Page 21


Doggett-Wilson bill would create a legislative screening committee to review a certain number of agencies every two years and recommend either their continuation or dissolution. Wilson says the bill would put the burden on agencies “to show that the public good being accomplished justifies the expenditure of funds.” The Colorado law schedules 13 of 39 agencies for automatic termination every other year. But before dismantlement, public hearings are held so that a given agency may “demonstrate a public need for its continued existence.” Agencies that pass review are restructured or renewed for periods up to six years. Critics of sunset laws say they may have more election-year pizzazz than long-term utility. The Wall Street Journal has reported that “the concept actually is intended more to force legislatures to review their offspring than to wipe out a lot of agencies. And the workload of such reassessments may make sunset laws unworkable or ineffective.” Dr. Benjamin Shimberg of the Center for Occupational and Professional Assessment in Princeton, N. J., has made a detailed study of sunset laws. He says, “While I strongly support the idea underlying the sunset approach, the implementation needs close watching. Good ideas are often abandoned because of faulty execution. I would not want to see that happen to the sunset idea.” In Iowa, Gov. Robert Ray vetoed a sunset bill because the legislature had appropriated only $50,000 for an audit committee and he said a thorough agency-by-agency review couldn’t be done properly for such a sum. Shimberg, in an article published in State Government magazine, suggested that what is needed is “a better accountability process; some way of monitoring what boards do; some way of interceding to stop them from taking an action that is not in the public interest; some way of making sure that enforcement and disci 6 The Texas Observer pline are handled vigorously. The sunset law [in Colorado] does not come to grips with this problem; unless it does, the high expectations of its sponsors are not likely to be realized.” Shimberg believes the real key to the success of sunset laws is the inclusion of effective private citizens on licensing and regulatory boards to help insure accountability. In Massachusetts, citizen appointments have been made from the ranks of experienced retired people who have the time and inclination for voluntary public service. In addition to sunset legislation, the JAC has recommended the consolidation of the state’s water resources agencies \(Water Rights Commission, Water Quality Board, and Water Development In human services, the JAC argues for a new Department of Child and Family Resources to assume the functions of the Texas Youth Council, the youth-related responsibility of the Department of Public Welfare, and the Early Childhood Development and Youth Services Divisions of the Department of Community Affairs. What’s ahead? Governor Briscoe has suggested creation of a Department of Human Resources to take over other duties of the DPW, the Youth Council, and the Governor’s Committee on Aging. The JAC had already recommended the establishment of a new Department of Aging and Special Assistance to replace the Governor’s Committee on Aging and to see to the welfare of needy adults and the elderly. Among other committee recommendations are proposals for tighter state purchasing practices and the more profitable investment of idle state funds. One study shows that the state has lost some $130 million in interest revenue over the last twenty years, including $80 million in the last five years. Appropriations for state schools, hospitals, and human development centers would be redrawn to reflect a programmatic approach to funding rather than facility-by-facility budgeting. The committee suggested that the Legislature require the attachment of a “program note” to any piece of legislation proposing new programs or agencies. Such a note would identify the resources of existing state programs that may be similar to those proposed for any new program or agency. The recommendations cover nearly every activity of state government. If carefully considered, the committee’s proposals alone would keep the Legislature occupied throughout the 140-day session. H.P. Austin As the turistas flock to the Rio Grande Valley to roost in their Winnebagos among the citrus trees and bask in their wealth among the people with the lowest per capita incpme in the United States, they retrace in part another migration of which Texas has less reason to be proud. The visitors bring welcome relief to a Valley economy still suffering from peso devaluation, but their air-conditioned southward trek stands in rude contrast to the northerly travels of Texas’ least publicized export: migrant farm workers. Packed into beat-up Chevies, possessions clinging precariously to the tops of third-hand school buses, children hunkered down under the tattered canvas of ancient flatbed trucks, 300,000 or more of them enter the migrant stream every year. They move westward up through California to the Canadian border; or they move northward into Minnesota and Michigan; and some move eastward to Florida, then all the way up to Maine. Along the way, they are worked like draft animals, routinely cheated, and sent packing as soon as the crops are in. They migrate because it’s a better deal than they get in Texas. The plight of farm workers is an old story. There’ve been demonstrations, television documentaries, grape and lettuce boycotts, bushel baskets full of official studies, and other expressions of outragebut very little change. 0 What to do? The debate ought to center around steps necessary to eliminate the migrant stream altogether. But it doesn’tat least not in official circles. Instead, the effort is to curb some of the worst abuses in the migrant labor system. That brings us to the 65th convening of the Legislature. Early on, it appeared that farm workers could look forward to at least one concrete gain in the coming session. the House to extend Texas’ minimal workmen’s compensation benefits to farm workers, who perform the third most hazardous job this country offers 300,000