Bud Kennedy

Rookie moments for new Texas lawmakers, and an ‘oops’

State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington
State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington Handout photo

So far, the impending Texas Legislature is mostly interested in guns and God.

If your concerns involve state college funding, public schools, water, roads or any other matter before the Legislature, that is all taking a back seat so far as lawmakers prepare for the Jan. 13-June 1 session.

And if you want any laws changed to favor LGBT Texans, people from Mexico or in particular anyone from Washington, D.C., definitely forget it.

This is the rookie year for a new lineup of Texas leaders, so expect them to play it politically safe and also make the usual rookie mistakes.

As an example, take rookie state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, a retired U.S. Army major more accustomed to giving orders than taking questions.

In a KXAS/Channel 5 interview, Tinderholt listed basic priorities: having state officers guard the Mexico border, opposing abortion and blocking federal requirements such as the healthcare law.

But it took him two tries to list the three points. His first try resulted in a Gov. Rick Perry-style “oops.”

“And No. 3 was — uh — um, … ” he told host Kristi Nelson.

She gently said, “We’ll come back to that.”

(Tinderholt, a good sport, posted the link on social media with a comment: “ ‘Oops’ moments happen to all of us.”)

He also offered some irregular legal interpretations that may not have been covered in his undergraduate studies at what is now Excelsior College or graduate work at what is now Trident University.

“It’s absolutely unconstitutional,” he said, answering a question about in-state college tuition for students brought here as children, “to fund education for people who are here illegally.”

(In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it is constitutionally required, at least in Texas kindergarten-12.)

On gun laws, he called the Second Amendment one of the “ ‘inalienable’ … God-given rights.”

If God blessed Americans directly with guns, He did not notify the Reconstruction-era framers of the 1876 Texas Constitution.

Ours says every Texan has the right to keep and bear arms “in the lawful defense of himself,” but the Legislature shall “regulate the wearing of arms” to prevent post-Civil War crime and unrest. (But it did not prohibit wearing arms.)

Wherever the Legislature can regulate something, it will.

Figure lawmakers will allow licensed open carrying of handguns, including on state college campuses, but won’t completely do away with licenses.

We can forgive Tinderholt and the rest of of local lineup of rookie lawmakers — state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville; state Rep. Dewayne Burns, R-Cleburne; and state Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth — if they haven’t read the entire Texas Constitution.

After all, it’s been amended 484 times.

Make that 485 if a San Antonio-area senator’s religious freedom amendment passes.

State Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, wants to prohibit the government from interfering with “sincerely held religious belief” without a compelling interest, generally allowing discrimination against LGBT Texans.

(The way it’s written right now, the amendment also might theoretically protect the Ku Klux Klan as a religious group.)

That probably will pass the Senate easily under new Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, owner and host at Houston-area conservative talk radio stations and a bestselling Christian author.

Neither Patrick nor Campbell is even drawing the most attention going into the session.

State Sen.-elect Bob Hall, R-Edgewood and leader of the Canton Tea Party, narrowly upset a longtime East Texas senator and said the incumbent was in the “stranglehold” of Satan.

He and the other rookies can’t be expected to know all the answers by the first gavel Jan. 13.

Just by June 1.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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