people to use chewing tobacco.
How any person of any ideological outlook can see this overall course of action as advisable.
The Mayo Clinic does not think that using chewing tobacco is a very good idea.
(Below–People have been chewing tobacco for a long time. They also have been getting sick from chewing tobacco for a long time. Here is a history of the use of tobacco.)
Here is the weekly posting of the Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.
With the round-up this week, I’ll offer a few thoughts on the prospect of some of our Democratic state legislators in Texas switching parties.
None of this is surprising. Before Mr. Ritter’s defection, Republicans held a 99-51 edge in the House. There is not much to be said for Democratic prospects in the 2011 legislative session.
Politicians are likely go where they can have influence and can get the best deal. In the case of Mr. Ritter, it seemed probable he would lose his seat in 2012 given the political trends in his district.
It’s easy to get mad at these traitors and potential traitors, but is should be noted that the way we run our Texas legislature mutes partisan affiliation. While it would seem the ideological gap between the two parties is such that switching seems unlikely, the fact is party identification in the legislature often takes a backseat to a process that leaves voters guessing just where the person who represents them in Austin really stands.
* Votes for the position of Speaker of the House involve legislators of one party voting for a candidate of the other party.
* Committee chairs and vice-chairs are often persons of the minority party.
* Democrats supported former far-right Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick for years and they got away with it for long enough to do plenty of damage.
* There is no formal majority leader and minority leader position in the House and Senate.
In this context, there is a measure of coherence in switching parties. Rather than a hard and fast identification to one or the other major party and to the values voters count on that party to represent, state legislators work in a system where loyalty is to individuals and to unseen influences.
I realize that control by murky and unseen forces embodies how politics works around the nation. But must we exacerbate these tendencies by making them institutional?
The whole system is lousy. The Speaker should be selected by the majority caucus, and the majority party should run the chamber as elected to do by voters.
In any case, it is hard to muster full outrage at the party switchers when many on both sides of the aisle in Austin have long embraced a system that rewards partisan double-dealing.
Here’s the round-up—-
Bay Area Houston has some interesting comments on the criminal probe of State Representative Joe Driver.
Capitol Annex takes a look at a dangerous proposal by incoming State Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Humble) to allow independent school districts to lessen the amount of cash reserves they are required to keep on hand and explains why this is a terrible idea.