Worst 10 members of the Texas House on LGBT issues

Rankings of legislators are always tricky. It’s difficult to include all the little things that happen behind the scenes, the influence of members on each other, or the true motivations or beliefs of individual members. That said, it’s important to acknowledge the public actions of the people elected to represent us. In compiling this worst 10 list we considered public votes, authorship of pro- and anti-LGBT legislation, filing of resolutions acknowledging the LGBT community and committee votes on issues affecting the LGBT community. Behind the scenes work and advocacy are not included.

There is certainly room for debate. We’d love to hear your opinion of the Top 10. How’d your representative do? Did we score them too harshly? Too favorably? Share this list with your friends and let’s have a conversation about how the people elected to represent us did over the last five months.

You can see the full math behind how this list was developed HERE.

Check out the 10 best members of the House during the 83rd regular session HERE, and the full scorecard HERE.

#8 (10-way tie)

Cecil Bell, R – Magnolia; Giovanni Capriglione, R – Southlake; Brandon Creighton, R – Conroe; George Lavender, R – Texarkana; Jeff Leach, R – Plano; Larry Phillips, R – Sherman; Walter 'Four' Price, R – Amarillo; Ron Simmons, R – Lewisville; Phil Stephenson, R – Wharton; Jonathan Stickland, R – Bedford.

Score: 14
Grade: F-

10-way tie? How’s that possible? Well this group, made up mostly of freshmen, managed to move lockstep through the session with identical voting records. All of them voted for Krause’s pro-campus discrimination amendment – twice; all of them voted against enumerated reporting of bullying and harassment in public schools; and all of them voted against efforts to study homeless youth. But the thing that really puts this gang of ten on the worst-of-the-worst list is that all of them co-authored HB 1568, Springer’s attempt to punish schools for offering health benefits to the same-gender partners of their employees by cutting the school’s funding. The perversity of threatening children to advance your extreme political agenda notwithstanding, this attack on local control should give anyone considering voting for these ten pause.

Scott Sanford, R – McKinney

Score: 11 points
Grade: F-

Sanford spent the session lock-step with his freshmen brethren tied for eighth worst, but managed to break away from the pack by voting against Turner’s homeless youth study, HB 2240, in committee as well as on the floor. Not surprising from a politician who defended Chick-fil-A’s funding of genocide in Uganda.

#5 (tie)
Harvey Hildebran, R – Kerrville

Score: 10 points
Grade: F-

It’s hard to see Hildebran on this list. He’s a nice guy – no, really – he’s a really nice guy, the kind of person you’d want for a neighbor. But he managed to vote against the LGBT community every chance he got this session:  supporting discrimination on college campuses, opposing reporting bullying in public schools, and opposing efforts to collect data on homeless youth. Hildebran’s not overtly homophobic though, he didn’t author any of the anti-LGBT legislation this session, he only voted for it.

#5 (tie)
Drew Springer, R – Muenster

Score: 10 points
Grade: F-

Poor Drew Springer.  The Texas Capitol is a very large building, but he did his damnest to fill it to the rafters with crazy. Springer spent most of the session trying to tell the people of Austin and Pflugerville how to run their cities, all while mindlessly parroting “local control” in a display of cognitive dissonance so mind-blowing that political analysts will be talking about it for years to come. Springer authored HB 1568, which started out as an attempt to punish Pflugerville ISD for offering health benefits to the same-gender partners of their employees, so long as the employee paid for the insurance out of their own pocket. HB 1568 managed to mutate over the course of the session, however, and by the time it was done the bill would have given the Attorney General the ability to shut down school districts at will, with no oversight or appeals process. Fortunately this massive power grab was thwarted when our allies on the House Calendars Committee killed it, but this ill-considered, probably unconstitutional and, let’s face it, just plain ol’ jackass insane idea of a bill earned Springer a spot in our five worst of the session.

Steve Toth, R – The Woodlands

Score: 9 points
Grade: F-

Pro-bullying and pro-discrimination votes: check. Co-authorship of HB 1568 and a willingness to hold children’s education hostage to push an extreme political agenda: check, but not content with the base-line homophobia that put some of his fellow freshmen on this list, Toth decided to up the ante by voting to put teenagers in same-gender relationships in jail. Despite passionate pleas from parents, social workers, and health professionals, in committee Toth voted against González’s bill to equalize the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” defense, HB 2403. There’s heartless, and then there’s trying to imprison high-school sweethearts. Toth’s repeated attacks on the welfare of children make him one of the worst members of the House.

#3 Bill Zedler, R – Arlington

Score: 7 points
Grade: F-

Combine the voting record of the gang of 10 tied for 8th worst, with co-authorship of Springer’s attempt to hold children’s education hostage to punish LGBT families, and add an effort to ban campus LGBT resource centers from state universities while simultaneously perpetuating gross misinformation and stereotypes about HIV transition and you get Zedler’s legislative agenda for the 83rd regular session. It would be easy to describe Zedler as “outside the mainstream,” but his die-hard belief that HIV/AIDS is caused by providing basic resources to the LGBT community prove that he is, in fact, firmly in a stream all his own, and that stream is in 1986. Only a vote in committee for a youth suicide prevention bill keeps Zedler out of the bottom two.

#2 Dennis Bonnen, R – Angleton

Score: 2 points
Grade: F-

Bonnen’s sole good vote this session, for Coleman’s mental health and suicide prevention bill HB 3327, almost kept him out of the bottom five, but his decision to joint-author Springer’s attack on local control in Pflugerville ISD tipped him to the penultimate position of shame. A lawmaker of Bonnen’s experience and skill should really know better and it’s disappointing to see someone who is typically far more levelheaded lend his name and reputation to an effort to give the Attorney General the unfettered power to shutter school districts. With a 17-year legislative career under his belt Bonnen can’t hide behind the inexperience that landed so many freshmen on this list, he should know better.

Matt Krause, R – Fort Worth

Score: -4 points
Grade: F-

The people of the strongly Republican house district 93 sent Matt Krause to Austin to reduce taxes and shrink the size of government. Instead he decided to pursue an extreme agenda of inserting state government into every decision made by school districts and universities to insure that LGBT people cannot live their lives in peace. A co-author of Springer’s attempt to anoint the Attorney General the highest authority over school districts, Krause also authored a bill to make certain that student groups at state schools can discriminate based on race, gender or sexual orientation. When his overtly pro-discrimination bill failed to gain traction he changed course, artfully re-wording the legislation to disguise it as a protection against “subversives” who (he claims) are attempting to infiltrate campus organizations.

When his bill failed to make it onto the House floor he successfully amended it to another piece of legislation, SB 215, this time giving authority to a state agency, the Higher Education Coordinating Board, to dictate decisions traditionally left at the local level. That amendment was later removed by calmer, and more experienced, members of the legislature (notably Rafael Anchia). It’s no wonder that Krause, being as distracted as he must have been by his efforts to force state government where it doesn’t belong, managed to pass exactly no bills the entire session (he did pass a single congratulatory resolution, a very endearing thank you to his wife). The people of house district 93 would have been better represented by an empty chair, at least that would have been less embarrassing.

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