A Race A ainst Clock in Anctry House Finale the House members into giving on three. They wouldn’t even do that. “You and the people of Texas,” he concluded, “should know that the House conferees have given on every point they could without selling out the people of Texas.” Rep. Bob Eckhardt, Houston liberal, said, “It simply boils down to this. The Senate conferees have been willing to take any dedicated reserves gas tax that they think is unconstitutional. This is as cynical a position as can be taken. “We’ve considered every possibility of presenting the courts with a clean billa method of taxing constitutionally this ‘great revenue source before these dedicated reserves leave the state forever. “If we are going to get any kind of gas bill that’s constitutional,” Eckhardt said, “we’re going to have to show here today that we won’t take a tax bill containing an unconstitutional gas tax.” He argued that he, Atty. Gen. Wilson, and spokesmen for TIPRO had agreed that the amendment was unconstitutional; they had also agreed on an amendment that would make the bill more soundly constitutional. “If you have this kind of unanimity,” he said, “you can agree the Senate conferees are supporting their version because they know it to be unconstitutional.” Don Kennard, Fort Worth liberal, followed. “We went to the Senate and said, ‘Look, we realize a sales tax may be inevitable. We’ll go back to the House and work for itif it’s a good sales tax.’ }Mainly we wanted to do something about that $10 sop on work-clothing passed by the Senate. “But most of the negotiations,” Kennard said, “have centered, not around the sales tax, but around business taxes. The franchise tax . we passed in the House was a good one. It hit those corporations located outside Texas, sending their products here and competing with our home people. The Senate won’t take that. “About the gas taxfor God’s sakes, if you pass one, pass one that’s legal, Otherwise, why pass one at all? But they don’t want it constitutional. They made that clear to all of us. They’ve given the telephone companies $4% million. This money is going into the pockets of the telephone companies, while at the same time we’re soaking every man, .woman, and child with a broad-based sales tax. “We went into conference,” Kennard argued, “thinking of the interests of the people of Texas. The only interests the Senate have had are in the pipelines, the out-of-state corporations, and the telephone utilities.” Kennard moved that the House discharge the conferees and the speaker appoint new ones. “We need some new blood over there,” he said. “And it gets pretty bloody, believe me.” Rep. Jim Cotten of Weatherford, in a self-confessed ploy to get an early vote on concurring with the Senate, lodged a motion to concur with the upper house version. A stunning, though short-lived, victory for opponents of the Senate program came on a motion to table the motion to concur. It was tabled, 118-28. The discharge of the House conferees carried, 90-52, and Turman immediately named the new members. Ballman, Eckhardt, and Murray were retained. Conservatives Jim Nugent of Kerrville and ‘Reed Quilliam of Lubbock were added. This change, so it turned out, was a crucial one. Then Rep. Joe Chapman of Sulphur Springs moved to instruct the new House conferees to persuade the Senate negotiators to revise the pipeline tax along the lines suggested by Eckhardt. “Let’s show the Senate a majority of this House is backing our conferees on this point,” Chapman said. Byron Tunnell, conservative from Tyler, opposed the motion to instruct. “Our conferees have been working since last Friday, uninstructed and unimpeded. Let’s don’t pitch ’em a bone now.” But the instructions carried, 7866. With that, the House recessed until 4 p.m. Something Happens Late that afternoon, after the lunch interim, newsmen noted a flurry of activity near the passageway from the speaker’s office to the House chamber. House conferees had just returned to the floor from a brief caucus following the final session with Sen. Wardlow Lane and his Senate colleagues. The word spread across the floor with the swiftness of burning sagebrush. The House conferees, by a vote of 4-1, had agreed to go with the senators on two concessions: the Eckhardt pipeline tax had been rewritten to reduce revenue from $18.5 million to $3.3 million, with the nonseverability clause retained; and the tax reduction on telephone companies had been withdrawn, with the agreement that the two percent sales tax on telephone bills be deleted from the utilities section of the sales tax. Ballman, Murray, Quilliam, and Nugent had signed the conference report, Eckhardt had not. Would the House now vote to accept the revised tax package? Could the amended tax bill be reproduced and placed on members’ desks, as the rules required, in time for action? Word came down from the governor and the speaker for House concurrence to end the session, and small caucuses took place across the vast chamber. Cajolery and persuasion, for and against, were now mobilized in dead earnest, and as the House recessed until 8:30 p.m., everyone therethe most retiring young page includedknew that the ultimate drama of the 57th legislature was shortly to be reenacted. A Tense Wait The galleries were packed to capacity that night for the finish, and the crowd overflowed into the aisles and the doorways. ‘On the floor, a group of conservatives gathered around the desk of Rep. Will Ehrle, counting the votes they had for final passage. Rep. Skeet Richardson was conducting a poll of the floor; at one point he counted 55 for, 55 against, with the rest either unreached or undecided. ‘Charles Hughes of Sherman, the veteran liberal, stopped by the press table and commented, “It looks pretty bad.” The minutes ticked by while Speaker Turman waited for the printed version of the conference committee’s bill to reach the floor. Secretaries were frantically working on it in the capitol basement. Routine resolutions were read and approved, but most of the time the House rested at ease, while the thickening bluish smoke, so familiar to legislative last nights, circled and re-circled aimlessly to the ceiling. At 10:10 p.m., the completed bill not yet having reached the floor, Malcolm McGregor, liberal from El ‘Paso, rose on a point of order to ask Turman “whether under the rules any important business can be enacted after 12 midnight.” “It’s been customary to end business at midnight,” the speaker replied. “The chair will keep his eye on the clock, even if it’s 5 a.m.” It was 10:40 p.m., and the written bill was still unfinished, when Turman asked those who wished to speak pro and con to come to his desk. At least two dozen members responded. It was 10:53 p.m. when he asked for a vote to suspend the rules to take a vote on limiting debate to three speakers on each side, five minutes each. With a two-thirds vote needed, the motion carried by 107-38. Two minutes later W. T. Oliver, conservative from Port Neches, moved to suspend the rules to begin debate. “We’re basically familiar with what the bill does,” Oliver said, “because we’ve had a chance to talk with the conferees.” Kennard opposed. “No matter how anxious we are to consider this bill,” he said, “this is still a democratic body. Any document as important as this tax bill should be laid on the desk of each member so he can examine it. Otherwise, we’d have a realand serious departure from our rules.” It was just after 11 p.m. when the House, by two-thirds vote, suspended to begin debate, 101-44. Ballman, chairman of the conferees, spoke in favor. He said the House negotiators had failed on the franchise tax, the $1 restaurant meals, the $10 deductible on clothes, but the Senate had agreed to take the revised gas tax and had stricken the telephone reduction. “If you think I like this bill, you’re badly mistaken,” he said, “but the time has come to get down to business, to pay for ‘the appropriations we have voted for.” Charles Wilson of Trinity, speaking against the conference report, said he had favored a sales tax and had earlier decided to vote for this bill, “but after thinking about the extremes the House conferees had gone to in agreeing with the Senate, I knew I was wrong. “How have the long pipelines and the interstate corporations borne their share?” he asked. “They would pay an infinitesimal percentage. About $320 million would come from the consumers of Texasand $3 million from the gas pipelines. That’s not what I’m committed to, that’s what Tom Sealy is committed to.” A vote for the conference bill, he said, “will be giving in to the Senate and the lobby.” Howard Green of Fort Worth asked, “Is this a time of fear or of political courage? What are the alternatives to voting for this bill? Chaos! An accelerating loss of revenue! A potential collapse of our whole financial system! I’d much rather vote for it tonight than in December. “George Bancroft, a great liberal, once said, ‘All things are relative, none are absolute.’ ” This tax program, “is the lesser of two evils.” Eckhardt was next. “It seems strange to me anyone would use the word ‘courage’,” he said. “The choice tonight is between expediency and conscience.” There was a blank space by his name on the conference report, he said, because he did not choose “to surrender to the lords of the Senate and the overlords of the lobby. “As one of your conferees I was bound by your vote on instructions to correct the Gibbens amendment and meet the constitutional objections of the attorney general. I’ll tell you what’s left now$3.3 million, that’s what’s left. Gas is a fleeting, ephemeral thing in the hands of a conference committee. Once again they’ve taken gas out of a gas tax. “Let me tell you nowyou can divorce me from the Eckhardt gas tax!” he shouted. “The Senate even refused to remove the nonseverability clause,” he said, “which is designed to make even this bill unconstitutional. And since Atty. Gen. Wilson has drafted the substitute clause which gutted this bill, it should beCalled the Sealy-Wilson gas tax,” designed to protect “Texas Eastern, El Paso Natural Gas, and the rest.” Eckhardt, in a voice trembling with anger, said, “Seventy-eight percent of the gas produced in Texas has been removed from this bill. This isn’t Mr. Gibbens’ little stripper plants, it’s most of the gas in Texas. This is a fraud and a sham, a bill heavily weighted against the consumers and for the corporations and pipelines.” At 11:35 p.m. Franklin Spears of San Antonio rose to oppose. “For the first time in history,” he said, “we’ve begun debate on a major tax bill before we even see it on our desks. I’m sick and tired of being pushed around by the Senate on the last night. “This is a soak-the-poor tax and a pamper the pipelines tax,” he said. “It was written by Big Daddy Ed Clark!” Most members of the House, he said, pledged themselves against a sales tax. “There’s only one thing worse than a hard-headed manand that’s a man -who won’t keep his word. The lobbyists are going to go back to their offices and collect their feesbut,, you’re going to be standing alone next May.” The clock was racing to midnight when Quilliam began the concluding speech, just as House officials brought in the completed tax document. “We’re down to the lick-log on this thing,” he said. “I don’t think this is a perfect tax billbut you’re not going to get one if you stay here til this time next year.” Financing of state services, he said, is “desperately needed. I don’t want my children to go to second-rate schools. We can’t compete educationally until we get our salary schedules up to where they should be.” It was 11:45 p.m. when Quilliam announced, “We’ve just received word the Senate has passed this bill, 23-8.” There have been implications, he said, “that those who signed this report had surrendered to the lords of the Senate and the overlords of the lobby. No matter what kind of gas tax was in that bill, Mr. Eckhardt would have voted against it. I urge you to have the courage to vote for this billso we can go ‘home tonight.” Angry Showdown It was 11:50 p.m. when Turman called for a record vote on the $354 million tax package. There was a sudden lull on the floor and in the galleries: the biggest vote of the session was flashing and twinkling on the boards. The vote was 84-62 in favor. Tom James of Dallas quickly asked for a two-thirds vote to put the bill into immediate effect. “To do otherwise would cost the state $40 million,” he said. Wilson of Trinity supported James. Charles Hughes grabbed the microphone. “Mr. Speaker, I have a right to be heard on this!” he shouted. B’ut Turman called for the vote. It was eight minutes to midnight, with the appropriations bill yet to be considered, when the speaker had the clocks turned back to 11:30. Bill Hollowell of Grand Saline shouted, “Mr. Speaker, you’re violating the constitution of the state of Texas.” Again and again he shouted the accusation. The board showed 97-45, three votes shy. As Turman looked around the floor, three more members, Crews of Conroe, Osborn of Muleshoe, and Wells of Tulia, added their ayes. “There being 100 ayes and 45 noes, the bill is finally passed,” Turman pronounced. B. H. Dewey of Bryan then moved to suspend the rules to take up the appropriations bill. By actual time, it was still two minutes to midnight. The speaker’s rostrum was now a beleaguered island in a whirling mass of angry legislators. Elbows pushed and prodded. Tony Korioth of Sherman and Ben Atwell of Dallas briefly tussled for the microphone. Korioth shouted for recognition, but Turman again called for the vote. The rules were suspended, 94-46. Newsmen contended that it was straight-up midnight when the speaker called for passage of the $398 million appropriations bill. The score flashed on the board, and it was 70 for, ’12 against. “Now what are you going to do, Mr. Speaker?” Jake Johnson of San Antonio shouted. But two swift vote additions gave the bill a majority and Turman announced it had passed, 73-72. “Was this before or after midnight, Mr. Speaker?” Johnson persisted. Ben Lewis of Dallas said, “Mr. Speaker, I move we go on California time.” Korioth then took the front microphone. “We don’t know if this appropriations bill is constitutional or not,” he said. “We don’t know what time it was because the clocks were set back. There’s a serious constitutional questionyou don’t have any idea what was in that appropriations bills.” Neil ‘Caldwell of Alvin, eyeing several glowering colleagues, observed: “My feelings are hurt because my side lost. But fiit-fghts don’t accomplish anything in an
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