Monday, April 23, 2007

Texas Rep. Betty Brown’s HB 218 Passes: Texas (Will Have) A Poll Tax In It

I watched the debate on State Rep. Betty Brown’s outrageous anti-voter bill this evening and have come to the conclusion that Texas needs to be re-occupied by the Grand Army of the Republic, and Reconstruction needs to be re-established.

Texas is being ruled by an unreformed confederate majority in its legislature.

I’ve already made my case on this bad piece of legislation. It is a renewal of a Texas Jim Crow Law drawn up in 1902 to require a voter to pay money in order to vote. Poor black voters were disenfranchised when they couldn’t pay a fee to exercise their constitutional right.

The various amendments offered to fix this, by making the required photo id documents available to voters for free, were continually voted down. “Fiscal notes” kept coming up. That the bill is a non-funded mandate is undeniable – it’s going to cost more to carry out the demands of the bill. But whenever an attempt to make photo id free to voters, Republicans waved the “fiscal note” flag.

Betty Brown’s main objection, time and time again, was that the US Supreme Court has already ruled on a required Photo ID law in Arizona, and that it therefore was not an unconstitutional poll tax.

I remember that decision. I couldn’t remember anything about a poll tax in it.

So I went back and looked it up. The decision was issued on October 20th 2006. It was Arizona et al. v. Maria Gonzales et al. and Helen Purcell, Maricopa County Recorder et al. v. Maria Gonzales et al.

The words “poll tax” does not even appear in the decision. Betty Brown was being economical with the truth. In their decision, the supremes simply overturned the 9th Court of Appeals Court’s decision to overturn the district court’s refusal to issue an injunction against enforcement of Arizona’s Proposition 200, requiring a voter produce a photo id in order to register to vote. Here is what Justice Stevens wrote:

“We underscore that we express no opinion here on the correct disposition, after full briefing and argument, of the appeals from the District Court’s September 11 order or on the ultimate resolution of these cases. As we have noted, the facts in these cases are hotly contested, and “[n]o bright line separates permissible election-related regulation from unconstitutional infringements.” Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U. S. 351, 359 (1997).Given the imminence of the election and the inadequate time to resolve the factual disputes, our action today shall of necessity allow the election to proceed without an injunction suspending the voter identification rules.”

At the end, Betty Brown lied. She quoted from the Supreme Court decision that she says is a decision that does not oppose a photo id requirement because it is not a poll tax. Bad Betty Brown. She cited a Supreme Court case that made no mention of a poll tax.

Half Empty prediction: The bill, if it becomes law, and in Half Empty’s opinion, it will, the law will be challenged in the courts, the law will be ruled unconstitutional, and Texas will again be the laughingstock of the nation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hal, Love the legislative analyses in your blog. Just got back from Houston and caught up on your excellent lege reports: I was amused by your conclusion "that Texas needs to be re-occupied by the Grand Army of the Republic, and Reconstruction needs to be re-established." It is not the first time that Texans have looked to the Feds for help. Thanks to a copy of the original in the Texas State Archives, I know that exactly 140 years ago today (April 26, 1867), my g-g-g-grandfather, A.M. Boatright, penned a letter from Goliad to Gen. Griffin, Commander, U.S Forces for Reconstruction in Texas (Galveston), requesting help "expelling the present incumbent rebbels" in control of all municipal and judicial offices, because they were not implementing Reconstruction. (And for a little revenge, no doubt: Gramps was the mayor of Goliad from 1855 to 1867, and according to his letter he spent "a great lapse of time" during the Civil War years locked up in the Goliad jail because he was pro-Union.) Gramps was a Republican, back when Repubs were a good thing, compared to Texas Dems, or "rebbels," or whatever they called themselves back then.
As for the poll tax, I remember my good Democrat mom going to pay hers every year, up until I graduated high school in 1966 (thanks to Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections and the U.S Supreme Court). Your prediction is spot on, although Texas probably has even more hilarious issues to make it a laughingstock. I personally don't think any of it is too funny. I want to be proud to be a native Texan again someday.
CF from Cal