Page 13


The Texas Observer SEPT. 29, 1967 , A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c 25 Citizens Are Writing A New Texas Constitution Austin Constitutional revision is a topic that long has been kicking around in Texas political discussions. The League of Women Voters has been pushing the matter for years, but no one much has seemed to be listening to the ladies. Until just lately. There are those who will tell you that the sudden burst of interest on the part of those who govern our state in revising the constitution is in reaction to the harbingers of change in the Texas political order. As these clues have begun to appear more and more frequently in recent months, one is told, the “Establishment” has determined that if constitutional change is to occur ultimately it might as well be undertaken before any shift in the basic political structure. Thus it was that at last fall’s state Democratic convention, Gov. John Connally devoted his keynote speech to urging constitutional revision, to provide a more basic and more modern document than that which now exists, the angry child of Reconstruction. Last week Connally, his complexion mahoganied during six weeks on the Dark Continent, harangued the members who were present to serve on the constitutional revision commission which he sired through his political protege, House Speaker Ben Barnes, during the most recent spasm of the legislature. “There will be no attempt on my part to guide or dictate the conclusions you may draw . . . There is no reason you should be bound by my views,” Connally told the commissioners, who received these declarations with remarkably straight faces. Twentyfive are on the commission; of these ten were named by the governor, five by his associate, Barnes; and five by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. There were to be five others named by Lt. Gov. Preston Smith, but Smith, not a believer in wholesale revision of the constitution, declined to cooperate. The House leadership had foreseen the possibility that Smith might not wish to name anybody to the commission; the House resolution that established the panel provides that the commissioners are to fill any vacancies. Smith’s reaction had not been difficult to predict. An earlier House resolution establishing such a commission had been totally ignored on being sent over to the Senate for concurrence. So, five days before the session adjourned, the House decided to go it alone; State Rep. Dick Cory, Victoria, introduced a simple resolution that would establish the commission without requiring the Senate’s concurrence. Two days later Cory’s bill, with a committee blessing, came to the House floor where it was approved by voice vote. Five Representatives asked to be recorded in oppositionSteve Burgess, Nacogdoches; Bob Hendricks, McKinney; W. R. Archer, Houston; Vernon Beckham, Denison; and John Hannah, Lufkin. T HE RESOLUTION provides that each commissioner’s expenses will be paid from the legislative contingent expense fund; other expenses, such as for staff, research, paper clips, and so on, are not provided for, except that, as the resolution says, ” . . . the commission may accept grants, moneys, aid and/or services without strings attached for the pun.. pose of accomplishing the aims of this resolution, and any such grants, moneys, aid, services, and donations and the names of the donors thereof shall be recorded in the minutes of the commission and be open to inspection by any person whomsoever.” There have been a few eyebrows raised in response to this provision. At the first meeting the commission members clearly were worried as to where their money is coming from, not to mention the potential danger of being “exposed to political risks” if it is forthcoming from the wrong sources, as one commission member, State GOP Chairman Peter O’Donnell, put it. George Wilson, Dallas industrialist, said “it would be a tactical error to accept private money.” Dean Robert Storey, the noted Dallas attorney whom Connally appointed as chairman of the commission, asked and was given an expression of the consensus of the panel members that private funds should not be solicited. But the matter of financing was left to future decision. Larry Temple, Connally’s executive assistant, said some money might be squeezed out of the House contingent expense fund and perhaps from the executive budget. But only miscellaneous state moneys scroung ed here and there are available to the commission, given the Senate’s lack of enthusiasm for concurring in financing a revised constitution. It is uncertain what amount of money might be needed; one estimate by Cory, who is a veteran of a previous revision effort made five or six years ago, said a study committee suggested that $125,000 to $150,000 might be required. Two other accords achieved by the commissioners were that the Texas Legislative Council’s offer of help would be accepted. But without money this help will be limited. The aid of universities in the state will be sought, most particularly as resources for research and ideas. The resolution specifies that a simple majority vote of the commissioners will be sufficient for adoption of the final report, which must be submitted to the 61st legislature by . December, 1968. If the commissioners cannot agree on a fully-revised constitution, then recommendations as to changing any of the sections are called for. Should the legislators approve the commission’s work, the results will be passed on to the state’s voters for their approval at the succeeding general election. IF THE COMMISSIONERS plan to be open-handed about where their stringless money is coming from, they gave the press a few uneasy moments when, at the first meeting of the panel, the reporters were invited to excuse themselves after the lunch break so the five positions not filled by Smith could be seen to, and so “other matters” could be discussed. Storey advised reporters after the executive session that he is hopeful of complying with the open meetings bill which the legislature passed earlier this year. But he did not commit himself to this position. Earlier in the day, Storey had said that the various subcommittees of the commission wouldn’t necessarily be required to meet in Austin. It is unclear whether the press will be advised in advance of subcommittee meetings held out of the capital city. Nine subcommittees were established