ustxtxb_obs_1967_01_20_50_00001-00000_000.pdf

Page 16

by

The Texas Observer JAN. 20, 1967 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c The Heirs Apparen Smith and Barnes Vie for the Establishment’s Mantle Austin The much-publicized rivalry between Lt. Gov. Preston Smtih and House Speaker Ben Barnes is the feature of the early days of the 60th legislature. These two potential foes in a future governor’s race have seemed to ignore the reports that they are engaged in a power struggle, but the significance of much of the opening days of the session lies, so far, in their mutual battle. Each of the two leaders is being watched closely as the issues arise; miscalculation could erode the power of either man and thus cut, into his future political ambitions. Smith turned aside one serious threat to his power as leader of the Senate on the opening day of the session when a rules change was proposed by senators who are either liberals or allies of Gov. As is fi -equently the case, one of the more significant phases of this incident occurred not on the Senate floor but in an office, in this case Smith’s. Jerry Hall of the Austin American-Statesman has chronicled an interesting meeting that was held the day before the legislature opened. Sen. Jack Strong of Longview, a Connally ally, and Sen. Ralph Hall of Rockwall, who included in his last campaign a call for ending secrecy in government, visited Smith. They asked that the lieutenant goevrnor permit the discontinuance of the Senate’s practice of voting in privacy on nominations submitted by the governor and that a modified seniority system be established as a basis for appointing committees. Strong and Hall are reported to have listed as their reasons for the requests the growing political power of liberals and Republicans. Former Sen. Franklin Spears’ name was mentioned as a possible future liberal lieutenant governor during the discussion. Smith is said to have responded that he “was not about to give up any of the lieutenant governor’s power,” either his own or a successor’s. Strong then is reported to have told Smith that there were 16 Senators who support such changes and that the rules could be amended from the Senate floor. Smith said go ahead and try it. wartz of Galveston lead three attempts to alter the rules, proposing amendments that would, have lifted the veil from the Senate’s consideration of nominations sent over by the governor. Sen. A. M. Aikin, Jr., had moved that the rules of the previous Senate, in 1965, be adopted for the current session, meaning that the secrecy proviso would remain in force, as would Smith’s prerogative to name committees on any basis he chooses. Smith ruled that Schwartz would need a two-thirds majority to pass any rules amendments, a ruling that Schwartz afterwards called “an absurdity.” Schwartz got 12 votes for each of two of his three amendments and 11 votes on the third. He said later that he believes he could have mustered 16 votes, a majority, but Schwartz believes that Smith’s two-thirds ruling discouraged a few Senators from risking the lieutenant governor’s displeasure in what might be a futile cause. But another Senator, a Smith foe, said that the amendments had only 15 supporters. Supporting Schwartz on all three amendment votes were Criss Cole of Houston, Barbara Jordan of Houston, Bill Antonio, Joe Bernal of San Antonio, Roy Harrington of Port Arthur, Don Kennard of Fort Worth, Oscar Mauzy of Dallas, Chet Brooks of Pasadena, and Charles Wilson of Diboll. The amendments beaten back, Aikin’s motion then was passed, 24-6, with Schwartz, Mauzy, Berry, Harrington, Kennard, and Wilson voting no to the last. Smith, as he walked off the Senate floor afterwards, said “Sure they tried to take it away from me,” acknowledging that he felt that he had just beaten off a challenge to his power. The next day Berry rose to request ‘that his vote on Aikin’s resolution be changed to “yes,” making the official tally 25-5. Berry explained that he had misunderstood the proposition before the Senate when the vote was called “because my hearing aid was not working right.” The amendments effort was generally interpreted here as a test of liberal strength. MEANWHILE, IN THE House the votes have been even less close, running on the order of 145-0 and 143-0. One 145-0 vote came on the adoption of a significant set of House rules, drawn up and passed at the urging of Barnes. The rules pose anbther challenge for Smith. Particularly is this true of the provisions governing conference committees \(at which a group of House and Senate members adjust variances in related bills passed by their respective chamnew rules, limited to matters that are specifically at issue in any bills under consideration by a conference committee and may not be -a party to incorporating items that are not germane into conference reports. In the past such reports have emerged including some peculiarly ungermane features. Barnes has been forthright in stating that he will insist that this new House rule be followed “regardless of what the Senate does.” A corollary challenge to Smith and the Senate exists in a set of joint rules that will govern the functioning of the House and Senate when the two chambers must work together, as in conference committees. The joint rules have been passed by the House, in another 145-0 vote. It is proposed in the joint rules also, that conference committees be limited to consideration only of changes that are germane to the bills under consideration. Barnes says that he’s found support for such a principle among senators he’s talked to and says that he hopes the lieutenant governor will add his backing. Smith tends to cast doubt on such a prospect. Asked when the Senate will consider approving the joint rules passed by