Drew Springer is at it again, and he’s got help.
In the last year, two Central Texas school districts have announced plans to offer employee benefits to same-sex couples, but one bill heard Tuesday at the Capitol would make that more difficult across the state.
Pflugerville ISD announced the change last fall, making it the first district in the state to offer benefits to “dependents” who pay into their partners’ insurance plan, at no additional cost to the district or state. Austin ISD followed in late March, saying the change would cost the district $600,000 per year.
Rep. Drew Springer (R-Muenster) has a plan that’d put an end to this trend, though. He explained his proposal to the House Public Education Committee [last] Tuesday night, to withhold 7.5 percent of the state’s funding to any district offering domestic partner benefits. That, he said, should be about equal to the full cost of a district’s employee insurance program.
Springer is joined by dozens of Republican co-authors on House Bill 1568. He stressed that his bill would apply equally to same-sex and heterosexual couples, but also suggested Pflugerville and Austin’s policies were rooted in something more specific.
“I think that was around the back-side door and around the corner of trying to figure out, ‘We’re not happy with the constitutional amendment we had in 2005 that defines marriage between a man and a woman,’” Springer said.
There is good news, however. Equality Texas reports that HB1568 was withdrawn from consideration after its hearing in the Public Education committee on Thursday the 18th. That’s great news, but a “compromise” bill is in the works, whatever that means. Even if that amounts to nothing, the number of sponsors on this bills suggests the possibility of it being attached to some other bill as an amendment later on. So be happy for now, but don’t rest easy.
Two more points to note from the story:
Springer complained that expanding these policies would be a huge extra cost to the state. “If we outlawed marriage, we could save a ton of money,” Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) prodded him.
Unlike married people, though, Springer noted, domestic partners can’t get divorced. He said some might take advantage of the system by staying on the same health insurance plan after they’ve split up.
“It’s very difficult to be able to police that,” Springer said. ”You have a next-door neighbor who may be 40 years, 80 years old—my next-door neighbor—and she comes to me and says, Drew, I need to get coverage, help me out here. It’s easy to make that person my partner.”
No it’s not, you idiot. In fact, most private employers that provide domestic partner coverage have a verification process to ensure brain-dead schemes like Springer’s don’t happen. Many private employers now provide this coverage to their employees, including some of the biggest companies in the world. They do it because it’s something many employees want, and they know they can’t compete for the best talent if they don’t provide such basic benefits. Fraud is unsurprisingly rare. You would think that a party that worships businesses the way the Republicans do might think twice about banning government entities from adopting some of the best practices of the free enterprise system, but I suppose there are things that are more important to them than that.
Steve Washburn, pastor at the First Baptist Church of Pflugerville, told lawmakers of the turmoil that followed the district’s decision in his otherwise civil community. “At a school board meeting in the heat of debate, I was referred to as a hate-monger,” he said. “I’ve been there for 23 years. I’m pretty highly respected. That enraged a lot of people. It hurt a lot of people’s feelings.”
Sorry, Rev. Washburn, but when you seek to deny people the same rights that you enjoy, that makes you not a nice person. I’m sorry that comes as a shock to you, and I’m sorry your feelings have been hurt by the understandably and justifiably angry reaction to your intolerance, but you really need to examine your actions and your motives if you want to be respected again. It’s entirely up to you.