At the half Austin It’s half-time in the House. I can tell because I saw the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles on the floor recently. They wore gold lame pants and pink satin shirts, cowboy fringe and cowboy hats and boots and toy six-guns. They walked down the center aisle in very good order, but it was not a display of precision marching. They did not form block letters. They did not twirl batons. Six Belle-ends did spell out “R*E*F*0*R*M” for the members’ delectation. I don’t know what to make of the Apache Belles, aside from wondering what they want to be when they grow up. I don’t know what to make of the Texas House. It’s only half-time. There’s a man who tells me I don’t take the House seriously enough. What he means, I think, is that I pay too much attention to style and ignore too much content. He calls it the “Observer line” on the Legislature, half-seriously. And I suppose every Observer writer who covers the place has to work out his own warp and his own defense. The ridiculous, the absurd and the grotesque have been jockeying for space here since The Creation. I’d just like to point out, for the who-knows-how-many-eth time, that the Legislature’s style hits one over one’s head. To sit in the press box in the House for the first half of one’s rookie session is to be continually in amaze. I keep going back to thinking about the House style, hoping to find something there that will explain legislative functioning to me. My latest Project for a Metaphysics of the Texas House is based on the ideas of inclusion and exclusion. It’s not fully worked out yet \(are Metaphysics ever analysis of the mechanism by which the House draws itself together, orders itself as, almost, another. world. Analogies to the structure of drama and literature! Erudite allusions! Startling re-interpretations! As you can see, it’s going to be a long haul. But it’s only half-time. THE HOUSE seems at first glance to involve competition between opponents and proponents to change the minds of members in such a way that votes are obtained. Unh-unh. Minds aren’t changed, legislation is. By amendments or by “clarifying” re-statements \(which try to change the legislation without deletions or and adjusted until a sufficient number of individuals all of whom are fairly fixed political quantities can be gathered together in opposition or support. The bill Notions is then passed or defeated. \(The fact that legislation later turns out to be something other than what the House passed only emphasizes the importance of the changes made in it by “clarification” from the front mike, changes which very often do given day, then, someone is left out of the brave new world of the victors. But the chances are that during a session the great majority of the members are included in enough “instant societies” to keep them integrated. There are exceptions: call them die-hards or kamikazes or whatever, there are people who do not or do not get to function’ this way. They may be too committed, too ornery, too ideological, or just “loners.” In the Texas House, they don’t often make much difference \(pace, out as outsiders and are not likely to be fully included. Women, for example, have a natural resistance to becoming good ol’ boys. Mind you, much of this goes on at the subterranean level of a legislative session, at the lunches and receptions and “social” occasions that are part of the 140 days and 140 nights. On the floor of the House, the structure of the process is visible in the details, the legislative equivalent of Freudian slips. When the members pronounce per diem as “purdime,” their diction is important not because it’s “wrong,” but because it binds them together and separates them from other people who use Latin phrases. It is a marking of the breed, an element of style and structure. The formulaic courtesies of the House \(“Mr. Speaker.” “Mr. Jones.” “Will the gentleman yield?” “Mr. Smith, do you yield to Mr. Jones?” “I yield, Mr. Speaker.” “The gentleman yields, Mr. are more than rules of convenience. They enforce and signify the inclusion of all 150 members in the mini-society constructed every two years. One of the more interesting institutions of this other world is the local bill. A member represents a district and presumably’ is endowed with especial expertise in matters concerning it. Courtesy, honor and mutual trust are all bound up with respecting bills that pertain only to one district. Besides, who wants to spend time becoming familiar with the problems of someone else’s bailiwick? So when Rep. Bill Heatly, the Duke of Paducah, sponsored a bill allowing folks to use aircraft to hunt predatory animals in eight counties in his district, the most important argument was that the bill applied only to eight counties in his district. When amendments were offered to include a couple dozen other counties, they were slapped down by a point of order. And the House passed the bill overwhelmingly. Lest you think the House acted irrationally, or hastily, be comforted. Rep. Heatly assured the House there is a real problem with coyotes in his district. The bill went through the normal committee procedures. No one appeared to oppose it. Besides, aircraft-hunters will have to apply for a permit from the Parks and Wildlife Department. The usual series of questions occur to the observer of this process. Is the predatory animal problem in those counties serious enough to justify turning hunters loose in airplanes? What other means of controlling predators are available? Can Parks and Wildlife police aircraft-hunters? None of these questions were raised on the House floor. Heatly was asked, by Rep. Fred Agnich of Dallas, if the bill adequately protected the environment. “Yes,” replied the Duke. And are there any red wolves \(a protected animal often by the bill? “No,” replied the Duke. IDON’T KNOW what the coyote situation is in Baylor, Foard, Wilbarger, Knox, Cottle, King, Dickens and Stonewall Counties. Nor does anyone at Parks and Wildlife, near as. I can tell. In general, said one P&W man, the coyote population in Texas has been expanding, in numbers and in area inhabited. But he had “no idea” whether there is a coyote crisis anywhere in the state, or in Heatly’s district. Predator control in Texas is carried out both through individual initiative and through a cooperative program administered by the federal and state governments. There are apparently no laws regulating what a private citizen can do. to control non-protected species on his own land, except that certain poisons are no longer shipped by interstate commerce. And, in certain counties, individuals can earn bounties for killing certain predatory animals. The number of counties paying bounties has declined steadily for several None of Heatly’s eight counties pay for predator pelts, though Cottle County did in 1970. The cooperative program is a curious animal. It was authorized by the Legislature in 1951. The Observer’s copy of the agreement is dated August, 1972, April 13, 1973 11
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