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Thursday, May 29, 1997

Lawmaker does cause no good with 'massacre'

It will go down in the annals of the Texas Legislature as the "Memorial Day Massacre," and it does no credit to the state representative who carried it out or to the cause she supports.

On Monday, state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, a Burleson Republican, wiped out a slate of 52 bills passed by the Texas Senate and set for debate in the House that day. She accomplished this blanket demolition single-handedly by raising a point of order, objecting that the House Calendars Committee did not specify exactly where it was meeting when it scheduled Monday's agenda, even though the committee has met in the same, routine location all session.

To clarify the circumstances described in Wednesday's editorial, Wohlgemuth was angry that a bill requiring parental notification for teen-age girls seeking an abortion was being delayed in the House after being passed by the Senate.

In retaliation, she lashed out like a terrorist whose anger is directed at innocent targets, destroying thousands of hours of legislative work in one fell swoop. Two of Gov. George W. Bush's priorities - faith-based welfare services and the creation of more charter schools - were among the casualties. So were bills to put Texas' councils of government under stronger state oversight and to trim $42 million in fat out of the state budget.

Already scrambling to beat the session's midnight hour next Monday, the Legislature must now scramble even harder to try to salvage all this effort by attaching some "dead" bills as amendments to "live" ones - just because one lawmaker out of 181 had a temper tantrum.

Wohlgemuth's tactics will not result in a more favorable view of the anti-abortion cause she champions. She has angered many legislators and harmed many voters who would otherwise be numbered among her supporters, and she shouldn't have been surprised that a point of order similar to the one she used in such wholesale fashion on Monday was employed on Tuesday to defeat the parental notification bill.

Wohlgemuth has given her opponents new evidence to think of anti-abortion forces as unreasonable extremists devoted to that one issue to the exclusion of all others. Her moment of fame has brought embarrassment to the governor and the Legislature and ill serves the people of Texas for whom government is supposed to work.


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