Union and the pot/ 5ax That was, of course, a beautiful speech President Johnson made for Negroes’ voting rights, an unusually beautiful speech, but within a few weeks the nation was informed that he did not want Congress to abolish the poll tax for state and local elections in the four Southern states, including Texas, that still impose it. His lawyers, he said, told him it was unconstitutional. Johnson Opposes this repeal because he intends to continue protecting_the conservative John Connally-led big business power structure that controls Texas. Without this poll tax we would have an open franchise next November on the many subjects, including a four-year term for Connally, that are being set up for a public vote then, instead of 1966, when many morebut still not halfof our citizens will vote. Connally does not want the poll tax abolished by 1966 because he intends to get elected for four years in 1966 and he does not want Negroes, Mexicans, and poor whites to vote freely. If they could they might vote him out. Johnson is playing this game with Connally, as he plays many games with him, but happily the members of the U.S. House and Senate who do not subscribe to the theory that the President passes the laws Penn Jones, editor of the Midlothian Mirror and winner of the Elijah Lovejoy award for courage in journalism, editorializes: Fifteen years ago this editor was saying Texas soon would be a real democracy. Ten years ago this editor was convinced organized labor would put a stop to raids on the poor and make Texas live up to its heritage. This editor was wrong. The Texas legislature today is more brazen, more unsympathetic than even the hey day of Allan Shivers. Labor has compromised. so many times that today labor leaders do not offer even token resistance to many important issues. One example is the four year term for the governor. Texas cannot even repeal [the] poll tax remaining one of only four out of fifty states with such a hangover from another generation. The Great Society preached by our President seems to have passed right by Texas. Texas is worse today than it was ten years ago, and it promises to get even worse before a change can be made. The school teachers are being denied a long overdue pay raise, but the loan sharks are getting another and juicier bill than they got last year. Geographically, Texas is not in Appalachia, but the governor helps stack higher interest rates and tax burdens on the poor and gets a four year term for his reward. El and the Congress is his publisher are making a hard fight to end the poll tax for all elections, and before 1966. Perhaps by the time you have read this the battle will be lost, for the President’s people are climbing all over the Hill fighting repeal. Sen. Edward Kennedy and a powerful group of his colleagues, including Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas, were standing fast as we went to press. This group of senators want voting rights protected, not only in the Goldwater states and counties, but everywherein the President’s Texas not any less than anywhere else. Sen. Kennedy has advanced arguments from impressive scholarly authorities that the repeal would be constitutional; obviously a majority of the members of the House and Senate committees that ap 54e Jniere31 This legislature may go into history as the interest-raisingest legislature in Texas history. This legislature is about to give the bankers and the savings and loan institutions 17% if all goes well according to the wishes of the interests concerned. This same legislature has written down an 18% interest limit on installment purchases. Isn’t that wonderful? Only 18%. What, meanwhile, has happened to Reed Quilliam’s bill to halve, roughly, the loan sharks’ gravy-rates of 117 to 320%? Nothing has happened, and with a great deal of style. The bill is locked into a subcommittee under circumstances on which we shall report next issue, and either despite or because of the fact that the House would probably pass it if it reached a floor vote, locked in it will stay. This group of members is taking care of their bankers. That group is helping out their savings and loan people. These senators and those representatives are seeing that the leading interstate lending firm, is not abused. That bunch is lined up with the loan sharks. And the consumers? Organized labor almost alone raises the alarm against these leeches on the consumers. Well, there’s Rep. Ben Lewis, the Dallas conservative. Here is what he said: The 17% bill passed by the Senate for the banks will “make loan sharks out of small banks” throughout the state. “This [schedule of charges] works out to an interest rate of about 17.4%, but it is actually much higher when you consider insurance and other charges which may be added. This unreasonable rate applies to home improvement loans, auto loans, furniture loans, and loans to farmers who want to buy tractors.” Rep. Lewis also reminded the members that they cannot vote on bills in which they have a financial interest. “It is common knowledge,” he said, “that many legislators have substantial interests in banks and savings and loan companies and should proved the repeal thought so, too. As Albert Pena, county commissioner in San Antonio, wired Sen. Kennedy, “Tex= ans in the President’s home state also desire political freedom.” But the President continues to hide out behind advice of counsel, and the President’s columnist, William S. White, calls Sens. Kennedy, Javits, Case, and Hart “senators of limitless objectives,” “a heretofore insatiable Senate group of big-city Northern extreme liberals,” authors of this “Caesar-like proposal” in the cause of “extremism.” White’s venomous name-calling would not be so worrisome if he was not so close to the President. When repeal goes down in the Senate, as we suppose it will, but as it would not if Johnson supported it, let there be cheers, warm cheers, for those congressmen, including our own, who made the fight, and let that fight be continued every time it needs to be. Raioingeol. 7 disqualify themselves from voting on measures such as this.” The peoplethose of them who care will just have to watch and see what happens. Let them watch as closely as they have the time to. 5allyrrtanclering The House congressional redistricting bill zipped out of the Team’s redistricting committee last week, transparent as a country boy’s leer, and in one day it swept through the House, shaking off 18 amendments. Among the big cities only Harris County got what it really wantedthree congressmen, with the new district lines pleasing to liberal and conservative Democrats, although not really to Republicans. The country conservatives kept all 23 districts within “six percent variance,” that is, within that percentage of the “one-man, one-vote” population per district, but the Team almost seemed to be making sport of San Antonio and Fort Worth, so grotesque were the taffy-candy districts they carved and stretched them into. If the Senate accepts the billwhich it won’t without some fightingTarrant and Dallas counties will be parts of congressional districts extending from the Oklahoma border to Houston. Bexar County, a liberal stronghold, will be stretched from Odessa to Beeville. “We’ve been raped,” said Rep. Jake Johnson of Bexar matter of factly. “They’ve run one end of my city to New Mexico and the other to Old Mexico.” The country boys still have the most power in the still old-fashioned Texas legislature to juggle everything that will juggle in their own favor, and they’re doing it. It’s their last chance and this they know. The Senate goes to work on legislative redistricting this week. May 14, 1965 3
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