Former Congressmen Bill Sarpalius, D-Texas, and Steven Kuykendall, R-California, were invited to campus Thursday as part of Western’s celebration of Constitution Day. While on campus, the Griffon News sat down with the two politicians to interview them about their time as representatives and their opinions about politics today.
What would you consider your most influential bill or legislation?
Sarpalius: My mother had a drinking problem… and for a whole summer, we searched throughout Texas to find a treatment facility. We never found one. My mother was eventually placed in a mental institution for a drinking problem. She later committed suicide. So I ran for public office on a platform to increase the number of treatment facilities in Texas. It took me eight years, but eventually we created an agency to put in drug and alcohol treatment facilities throughout the state.
Kuykendall: I was a state assemblyman and there was this young woman… and she was literally walking the halls of the state legislature, wanting someone to introduce her piece of legislation. We invited her in. She had had a son who had been beat to death by her live-in boyfriend. He wasn’t charged with murder; he was charged with fatal child abuse. That reduced the number of years he could serve in prison. The only thing I changed in the law was to make the punishment for fatal child abuse the same as murder, from fifteen to life to 25 to life.
What is your opinion on the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United?
Sarpalius: At the time when I took office, anyone who gave money to my campaign was reported and they’re funding was capped. Where it changed is that businesses now can give as much as they want; it’s an open checkbook. The concern is that companies are buying members. But the constitution begins with ‘We the people…’ It’s the peoples’ government.
Kuykendall: What I find odd about Citizens United is that young people don’t seem to care as much as old guys like us. I have maybe 20, 30 years at best. I’ve already gotten my pension. But it’s the young people of this nation that need to worry about their vote being heard; but, it’s also the young people that don’t vote as much as the older population. I would just encourage young Americans to make that change, take the responsibility to vote and influence politics. Don’t leave it to big businesses.
Do you think the Civil Rights movement is over? Has it accomplished what it set out to in America?
Sarpalius: That’s a good question. That’s a tough issue because on the other side of that coin we’re paying law enforcement officers to protect people. There’s always a rotten apple. There are people out there who are still doing profiling and whatnot. I don’t know how we can stop that. That’s what we did when we passed the Civil Rights Act. The color of your skin means nothing. There are places where that isn’t occurring. It’s not perfect, and it may never be perfect. I don’t know what the solution is.
Kuykendall: It’s been happening more and more these days, younger generations of races interacting. It’s no longer black and white; it’s more of a tan color. Blacks are marrying browns and browns are marrying whites. I’m in an area where there is no majority. Minority white; minority black; minority Hispanic; everyone is minority where I live. What makes me sick is that we demonize law enforcement because of the acts of a few. I go on a lot of ride alongs, and it’s just crazy to see these people screaming ‘bloody murder’ in the faces of officers. I don’t know what the answer is. I thought we whipped this dog pretty bad already.