Stanley Ferrar OBSERVER A Journal of Free Voices A Window. to the South June 15, 1973 250 Turn out the lights the party’s over Austin The weekend before the Legislature went home, roving bands of conferees were attacking bills, attacking one another, slyly joining and disbanding in a frantic hunt for passable legislation. For a while, it looked as if nothing would be left except the ravaged carcass of Price Daniel’s reform package. Midnight finally came, however, and the legislators turned back into slick city lawyers and small-town pharmacists, toy store owners, ad men, bankers, insurance salesmen, ne’er-do-wells, two morticians and a shrink. Whether the reforms make any difference in terms of the way the people elect their representatives and the way their representatives conduct the state’s business remains to be seen. But the laws, at least, are in the books for the schoolchildren of Texas to read and believe. As for Gov. Dolph Briscoe, his most signal accomplishment thus far seems to have been fostering a “Bring Back Preston” movement. You will recall that there was some sentiment among the populace that our previous governor was somewhat lacking in brains and class. But Briscoe has opened whole new dimensions of zerodom. Briscoe is sort of a P. Smith without being loveable. The Briscoes have regularly returned to their home in Uvalde for the weekend and the Observer has one source who insists that some months ago Dolph simply never came back and that no one ever noticed. In truth, his presence has been felt in some areas. He didn’t want any new taxes and he didn’t get any. He wanted a death penalty bill. He confused the issue on school finance reform. And he messed up the drug bill. His lobbyist, Roy Coffee, became uniformly loathed in both houses by all shades of the political spectrum. Coffee’s input into the drug bill reflected an appalling degree of ignorance, misinformation and lack of understanding. Nothing else Briscoe has done springs to mind. Even the vogue of Janey jokes has faded. In fairness to him, there have been indications that he does his homework, if a little tardily. At the same time he lets such types as Coffee speak for him, Briscoe also has some first-rate men, such as Bob Hardesty, his press secretary, and Mark White, his secretary of state, giving him feedback. Men who worked with both Briscoe and Hobby on legislation report that Briscoe usually was better-informed than the lieutenant governor. He was at least capable of reading, understanding and questioning proposed legislation. Perhaps Briscoe’s most memorable quote of the session was delivered in his closing address to the House: “Certainly the words
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