House Speaker Bill Clayton Austin The problem, as some see it, is too much democracy in the Senate, too little in the House of Representatives, and a governor who doesn’t care much about anything except no new taxes. As the 65th Legislature wound down to a far from memorable conclusion, it appeared that Gov. Dolph Briscoe largely set the tone for a session which produced a bonanza for road contractors, a possible coal-slurry pipeline for Houston Natural Gas, a passel of law and order bills for the Texas constabulary, and almost nothing to make consumers and taxpayers stand up and cheer. Briscoe allowed that the 65th might prove “one of the state’s most successful legislatures,” provided the House and Senate could work out their considerable differences over school finance and medical malpractice insurance. A compromise malpractice bill was passed two hours before adjournment, and a $900 million school finance measure died soon after that, but Howard Richards, Briscoe’s chief lobbyist, was still moved to say, “It’s been the best year we’ve ever had.” `The highway boys’ In January, Briscoe delivered a state of the state address which promised something for almost everyone, but his legislative push came on those things closest to his heart: money for highway construction and an anticrime package, which emerged heavily amended but nominally intact. The governor’s proposal for a commission on the status of women and an elaborate plan to combine human service agencies died in committee, as did a few other items which apparently seemed much less important in May than they had in January. Briscoe’s approach, rooted in South 18 The Texas Observer Texas rural conservatism and a general conviction that when it comes to government, less is more, meshed remarkably well with that of House Speaker Bill Clayton, a small-town, West Texas farmer who shared the governor’s interest in law and order, good roads, and property tax relief for those who live off the land. The result of this meeting of minds, said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, was that “no one had an easy time of it this session except the special interestsbig business and the highway boys.” An urban moderate Johnson, a Dallas black, watched a package of progressive housing legislation, including her ban on real estate redlining, wither in hostile committees. “Without Hobby we wouldn’t have gotten a dent in anything,” she said. Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, the urban moderate in the state’s leadership triumvirate, waged a somewhat solitary battle. Some say he didn’t fight hard enough. Still, Hobby put a stop sign in front of the $600 million highway bill when it came thundering out of the House. The Senate’s version of the bill was not substantially cheaper, but it prevented an unjustified and uncontrolled amount of revenue from flowing endlessly into highway department coffers. Hobby quashed Briscoe’s dream of wiretap authority and struggled to channel state school aid to poor districts rather than to low-tax rural and suburban’ districts as Briscoe and Clayton wanted. Hobby’s low-key sty14his tendency to negotiate rather than demand, to compromise rather than bullyfrustrated those who hoped the Senate would be a bulwark against the Briscoe-Clayton juggernaut. “Hobby is probably the most democratic lieutenant governor we’ve ever had,” said one urban senator. “He gets an A-plus for giving everyone a chance, for not pushing anyone around. But if I were lieutenant governor, I would be a slight bit more authoritarian.” To the disappointment of liberals, Hobby was inclined toward neither reform of what they regarded as antedilu vian Senate traditions nor assertiveness on behalf of progressive programs he personally favored. A property tax reform bill, which Hobby had extricated from the hostile economic development committee, perished at the hands of a high-powered real estate lobby \(see Rod Davis’ story two-thirds rule. But Hobby was surefooted at times and, as one Senate staff member describes him, “enormously impressive” in behind-the-scenes operations. He quietly engineered the demise of two highly emotional and potentially dangerous bills which skated through the Housethe “Brother Roloff” bill exempting church-operated child-care facilities from state standards and a “right to life” measure setting harsh new limits on abortions. He and his staff hammered out the scheme which will allow some lowincome Texans to escape utility taxes, a On top: the Briscoe-Clayton juggernaut, the low-keyed Hobby. Briscoe priority nearly forgotten when the governor’s highway plan gobbled up most available revenue. Hobby devised the plan which allowed the state to increase its pitifully small payments to welfare families by $5 a month per child without overloading a strained budget. The effort has been described as one of the few statesmanlike acts of a dismal legislative session. Hobby’s critics wish he could combine his progressive tendencies with Ben Barnes’ ability to whip Senate prima donnas into line. “Hobby has a very limited conception of his own power,” said one liberal lobbyist. Rep. Wayne Peveto, a fiery Cajun who has been the driving force behind property tax reform legislation, blames Hobby for not winning over the four votes necessary to get his bill to the floor this session. Peveto, however, had spent a fair amount of time publicly blasting Report on the leadership Drifting By Saralee Tiede
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.