Some ethics Two newsmen, Lee Jones of AP and George Kuempel of the Austin American, took a complete poll of the House members at the end of the first week of the special session and found only 47 of the 150 House members still committed to Mutscher and 16 more of those pledged to Mutscher “re-evaluating” their position. By the end of the special session, with the lobby reportedly switching its support to Rayford Price, Price was given between 60 and 65 pledges while Price Daniel held 40 to 45. Will Smith reportedly had five pledges. The Daniel people were undiscouraged by reports of the break toward Price: they have said from the beginning that the speaker’s race won’t be decided until after the ’72 election. And if other conservatives, e.g. Slider .and/or Nugent, announce, their support will probably cut into Price’s support as well as into the remnants of Mutscher’s support. Clyde did not let it slide. Rep. Clyde Haynes of Vidor has played with the team all session long with one end in view a congressional district \(see Observer, June of the special session, in one of the ugliest, rawest power-bargaining stretches of the session, Haynes lost his district. The Congressional Redistricting Conference Committee had been deadlocked for days the chief reason for the special session. Conference committee sessions had stretched into the wee smalls, and on Thursday night, all hands lost their heads, as it were. Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes shouted and pounded the table and yelled that if the House conferees couldn’t settle the thing, he’d have them all dismissed and a new committee appointed. Sen. Charles Wilson of Lufkin, who also wants a congressional seat, either honestly or conveniently forgot that he’d ever reached an agreement with Haynes. Haynes kept denying he had any political ambitions and twice during the course’ of the night announced his resignation from the committee but he stayed on anyway. Tempers and tears spurted forth. It was one helluva night. At the end, in essence, Mutscher dropped his man Haynes in order to get the thing settled. The next day, Haynes dropped Mutscher. On Thursday, Haynes had compared Mutscher to Jesus Christ. On Friday, Haynes announced that he was withdrawing his pledge from Mutscher. Considering what Haynes had been through, it was a mild statement. He attributed his withdrawal of support to Mutscher’s “lack of leadership,” but said he was not mad at Gus personally and that the withdrawal had nothing to do with the stock fraud scandal. At least one political observer familiar with Haynes, district in Orange County believes that Haynes is now dead politically; that the heavily labor area will not forget Haynes’ sellout to the team. 0 The House and Senate finally reached agreement on an ethics bill just minutes before the close of the regular session. The measure isn’t all it could have been, but then, it might not have been at all if Lieutenant Governor Barnes and Senate sponsor Ralph Hall had not made it a do or die sort of thing. Both houses had passed their own ethics bills. House members, in a frenzy to prove how ethical they really are, adopted a bill with a far-reaching financial disclosure requirement, but the bill was never meant to become law. While the two bills were in conference committee, Senator Hall complained that House conferees were trying to gut some of the stronger points in their own bill. The conferees, meeting in secret, finally drafted a compromise both sides could live with on the last day of the session. Few members had read the conference report when it was rushed through the House and Senate. Even Hall admitted that he wasn’t thoroughly familiar with the bill. The bill sets up a State Ethics Commission composed of three senators elected by the Senate, three House members elected by the House, two persons appointed by the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, two persons appointed by the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and two persons appointed by the chairman of the State Judicial Qualifications Commission. The ethics commission has full investigatory and subpoena powers. The law pertains to members of the Legislature, legislative employees, elected and appointed state officials and employees of state agencies. They are prohibited from engaging in business transactions and professional activities or obligations in “substantial conflict with the proper discharge of duties in the public interest.” “Substantial” in this case means an investment “in excess of the value of $25,000, unless the investment is in a corporation in which the officer or employee owns less than 10% of the voting interest and does not otherwise control the corporation.” The bill prohibits persons covered under the act from receiving compensation from private sources for his duties as a public official or any agreement in connection with any judicial or administrative procedure or act where his official position might reasonably be expected to give him unusual influence. It prohibits gifts “under circumstances in which it could reasonably be inferred that the gift was made to influence him in the performance of his official duties. Persons covered in the act are not allowed to sell goods or services to any business entity licensed or regulated in any matter by the state agency under which such person serves. This stipulation apparently would not stop a state official from doing business with an agency other than that for which he works. For example, it would not stop House Appropriations Committee chairman Bill Heatly from renting a 15-foot by 16-foot room in Paducah to the Texas Employment Commission for $75 a month \(Obs., overpriced caliche to the state for building highways. The bill regulates appearances before state agencies. And it prohibits a legislator from introducing measures that directly affect a client, an employer or someone from whom the member receives a retainer fee, except when the client or employer is affected by proposed legislation simply by being a member of a class. The financial disclosure section is weak. The bill requires annual disclosure of sources of income, but it doesn’t say anything about amounts. It requires the listing of real property, stocks, bonds or other commercial paper acquired or sold during the year, but it does not require information on the prices, the sellers or the buyers. Assets and liabilities must be listed, but, again, dollar amounts are not required. And although the bill requires disclosure of debts incurred at state and federal banks, it does not require the name of the banks or the interest paid or any other information that would indicate how favorable or unfavorable a deal a legislator is getting. Thus, Ben Barnes can continue to list, as he did on his May 21 financial statement, such tantalizing but unenlightening information as “Bank notes payable $150,792.50.” No need to say what sort of interest he’s paying, or if he’s defaulted on any loans. The financial disclosure form requires a “List of all sources of income to be identified by employer and/or if a person is self-employed, by the nature of his business.” An independent lawyer/legislator can report “legal fees” and be done with it. No need to reveal messy conflicts of interest. A real estate broker/legislator can list “brokerage fees.” No need to point out, say, that he handled the deal for the land in the new water district that he got approved by the Legislature. Punishment for violating the . ethics standards set up by the bill include expulsion and a fine of up to $10,000 or five years in prison, or both. The bill does not prohibit the practice of legislative continuance. An amendment introduced by Sen. Don Kennard of Fort Worth would have prohibited legislators from filing for continuance of a law suit June 18, 1971 7
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