March Madness is upon us. It’s wacky. It’s unpredictable. You can bet on it. And we now have the list of competitors.
We’re not talking college basketball. We’re talking the wonderful world of lawmaking under the pink granite dome in downtown Austin where almost 6,500 brilliant (in somebody’s mind) ideas have been translated into legislation filed by last Friday’s deadline.
And that means it’s time for Corbin Van Arsdale, a former lawmaker and current Cedar Park council member and veep/general counsel of AGC-Texas Building Branch, a trade association of commercial builders, to do his thing. His thing is to compile a list of the 50 oddest captions on bills. (The guy apparently has spare time on his hands.) The caption is the sentence atop a bill that tells us what it’s about.
Sometimes a caption raises more questions than it answers. Sometimes the question is “Huh?”
After seeking input from other people with spare time on their hands, Van Arsdale announces a winner. In 2015, it was House Bill 3429’s “Relating to the establishment of an unmanned aircraft program in the office of the governor.” The 2013 winner was HB 1819’s “Relating to liability for injuring a trespassing sheep or goat.”
(FYI, the Texas Legislature meets in regular session only in odd years because odd seems more appropriate than even.)
The 2017 nominees include one made a heavy favorite by Las Vegas oddsmakers last Friday when state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, filed it just before the deadline. See if you can pick out the word that might be making its first appearance in Texas legislation: “Relating to the regulation of men’s health and safety; creating a civil penalty for unregulated masturbatory emissions.”
OK, we’re all adults here, so let’s act like adults and not call it the selfie tax. And let’s not giggle about putting it in the penal code. And let’s refrain from talking about this being regulated by an entity called emission control.
Here are some other top contenders in the Van Arsdale Top 50. You can look up the actual bills, but it’s kind of more fun if you don’t. Some are self-explanatory. Others are not. Read ’em and wonder about the folks you’ve elected to make our laws. (And let’s remember that some of these that seem funny stem from real problems — such as prison inmates who seek to be pen pals with folks who shouldn’t be their pen pals.) Here we go:
• “Encouraging the President of the United States to refrain from threatening elected officials.”
• “Relating to operating a motor vehicle while another person is occupying the trunk.”
• “Relating to the regulation of raising or keeping six or fewer chickens by a political subdivision.”
• “Urging Texans not to use the flag emoji of the Republic of Chile when referring to the Texas flag.”
• “Relating to a study by the Department of Agriculture of the transfer of water from the Mississippi River.”
• “Relating to the creation of the offense of bestiality.”
• “Relating to the prohibition on the use of certain baseball bats at University Interscholastic League events.”
• “Relating to standing in a roadway.”
• “Relating to the solicitation of pen pals by certain inmates of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.”
• “Relating to the protection of expressive activities at public institutions of higher education.”
• “Urging Congress to pass a budget.”
• “Relating to signs required to be posted in the restrooms of sexually oriented businesses.”
• “Relating to the punishment for the offense of theft of cattle, horses, exotic livestock, exotic fowl, sheep, swine or goats.”
• And one of my perennial favorites: “Relating to honesty in state taxation.”