Tomlinson: Texas GOP lawmakers propose laws attacking freedom, liberty and property rights

If you can judge a person by the company they keep, then you can judge a legislator by the laws they propose.

The bad bills keep piling up in Austin. Some are grandstanding; others are pandering. Many are insidious. But they are all bad for people, businesses and Texas.

State Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, is vying for showboat of the session with some of the most ridiculous and reactionary bills introduced so far. The breadth and hatefulness of his measures make him a caricature of the small-minded politician.

Patterson is terrified of LGBTQ people, and his bills try to put them back in the closet. His HB436 would stop parents from seeking appropriate medical care for a transgender child, while his HB643 would equate drag performances with strip clubs, which must collect a $5 per patron state tax.

Taking a cue from Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, Patterson also introduced HB 1155, which prohibits schools from acknowledging LGBTQ people before the 9th grade. The state would forbid teachers from explaining why some kids have two moms or two dads.

Companies that relocated to Texas for tax incentives will lose them under Patterson’s HB 787 if they assist employees in obtaining abortions. Corporations committed to their worker’s civil rights should pay heed.

Patterson would also interfere with access to information by forbidding state agencies from subscribing to newspapers and magazines through HB 843. He also doesn’t want universities to support nonprofit news organizations

The desire to censor runs strong. Patterson also proposed HB 896, which bans anyone under 18 from using any social media platform. Quite predictably, Patterson also introduced a book ban bill, HB 1655. There will be no stopping the thought police if this bill becomes law.

Patterson is the same lawmaker who introduced HB714 to strip the city of Austin of its sovereignty and establish a District of Austin that the Legislature would oversee without input from its citizens. Patterson thinks he should dictate how you should live and opposes political self-determination too.

If all these bills become law, I cannot imagine big companies relocating to Texas.

Patterson is prolific, and he has many more bills punishing those with whom he disagrees, but he’s far from alone.

Sens. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, have filed what some describe as the single worst anti-clean energy bill so far. Lawmakers who do not care about the enormous environmental harm produced by oil and natural gas extraction have decided to impose absurd restrictions on wind and solar facilities in SB 624.

“In the exercise of the police power of this state, it is necessary and desirable to provide additional means so that the installation and removal of renewable energy generation facilities is placed under the authority and direction of the (Public Utility) Commission,” the bill’s purpose declares.

The bill proposes the kind of bureaucratic red tape that sincere conservatives find reprehensible. The senators want an onerous and complex hearing and permitting process designed to make building new wind or solar power facilities almost impossible.

Additional operational rules are spectacularly hypocritical in a state where oil companies routinely waste millions of cubic feet of valuable natural gas, abandon leaky wells that become ecological hazards, and drill disposal wells that cause damaging earthquakes.

When Kolkhorst served in the Texas House, she earned bipartisan respect for serious attempts to address the state’s health care challenges. Since joining the Senate, she’s started carrying Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s culture war bills, including the infamous bathroom bill targeting transgender Texans in 2019.

This session, she introduced SB 147, banning citizens of China, Iran, North Korea or Russia from purchasing Texas real estate. She apparently believes a person’s passport is more important than their character, even if they are exiled dissidents or refugees supporting the United States.

Kolkhorst is breaking with her more conservative colleagues, though, by introducing a constitutional amendment and a bill legalizing sports gambling. Patrick earlier said gambling has little support in the Senate, over which he presides, so the measures may not get far.

Many of the Legislature’s more extreme bills may not pass, but their introduction scares off businesses considering relocation to Texas and worried about employee retention. While politicians use crazy bills to appease party activists and donors, they should worry average Texans who love freedom, liberty and property rights.

These bills tell us a lot about the authors, but the ones that pass will say much more about Texas.

Chris Tomlinson, named 2021 columnist of the year by the Texas Managing Editors, writes commentary about money, politics and life in Texas. Sign up for his “Tomlinson’s Take” newsletter at or