Friday, April 13, 2007

Texas House Votes Against Texas Becoming a Police State

It was a stinker of a bill.

Authored by Rep. Dianne White Delisi (R-Temple), HB 855, had it passed in the state House and Senate, would have knocked off the final prop that keeps very paternalistic Texas from devolving into a full blown police state.

The thing that gets me is that it didn’t initially seem to be a bad bill to a majority in the House, Gardner Selby in the Austin American-Statesman reports that the House had given it tentative approval on Wednesday. A final vote was postponed due to a point of order raised by Rep. Thompson, that the minutes of the House rules committee meeting on the bill were incomplete.

Amazing, isn’t it? In this post 9/11 world where our civil liberties have been rapidly whittled away everywhere you look, passing a law that says that you are required to identify yourself to a police officer, without that police officer arresting you, or for that matter, without the police officer even having probable cause to detain you, seems right and reasonable.

And refusal to identify yourself can result in you being arrested for violating the law. It’s merely a Class C misdemeanor, but the point is, if someone wanted to take you in under arrest, all they would have to do is ask “what’s your name?”

That the Reps started to see that it was a bill that was clearly an over the top descent into a police state didn’t really come about until Dawnna Dukes, Valinda Bolton, Senfronia Thompson, and Borris Miles pointed out that the bill was inherently racist, and that it would likely be abused by police and “hasten police harassment of residents on the basis of race”.
"Wow," said Delisi. "It seems to me that this small bill has now highlighted the issue of existing racism in Texas."
And that disturbs me, too. Not that I live in a state with plenty of racists to go around, I already knew that if Rep. Delisi didn’t. No, what disturbs me is that it was not the issue of another erosion of American civil liberties, and another attack on the search and seizure amendment in the US Bill of Rights. It was the issue that the law would be abused by racist police officers that killed the bill. That is a completely valid point, but if we were living in a state where everyone was of the same race this foul-smelling bill would have succeeded!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a victory over this bill any which way, but I need to know why are Americans so ready and willing to roll over and forfeit their precious (and increasingly rare) rights and freedoms that millions have fought in wars to protect?

No comments: