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Atomic heat Is this progress? The Lege has taken one step forward and two steps back on gun control in the last week. The good news is that Houston Rep. Ben Reyes’ bill, which is not actually a gun control bill but would outlaw the sale of Saturday night specials, made it out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee by a 7-2 vote. It will be the first piece of legislation in any fashion limiting the sale of guns to be reported to the floor of the House in years and years. But Rep. Paul Ragsdale of Dallas had no luck with a far more effective proposal. Ragsdale’s bill calls for licensing of handgun owners and registration of handguns. It also mandates a 24-hour hold period between the application for and issuance of registration papers, a simple and enormously effective way of preventing angry drunks from going out, buying guns, and shooting someone. But Ragsdale is not on Speaker Bill Clayton’s team. Reyes was one of those liberals who at the key point in the late, great speaker’s race, was released from his pledge to Rep. Fred Head and, rather than going with the more liberal Rep. Carl Parker, instead voted for Clayton, thus giving him his first edge over Parker. Ragsdale stayed with Parker to the bitter end. Reyes’ bill was sent to Criminal Jurisprudence, chaired by the liberal Rep. Craig Washington of Houston. Ragsdale’s bill, on the same subject, went to the Transportation Committee, chaired by the un-liberal Rep. Jim Nugent of Kerrville. Just what registration of handguns has to do with transportation was not immediately clear. Nugent issued a press release the day before his committee heard the Ragsdale bill and that in turn attracted a crowd of hostile witnesses. About 35 people showed up to testify against the bill, some of them of the opinion that gun registration would facilitate a commie takeover. The bill was sent to a hostile subcommittee. In the meantime, the senate passed a resolution urging the Congress not to pass gun control legislation. The resolution singled out a proposal to have handgun ammunition declared a hazardous product by the Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission. There have been a lot of lame performances in the Texas Senate recently but one of the lamest was by Sen. Frank Lombardino . of San Antonio. Lombardino had this bill to let retired police officers with 20 years experience carry handguns, and it was about to whiz through the Senate when Oscar Mauzy and Max Sherman happened to notice a curious stipulation in the bill. The retired officer would be allowed to carry a handgun “unless he is carrying an illegal knife or 8 The Texas Observer Political Intelligence club.” What’s this? asked Mauzy and Sherman. Don’t rightly know, Lombardino said. Must be somethin’ put in by the folks over at the Legislative Council who wrote the bill. You can take it out if you want, he said. They did. The Texas House has voted, 48-44, to change the name of its Revenue and Taxation Committee to Ways and Means. That was the same day the lower chamber decided to scrap the star on license plates and replace it with a silhouette of the state. Speaker Bill Clayton has been busy trying to close some open records. Capitol reporters were trying to run down a story that Clayton had tripled the speaker’s staff since he took office when Clayton came out with instructions that the purpose of payroll inquiries had to be made clear before the information would be forthcoming. By the end of the week he had backed down and issued a memo ordering that written requests to inspect payrolls be approved by the representative in question. Clayton agreed that no representative’could legally turn down such a request. He continued issuing clarifications of his policy as the press continued to raise questions about it. The net effect at this point is that Clayton has made it more difficult, tedious, and cumbersome to get at records, but they are still open. The Associated Press wanted to ask for an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of the new practice, but turns out to have no standing to do so under the provisions of the Open Records Act. Clayton’s office promised to ask for an A.G.’s ruling, but three weeks after reporters first started questioning the new policy, he had failed to do so. Speaking of the attorney general’s office and open records, the Southern Governmental Monitoring Project, a special project of the Southern Regional Council, has recently issued a series of reports on the state of open governmental records and open meetings in 11 southern states. Texas gets fairly high marks from the project. The so-called “sunshine laws” passed in 1973 under the leadership of Price Daniel, Jr., and with the backing of Common Cause have opened up state government to a refreshing extent. The Monitoring Project also gave much credit to John Hill’s office for leadership in interpretation and implementation of the sunshine laws. Speaking of Common Cause, its officers recently came out with a blast against Secretary of State Mark White for failing to enforce the state’s ethics and financial disclosure law. Common Cause found that 149 out of 400 \(about 37 their reports about where they get their income. Many of the omissions were admittedly trivial in fact, Common Cause proposed that a new, simplified form be introduced, but White was not enthusiastic about the proposal. According to Common Cause, White took no action to bring the erring officials into compliance with the law. Common Cause further slammed White for testifying on behalf of a bill that would “completely destroy the lobby act,” for another that would weaken the bribery statute and for lobbying against an elections commission to enforce the campaign reporting and disclosure law. Now here’s a swell idea: the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration is thinking of exploding atomic bombs in the salt domes along the Gulf Coast, all the better to provide you with cheap fuel, my dear. The theory is that you first fill the salt dome with water, then cut loose with the old nuclear device, and voila, presto, steam heat. The feds claim you can take the radioactivity out of the steam. Gov. Dolph Briscoe wants his fellow Gulf Coast governors to join him in asking the feds not to proceed without state approval and participation. The feds say there have been “premature reactions” to the plan, which has not been adopted and would not be ready even for a pilot plant until 1987. They also say that a beneficial side effect’ of the so-called Pacer Plan is that it would breed fuel for still more nuclear reactors. Goody. The Senate approved a constitutional amendment authorizing issuance of