Texas House budget includes anti-gay measure, leaves out needed funds for AIDS drug program

Rep. Garnet Coleman

The Texas House approved a budget Sunday that includes massive cuts to public education, Medicaid and, well, just about everything else. The House budget, which now goes to the Senate, would trim $23 billion from current state and federal spending over the next two years. Democrats in the House, who are outnumbered 2-to-1, say the cuts will have disastrous effects on key services.

As we noted the other day, the House budget includes an amendment that would require public colleges and universities in Texas with LGBT resource centers to spend an equal amount, dollar for dollar, on centers promoting “traditional and family values.” The amdendment from Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, passed by a margin of 110-24.

The House budget does not include any additional money for the Texas HIV Medication Program, which will need $19.2 million more over the next two years to meet increased demand. The HIV Medication Program provides life-sustaining medication to 14,000 low-income people with HIV/AIDS. Last week, a Senate budget panel recommended providing the additional money. The Senate’s version of the budget is expected to include $10 billion more than the House, and the two measures will then have to be reconciled. As one lawmaker put it, “Thank God for the Senate.”

After the jump is the reaction to the budget of Democratic State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who called the budget “shameful.” Incidentally, Coleman proposed an amendment to the budget that would have required school districts to report incidents of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The amendment failed by a vote of 97-49.

Writes Coleman of the final House budget: “I voted ‘no’ on this bill because in my 20 years as a state legislator, I’ve never seen a budget so devastating to children and seniors. All we’ve done today is move around the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks.”

—  John Wright

A Texas-sized legislative closet

As another legislative session gets under way in Austin, GayPolitics.com reports today that Texas is now one of only 18 states with no openly LGBT state lawmakers. California and Maryland are tied for the most openly LGBT lawmakers, with seven each. Four states have no openly LGBT elected officials at any level of government — Alaska, Kansas, Mississippi and South Dakota.

Texas has had only one openly LGBT state lawmaker in its history — Democratic Rep. Glen Maxey of Austin, who served from 1991 until 2003.

Of course, with 150 people in the House and 31 in the Senate, it’s all but certain that a few Texas lawmakers are LGBT.

The reason we have no seat at the table is that the chairs are all stacked in the closet.

Anyone wanna help us get them out?

—  John Wright

Election 2010 • Novotny loses bid to unseat Kern

Brittney Novotny lost her bid to become a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives in midterm elections Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Out of 8,600 ballots cast, Novotny, who is transgender, received about 35 percent of the vote.

Her opponent, virulently anti-gay Rep. Sally Kern, will return to office for a fourth term.

Kern made national news saying that homosexuality is a worse threat to the country than terrorism.

Oklahoma has term limits, which means Kern can run for the House only two more times.

Novotny would have become the first transgender state legislator in the United States had she been elected.

In addition to running a fairly conservative district, Republicans swept statewide offices. Mary Fallin, the state’s new Republican governor, won her race by 20 points. Four of the state’s five congressmen will also be Republican.

Democratic incumbent Al McAffrey, who is gay and represents part of Oklahoma City in the state House of Representatives, won his race with almost 70 percent of the vote.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Shareholders urge Target, Best Buy to increase oversight of campaign contributions

MARTIGA LOHN  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A few Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. institutional shareholders weighed in Thursday, Aug. 19 on the flap over the companies’ political donations in Minnesota, urging the boards of both retailers to increase their oversight of campaign contributions.

Walden Asset Management and Trillium Asset Management Corp., both of Boston, and Bethesda, Md.-based Calvert Asset Management Co. filed shareholder resolutions with both companies. Together, the three firms control less than 1 percent of each company’s outstanding shares — 1.1 million Target shares worth $57.5 million and 344,000 Best Buy shares worth $11.3 million — but they are moving the debate over the political giving to a new arena.

Target gave $150,000 and Best Buy $100,000 to a business-focused political fund helping a conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, triggering a national backlash from gay rights groups and liberals. The companies made the donations after a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling freed them to spend corporate funds on elections. The candidate, state legislator Tom Emmer, opposes gay marriage and other rights for same-sex couples.

“A good corporate political contribution policy should prevent the kind of debacle Target and Best Buy walked into,” said Trillium vice president Shelley Alpern. “We expect companies to evaluate candidates based upon the range of their positions — not simply one area — and assess whether they are in alignment with their core values. But these companies’ policies are clearly lacking that.”

The shareholders said the donations don’t mesh with corporate values that include workplace protections for gay employees and risk harming the companies’ brands. Walden senior vice president Tim Smith said such giving can have “a major negative impact on company reputations and business.”

The Target resolution urges the board to review the effect of future political contributions on the company’s public image, sales and profitability and to consider the cost of backing a candidate whose politics conflict with the company’s public stances.

Spokeswoman Amy Reilly said Minneapolis-based Target had nothing to add to previous statements on the matter, including an apology from Chief Executive Officer Gregg Steinhafel.

A spokeswoman for Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy didn’t immediately respond to a message.

The three investment companies together submitted the resolution to Target, while Calvert and Trillium filed the Best Buy shareholder proposal. One of Trillium’s clients, the Portland, Ore.-based Equity Foundation, divested a small Target holding of 170 shares on Wednesday.

—  John Wright

Novotny takes on Kern’s attack on liberals

Brittany Novotny

Brittany Novotny, a transgender attorney, is challenging incumbent Sally Kern for her seat in the Oklahoma legislature. The district is in Oklahoma City.

She sent Dallas Voice a letter today taking issue with Kern’s appearance at “Wake Up, America” where Kern took a stand against liberals.

Novotny challenged Kern to deal with the state’s real issues. In the past Kern has said that gays and lesbians were a bigger threat to the country than terrorists.

Other speakers at the conference included “Rev.” Noah Hutchings, known for anti-Catholic rhetoric including calling Pope John Paul II the anti-christ. He predicted the world would end in 1987-88. It didn’t.

Another “Wake Up, America” speaker, Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, spoke “In defense of mixing church and state.”

Open Letter to Rep. Sally Kern: How About Taking on Oklahoma’s Real Problems?

Dear Rep. Kern:

One of my supporters forwarded me a speaking schedule for a conference that took place this past weekend called “Wake Up, America!”  According to the speaker schedule, on Saturday you were to present on the topic of “Taking a Stand Against Liberals.”

This led me to ponder a question.  What exactly do you see as your job as a state legislator?  Is this just a game to you?  Oklahoma is facing real issues that will affect the everyday lives of teachers, police officers, firefighters, construction workers, small business owners, and most important of all our children.

Instead of spending your weekends and your time in the legislature “taking a stand against liberals,” why aren’t you finding solutions to our budget dilemma that will keep teachers in the classroom, police officers and firefighters on the street, construction workers improving our roads and bridges, and small businesses afloat?

Legislating should not be a political game.  Real lives are affected by what goes on in the legislature.  But if you’re too busy “taking a stand against liberals” (of which there are maybe 5 in the 101 seats of the state legislature) to find real funding solutions, then apparently you believe that legislating is just a game.  As long as you’re taking a brave stand against “liberals,” then people shouldn’t worry about the fact that Putnam City Schools just laid of 40 teachers.

After examining your legislative record of the past six years, it appears that your main goal has been to institute a big brother government that looks into the private bedrooms and physician exam rooms of Oklahomans, while doing nothing to address the issues facing Oklahoma’s public schools (which you have stated are “failing our children”) or our crumbling infrastructure.  Targeted tax incentives are great for economic development; across the board tax cuts that bankrupt our public schools and deplete resources that go to public health and safety will not make Oklahoma a more attractive place to do business.

The Journal Record has already taken you to task for “damaging [Oklahoma’s] credibility and inhibiting our state’s ability to conduct business.”

This is OUR future that you’re playing with.  I’m not willing to just stand by and let your crusade against liberals ruin the future of my home, Oklahoma.  That’s why I decided to challenge you, because Oklahomans deserve legislators that are going to work in the Capitol to try and solve our budget crisis.  Oklahomans deserve legislators looking for ways to help our small businesses create jobs.  Oklahomans deserve legislators looking for innovative education solutions to ensure that all children have the tools they need to succeed.  Oklahomans deserve legislators that understand that economic development requires investment in our transportation infrastructure.

In order to solve these problems, I’m willing to work with all of my fellow legislators and fellow Oklahomans. I’ll work with conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans to find solutions that will help us create a brighter future for all Oklahomans. It’s OUR future, let’s stop the divisiveness and start building something better.

Sincerely,

Brittany M. Novotny

—  David Taffet