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SUBSCRIBE Send This Form With Pa ment To: Name The Austin SUN Suscription Dept. Address 404 B. West 15th Austin, Texas 78701 C i t State Zip 26 ISSUES FOR $5 52 ISSUES FOR $10 Why is this man ‘encouraged’? House Speaker Bill Clayton held a press conference and said that he sees little chance for the governor’s “weighted pupil plan.” Later in the day, Briscoe visited Clayton for a little chat. After the meeting, as the governor ambled through the House, reporters pounced on him for a rare informal interview and he pronounced himself “encouraged” about the possibilities for his school plan. He said any opposition to his proposal was simply due to “lack of understanding.” But members of the House Public Education Committee apparently were still not understanding Briscoe’s bill when they met over the weekend to pare the committee’s $1.8 billion school proposal down to about $600 million. And there wasn’t much time left for further enlightenment. In the House’s new-found rush-rush atmosphere, copies of the revised bill were to be put on legislators’ desks the Monday the. Observer went to press and debate was to begin the following day. Sen. Oscar Mauzy’s subcommittee on school financing is trying to hold the Senate bill’s cost to the $500 million estimated to be available without a tax increase. The subcommittee is getting cost estimates run on a compromise proposal combining elements of both the Briscoe and TSTA bills. Mauzy calls the compromise a “variable personnel program.” At Observer press time, the Senate had passed a weak utilities commission bill and the House was gearing up for debate on a considerably stronger bill. Floor amendments in the Senate didn’t do much to improve Sen. Bill Moore’s utility bill, which consumer advocates called “a monopoly’s dream.” One accepted amendment by Lloyd Doggett of Austin prohibits utilities from including lobbying ex penses and consumption-inducing advertising in their costs when asking for rate increases. Kent Hance of Lubbock succeeded in strengthening the bill’s conflict of interest provision and John Traeger of Seguin tacked on an amendment to require utilities to pay the bills for rate consultants, auditors, engineers, and other outside help hired by municipalities in investigating and examining rate requests. Don Rives and Larry Veselka of Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby’s staff confirmed that two utility lobbyists attended closed bill-drafting sessions before the utility bill was submitted to a Senate subcommittee. The lobbyists were Searcy Bracewell, a former state senator who represents Houston Natural Gas and Gulf States Utilities, and Joe Foy, president and chief Political Intelligence Briscoe and reporters operating officer of Houston Natural Gas Co. No consumer group lobbyists were given a preview of the bill. The bill approved by the House State Affairs Committee sets up a three-member utilities commission appointed by the governor to regulate all phone, electric, and gas rates, unless voters in a particular city decide to let their city council retain jurisdiction. The rate base is 60 percent on original cost and 40 percent on replacement. A new Texas rape law designed, among other things, to make it less traumatic for a victim to give evidence in court has passed both houses. Under the new bill, a victim’s previous sexual experiences would be the subject of questioning before the jury only if the accused rapist can convince the judge, in a closed hearing, that such information is relevant to the case. The bill abolishes the present law’s requirement that the victim make an “immediate outcry” upon attack and it raises the sentence for a person convicted of attempted rape to 2-10 years. Best flap so far It gets a little complicated in the telling, but the House finally took an ex post facto vote on raising its members’ pensions. The muddle started when the House approved a bill to overhaul the state’s employee retirement law in the wake of last month’s approval of a constitutional amendment to increase the state retirement fund. In among the verbiage was an amendment that tied legislators’ pensions to state judges’ salaries, instead of to legislative pay. The immediate effect of the amendment was to increase pensions; in the long run, the pensions would go up every two years, since that’s how often the Lege gives judges a raise. The hook was that the House approved the amendment without a record vote, whereupon the Senate approved all the House’s amendments without a record May 23, 19 75 7 Pat Vine .,-rra,