I’ve noted several bills that aim to move Texas forward, however incrementally, towards greater equality. These are all good and fine things, but don’t mistake their existence for evidence that the Legislature is through trying to move us backwards.
The first Texas school district to offer health insurance benefits to domestic partners is under fire from a state lawmaker, and the penalty could hit the school where it counts — in the pocketbook.
State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, filed House Bill 1568, on Wednesday. It would cut off health care funding to Texas school districts that allow employees to add a domestic partner to their health care plan, targeting Pflugerville Independent School District, which extended those benefits last year.
The board of trustees of Pflugerville ISD made history in December 2012 with a 5-1 vote, becoming the first school district in Texas to offer health benefits for domestic partners.
“I think the money we give to educate our kids should go to the kids and not trying to expand social benefits that we decided in 2005 was unconstitutional,” Springer said Thursday, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act of 2005, which defined marriage in the Texas Constitution as between one man and one woman. “We’re not taking away all the funding, just the 7.5 percent that goes to the health benefit plan.”
Opponents of Springer’s bill argue that it mischaracterizes the school’s health plan policy. “No tax dollars are being used,” said Chuck Smith, president of Equality Texas, an LGBT lobbying group. Smith said that no money is taken from funding the classroom, but rather the policy “allows access to the benefit plan, but the employee still pays the premium.”
I marvel once again at the disconnect between how certain people feel about the federal government telling the state what it can and cannot do, and the state government telling local governments what they can and cannot do. See also efforts by the Lege to require state law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws, but forbid them from enforcing federal gun control laws. If there’s a coherence to the ideology that drives this, I don’t see it. One hopes that the Supreme Court will render this misguided and petty little bill moot in the near future, but that’s no reason not to oppose it now. The Legislature has much better things to do than this.