does Texas have to have the highest rates in the nation?” he asked. “We’re gonna raise ’em 7.5%,” from 10 to 17.5. “This is a disgrace to the nation . . . to the legislature. If we had a good governor he’d veto it. What a shame, what a shame.” Haring’s amendments to decrease the “cap” from $5,000 to $100; then $500; then $1,000, all lost lopsidedly. Rep. Bob Eckhardt, Houston, proposed a $1,500 cap, striking the 14% rate entirely for loans up to $5000. He said that while there might be some justification permitting banks to compete with loan companies in loans under $1500, there is “no argument for” letting them have the higher rate up to $5000. -Eckhardt’s amendments was tabled 81-61. The House had refused to exact a loan’s principal in penalty if a bank charged more than the new law was to permit; but now Rep. Reed Quilliam, Lubbock, proposed this penalty be exacted if a bank, advised of its overcharge, did not make amends for it. This change was accepted. Townsend’s claim the bill applied only to installment loans was disputed by his roommate for the session, Rep. Jim Nugent, Kerrville, who read language that it applied to all loans. By agreement the objected-to language was taken out. Eckhardt then contended, through an amendment, that the new bill lets banks buy stock in savings and loan companies, which they could not do under previous law. Haines said Eckhardt had `made “an honest mistake” and that the permission applied only to “stock insured by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation.” The measure itself says a state bank can buy “shares of stock or savings accounts insured” by the F.S.L.I.C. Thus the bill could mean what Eckhardt says it does or what Haines says it does, depending on how one reads it. Eckhardt said it would let banks buy and control smaller lending _ institutions, reducing competition in their area. His amendment to change the wording lost 77-40. T HUS THE LEGISLATURE swept aside most objections as it enacted the banks’ much-desired interest bill. All that remained before final passage were two speakers, Markgraf and Haring. “Let there be no misunderstanding,” Rep. Markgraf told the legislators. “We are in fact imposing 18% interest on every farm loan, every tractor and farm equipment loan, every crop loan, in the state. . . . 4 The Texas Observer “Let there be no misunderstanding that this bill imposes 18% interest rates on the parents of your district and mine who are seeking low-cost funds to send their children to collegeand . . . on the man who borrows money to pay doctor and hospital bills,” he said. “Why is it,” asked Haring, “that Texas is the leader among all the states in all that’s bad?The leader in poverty, the leader in illiteracy, the leader in crime, the leader in the highest interest rates in the nation. Why is that? It’s because of the people that sit in these halls and won’t represent the people and represent the special interests instead,” he said. “I call on the governor to veto this measure. Does he represent the people of this state or the bankers?” Haring asked. “The Speaker, the lieutenant governor, and the governor of Texas should have had this bill stopped.” Then the bill was finally passed by the House, 110-30. It had been called to the Observer’s attention that two Dallas representatives, In both Senate and House debate on the 17.5% bank interest bill, members rose and recited ancient Biblical condemnations of usury. As Sen. Jack Strong, Longview, did this, he was taunted, “Could I pass a plate to the gallery?” He replied, “Senator, when this bill is passed, you’re going to have to pass a plate for the people of Texas.” Rep. Paul Haring, Goliad, taking his cue from Strong, recited from the Bible to his House colleagues, too. Some of the passages he read aloud: “If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sun”Do not exact interest from your countryman either in money or in kind, but out of fear of God let him live with you. You are to lend him neither money at interest nor food at a profit.” “When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, you shall not enter his house to receive a pledge from him, but shall wait outside until the man to whom you are making the loan brings his pledge outside to you. If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in the mantle he gives as a pledge, but shall return it to him at sunset that he himself may sleep in it” “Woe is me, my mother! Why hast thou borne me a man of strife, a man of contention to all the earth? I have not lent on usury, neither hath any man lent to me on usury: yet As Haring read these and other such passages, a buzzing of voices rose in the House chamber; he had lost the interest of his colleagues there almost at once. Rep. John Field interrupted him to ask, “Are you giving a Bible lesson or talking on the bill?” “I’m talking on the bill. Bible lessons wouldn’t hurt us, anyway,” Haring answered. As Haring resumed reading the back, ground roar became even louder than John Wright and John Field, owned bank stock in small Dallas banks, yet sat on the banks and banking committee and had been voting on the banks’ bill. The state constitution requires a legislator to declare his interest and refrain from voting on a bill if he has ‘ a financial interest in it. “I don’t feel that my nominal bank stock actually it’s not enough to make any difference,” Wright told the Observer when asked about this. He has not even gotten a dividend on the stock, he said. Field voted on the various amendments, but abstained from voting for the bill on final passage because of the constitutional provision, “even though this bill is in my opinion a good bill,” he told the Observer. “Actually,” he added, “they didn’t need my vote.” Rep. Honore Ligarde, Laredo, who supported the bill, said that it will have two good results: commercial lenders in the middle-size loan range will have new competition, and more credit will be available, especially for small business. R.D. before. “Mr. Speaker, I can’t hardly hear myself speak,” he said. The Speaker called for order, but got none. During a dispute earlier in the session in the criminal jurisprudence committee on the bill to abolish capital punishment, Haring had become so angry he’d thrown an ash tray across the committee table, scarring it. Rep. Temple Dickson, Sweetwater, now interrupted to say, “Mr. Haring, have you heard that Biblical phrase, ‘He who is without sin should cast the first ashtray?’ ” The House guffawed, and Haring laughed too, flushing. Rep. Howard Green, Fort Worth, interrupted to express whimsical amazement at Haring’s having all those Bible quotes at his fingertips. Anticipating him, Haring readily replied, “They come from those Great Books that Mr. Green of Fort Worth sells.” \(Green sells the Great Books of the Rep. Billy Williamson, Tyler, suggested, not that Haring’s time had expired, but that his sermon had. Field of Dallas delivered the clincher : “Mr. Haring, you don’t feel like Samson, do you?” “No, but I feel like we have a monster here,” Haring replied. “Well,” said Fielddelivering a punch line he had rehearsed before with a colleague”I tell you, I feel like a Philistine being beaten to death by the jawbone of an ass.” As the House was convulsed, Haring responded in good humor, “I thank you for those generous remarks.” A few days later a group of his colleagues declared Haring the winner of the “Jawbone of an Ass Award.” El The Bible and Laughter
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