6 The Texas Observer billion dollars and we don’t even know what questions to ask them. The Board of Control signs all the contracts and gets locked into the system. I don’t think the Board of Control knows what it’s doing. It gets bids but it can’t even analyze them.” The L.B.B. starts its hearings in August, beginning with those agencies who have already pleaded their cases before the examiners. The examiners continue to hear still more agencies while at the same time having to explain to the members of the L.B.B. what they’ve already found on other agencies. Before the examiners go to the board, Keel, Miller, Oliver and Wells sit down with the examiner and try to see if there’s anything he missed. The board usually _ adopts about 90 percent of the staff’s recommendations as they stand. They clink around with the other 10 percent, generally restrained by the same consideration that first limits the staff the amount of money available to be spent. By tradition, the House_ appropriations chairman and the Senate finance chairman introduce the L.B.B. bills in their respective chambers and to their respective committees. Then follows a long charade. Caldwell is caustic, in private, about the committee hearings. “They [the agencies] send their big guns over here for the committee hearings the heads of departments, the commissioners and all the brass. They usually have their department ‘finance guys at their elbow, the same guys who first made the presentation to the examiner and who really know the dope, to answer any questions of fact the committee might have.” Charts, slides, graphs and eloquent pleas come day after day. Most committee members get numb just trying to take it in. But Wells seemed almost shocked, and he is not easy to shock, at the suggestion that the committee hearings had no value. He wishes the committee had time to hear more, to ask more questions, to really find out. Caldwell, Wells and almost everyone else involved who seems interested in reforming the process believe that the part-time quality of the effort is responsible for many of its faults. “If you ever professionalize the Legislature,” said Caldwell, “to the point where the committee can look at these things in depth . . . But as long as we operate the way we do. . . .” 140 days out of every two years. Absurdly enough, if and when the Legislature goes beyond its allOtted 140 days, it cuts off the only other year-round budget review available. The L.B.B. staff is supposed to work on budget review year-round. After the L.B.B. passes on the staff recommendations, puts them into bill form and hands them over to the appropriations and finance chairmen, it disbands itself. The staff is then supposedly free to dig, dig, dig. But for the last five years, special legislative sessions have meant an almost continuous interruption. When the Legislature is in session, the L.B.B. staff serves as staff for the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees. Catch-22. Most observers doubt that more than 10 legislators read the entire appropriations bill. They can’t find out much if they do they just see millions of dollars in lump-sum appropriations. Caldwell is trying to rectify this with more detailed breakdowns, but some people believe he has not gone far enough. Legislators usually concentrate on one or more specific portions of the bill particularly those that affect institutions in their own districts. Floor debate can produce some of the best challenges to the bill, as the Dirty Thirty proved last session. Remember the $250,000 moss cutter? The air-conditioned armory? With Caldwell’s reforms on getting the bill , to the members early, opening up the process, and the new rules governing the conference committee, it is to be expected that the members will spot more moss-cutters and raise more questions about priorities. Then we can all wonder how many loopholes they missed. M.I. 711141,4\\ 1-OBSERVER READERS …SAVE ON BOOKS Titles listed below, and all others stocked by the Texas Observer Bookstore, are offered to Observer subscribers at a 20% discount. The Texas Observer Bookstore pays for the postage and handling. Amounts shown are, for discounted prices, plus the 5% sales tax. To Order with your name, address and remittance to the Texas Observer Bookstore. WHISTLE BLOWING: What happens to men and women who blow the whistle on American’s most powerful enterprises and institutions? \(Nader Study Group THE CLOSED ENTERPRISE SYSTEM: 200 companies own America and cheat its citizens of 60 billion a year. 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