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Bob Wieland Gammage: no longer angry Brooks: moving right The Senate: no style, little action Austin From a liberal’s point of view, the Texas Senate was the most disappointing in a decade. It’s not that the Senate has ever been a bastion of progressive thought, but four, six, even eight years ago, Senate liberals would lose important votes by a 16-15 margin rather than the pathetic 24-6 shows they put on this session. Of course, losing is losing, whether it’s 24-6 or 16-15. But, at least during those by-gone days, there was some drama in the Senate and every once in a while the libs Would win one. Reporters could count on Barbara Jordan or Joe Bernal or Mike McKool or Don Kennard or Oscar Mauzy or Babe Schwartz or maybe even Charlie Wilson to stand up and say, often quite eloquently, “We owe the people something better than this.” They flaked, oh yes they flaked, but often they fought with some fine oratory, close votes, and an occasional filibuster. This session only Babe Schwartz could be counted on to raise a little oratorical hell. Jon Ford of the Austin daily concluded at session’s end that “debate is a lost art” in the Senate. THE UNFORTUNATE fact is that Texans elected a conservative, wishy-washy, business-oriented batch of senators. Fights were fought off the floor in the subcommittees and in the lieutenant governor’s office.. A few disagreements flashed in public, but, for the most part, the Senate affected an easy-going somnolence that complemented 6 The Texas Observer the sleepy, low-keyed style of Lieutenant Gov. Bill Hobby. Some of the .senators who were in the progressive camp in previous sessions found it convenient to adopt a more pliant, go-along-get-along attitude in the clubby, tradition-encumbered Senate. Schwartz, despite a few vulnerable areas where he voted for special interests like the doctors, refused to roll over and play dead. Oscar Mauzy, although not quite the threat to the business lobby that he used to be, did good, solid work with his Education Committee. He should get much of the credit for pulling school financing out of the quagmire and for pushing through Governor Briscoe’s coordinating board reforms. Sen. Ron Clower is coming along. He’s considerably more confident as a liberal than he was during his first session. \(Clower did seem a tad starry-eyed on utilities regulation. His intense desire to pass a bill, any bill, sometimes impeded his Doggett is coming right along. He voted as a solid liberal and showed promise as a public speaker and a private negotiator. Roy Harrington is still a sturdy, if silent, progressive. Bob Gammage, although no longer the angry Dirty Thirtian of earlier years, did some good work on HMOs, on the problems of alcoholism and other health issues. Chet Brooks gets credit for his role in passing child care legislation, but in many other areas he moved so far to the right that he can no longer be considered a member of the liberal camp. Meanwhile, Bill Patman, previously considered a moderate, chalked up a liberal record in the Observer’s count. Bill Hobby’s performance as president of the S enate showed considerable improvement over his first term. No one accused him this year of failure to understand the process or the issues. He worked effectively for constitutional revision, for school financing reform, and even for utilities regulation \(although what he worked for was a very weak bill. Stewart Davis of the Dallas Morning News wrote a column in late May accusing Hobby of “talking liberal but acting conservative on utilities regulation.” That’s what he did, all right, but at least he took some action. Hobby is that rarity among politicians, an introvert, and if he offered much leadership in the Senate, it wasn’t evident to reporters. The Observer didn’t find any senators who went overboard in their praise of Hobby, but most all found him fair and reasonable. “Hobby asserted himself more this session,” insisted Senator Clower. “He’s a real open guy. If you have a problem you can talk to him about it, and he’s tough when he takes a stand.” Kent Hance declared the lieutenant governor to be “easy to work with.” Hance said, “He never put any pressure on me.” BEING FAIR is one thing, being a leader is something else. Many people believe that under the present constitution, the lieutenant governor is the most powerful officer in Texas government. If Hobby failed to exercise his full power \(and the Observer must take a goodly share of the blame for the Senate’s shortcomings. These include the passage , of a weak mass transit bill under the control of the Highway Department, then the passage of a weak strip-mining bill, and the failure to pass legislation doing away with useless county school superintendents, important environmental bills, and basic good-government bills such as the governor’s personnel board bill. One minor but aggravating failure of Hobby’s was his inability or indifference in keeping the Senate in order. The Senate has never taken kindly to the use of microphones. A majority of , Senators simply refuse to use them and so it is extremely difficult to hear what they are saying. There was such a high level of background noise and chatter in the Senate this session that the press corps, which sits on the north side of the chamber, could not hear many senators who sit on the south side of the ‘chamber. Grant Jones rarely got covered because he was nothing