Erwin pays taxes! UT Regent Frank Erwin paid the City of Austin more than $4,000 in back taxes after the UT-Austin Young Democrats passed a resolution reminding the former Democratic party official that he had not paid the city property tariff in years. The resolution asked Erwin to “fulfill his civic duties . . . by paying all taxes that are due on his home.” Space City, Houston’s underground weekly, recently interviewed former state Rep. Arthur Vance about his unhappy experiences in the Texas Legislature. Concerning ethics and the business lobby, Vance said, “Some of the people that are complaining this session screaming about the code of ethics in the Legisalture I know them. I know they’ve taken stocks in the same way. I was offered stocks in San Jacinto Savings and Loan when they first formed. I could have gotten stocks in Mercantile Bank here in Houston.” “How were those offers made to you?” the interviewer asked. “Well,” Vance said, “the San Jacinto Savings and Loan just sent a letter on their own letterhead, saying that they were offering stock at $10 a share and if I needed the money to buy the stock, they’d be glad to loan it to me and the stocks would hold up as collateral for the loan. It was exactly the same type of manipulation. And you know that when a bank first organizes that they do things to inflate the stock and then you take your money and get out. It’s actually their money that you use, but you make your profit and get out. You don’t do like Gus Mutscher did. The reason that he lost money on that transaction doesn’t speak very well for his intelligence. Because even I know how you play that game.” Wastebasket caper One of the shoddier moves of the session occurred in gross attempt to “get” Rep. Tom Bass, Houston, who broke publicly with Mutscher at the beginning of the session and who has since joined the Dirty Thirty and raised hell on the ethics question and other liberal causes. At issue was a tuition equalization bill that would give state aid to college students attending private schools. Delwin Jones rose to introduce an amendment allegedly aimed at conflict of interest. The amendment would have prevented any legislator from working for a private college where the students received state aid. Bass works for the University of St. Thomas. Although Jones introduced the amendment, a piece of paper with the original wording was found in the wastebasket of Houston Rep. Lauro Cruz in Cruz’ handwriting. Cruz and Bass do not get along. The amendment was finally downed and some blithe spirit 6 The Texas Observer Political Intelligence sent a note in to Cruz purporting to be from Harris County Commissioner Jimmy Bray, who has a famous electric wastebasket. The note inquired if Cruz wanted such a wastebasket. Cruz was not amused. Dirty Thirty Day The legislative folk who never got to Washington-on-the-Brazos for Speak er’s Day had a fine time anyway. Rep. Curtis Graves of Houston added his mite of tribute to Mutscher by having a copy of Mutscher’s resolution honoring Frank. Sharp placed on every member’s desk. He then introduced a resolution to make May 12 “Dirty Thirty Day.” In a splendid parody of the florid prose in the resolution honoring Mutscher, Graves’ resolution whereased along about “beautiful wives and lovely children of the Thirty except for Mrs. Farenthold who has a handsome husband and lovely children” and concluded with the cheerful notion that the House should resolve that the Dirty Thirty soon become the Happy Hundred. “Can you dig it?” inquired Graves. They could not. Team members put down the frivolity with heavy-handed pontifications about waste of time. The resolution was defeated 106 to 2, as the Thirty, ever scrupulous about conflict of interest, punched their “present but not voting” buttons. “Mighty white of Mutscher to recognize me,” Graves commented. A quote: Rep. DeWitt Hale of Corpus on May 16, defending the reduction in taxes on beer: “When we passed the general tax bill by more than 100 votes it was part of the understanding we had with them [ with the beer lobby] that we’d made this change later.” Rep. Dave Finney’s so-called Uniform Consumer Credit Code was laughed off the floor on May 16 and died 112-22. Finney had styled the thing a “consumer protection act,” and while it would have corrected some of the more glaring abuses in the money-lending business, its net effect would have been to raise interest rates. “Who is in favor of this legislation?” one back-miker asked Finney. “Why, who’s in favor of any legislation? The people,” quoth he. The lopsided vote was not entirely a victory for the people. The loan shark lobby was beavering around frantically that morning, lining up no votes: the Finney bill would at least have controlled their preposterous rates. On May 17 Rep. Dick Reed was denied permission to even introduce a single-member district bill lost by three votes. Once upon a time, Rep. Dave Allred of Wichita Falls tried to introduce a bill that would have forced the Senate-House Appropriations Conference Committee to announce its meetings at least three hours in advance and to hold them somewhere where people could hear what was going on. And the members hoo-hahed that it was unnecessary and Heatly harrumphed “certainly not” and the thing died. Well, the appropriations conference committee, what is deciding what our taxes will be spent on, has met twice at 8 a.m. with no warning, once at night with no warning and no one knows how many other times because the press is lucky to find out about the meetings after they’re over. Once upon a time there was an open meetings law. . . . Tuition increase It looked for a long time as if college students would slip by another session without a tuition increase. At one point, Lieutenant Governor Barnes declared the tuition bill dead. But Governor Smith kept harping on how students should pay a greater share of their educational expenses, and, after he forced the repeal of the gas tax, the House and Senate decided they’d need that tuition money after all. The upper and lower chambers compromised on a bill that raises tuition for both inand out-of-state students. As presented in the Senate, the conference committee bill appeared to place a $40 an hour levy on non-resident students at state colleges and universities about $600 a semester for an average course load. But after it was passed 25 to 6, reporters discovered that the bill also increases Texas students’ tuition by about $10 a semester. In-state students will pay $4 an hour or $60 for 15 hours of courses. Voting against the tuition hike were Senators Beckworth, Bernal, Hall, Herrington, McKool and Schwartz. “Capital Eye,” the Public Information Corporation’s television program that concerns itself with state government, is throwing a fund-raising bash at Scholz Garten on May 29. “The Legislative Follies” will feature solons showing off their philharmonic and terpsichorean talents, including Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong on guitar, Sen. Wayne Connally on harmonica and Rep. Sonny Jones on spoons. Heaven knows what will happen after that. Admission is $5, tax-deductible. Only Sonny Jones Best Press Release of the Month Award goes to Rep. Edmund E.
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