Helping hands The Austin American-Statesman is fast becoming one of the chief tal ent pools for Governor Clements’s new administration. Business editor David Frink and amusements chief Patrick Taggart helped put together a slick inaugural souvenir program sold to GOP throngs for $10 a shot. And political editor Jon Ford has signed on as the Republican governor’s press secretary. Before his stint with the AmericanStatesman, Ford covered political goings-on for the San Antonio Express and was Gov. Price Daniel’s press secretary in the early 1960s. Billy takes the low road While West Texas rancher businessman Billy Clayton is generally conceded to be a good ol’ boy personally \(the kind of guy who’ll pull your pickup out of a ditch, says one fellow Nice Guy he ain’t. Two legislative sessions back, when representatives faced a choice between Clayton and several moderates running for speaker, most said of Clayton: “Well, we know he’s conservative, but at least he’ll be fair.” Sic transit fair. Assured of election to. an unprecedented third term at the House helm, Clayton flexed all the muscle he’s built up in the last four years, putting a right-wing hammerlock on this Legislature. Progressives, chicanos, blacks, and urban lawmakers, who were given fair-to-middling committee assignments in the 64th and 65th sessions, when Clayton was less secure, were flat-out busted by the speaker in the opening days of the 66th. They’ve largely been scattered to lonely outposts in the committee system, where they’ll do little harm to the legislative package that Clayton and the business lobby are pushing. Clayton has stacked the committees in such a way that the House leadership is more reactionary than it’s been since the star-crossed reign of Gus Mutscher, back in ’71, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Not that some didn’t try. A small band of moderates, progressives and members generally miffed with Clayton’s growing arrogance, tried to rally support for a few procedural reforms that would at least curb the speaker’s worst impulses. But they were doomed from the start Clayton’s grip on the controls is so tight that he can make a session miserable for members he doesn’t like, and few had it in them to incur his wrath, especially since he had made it clear that he was making a list and checking it twice. The first charge at the speaker was made on opening day when Republican Bob Close of Perryton moved that the. vote for speaker be’ taken by secret ballot, thus allowing members to “vote their conscience,” as Close put it, without fear of reprisal. Clayton’s so-called “team players” leaped r the incumbent’s defense, charging that such a practice would promote secrecy in government. \(The use of secret ballots in speaker elections is a tradition that has been abandoned only twice before in the 132-year. history of the Texas House, once in 1972 when Rayford Price was elected and secret ballot idea was drubbed, getting only 35 votes from the 150-member body. Then came the actual vote for speaker. Clayton was unopposed, but eight hardy souls stood in the cold against him: Dallas Reps. John Bryant and Paul Ragsdale, El Paso Reps. Ron Coleman, Luther Jones and Paul Moreno, Tyler Rep.Bill Clark, Diboll Rep. Buddy Temple, and Houston Rep. John Whitmire. The second day of the session saw the same lopsided results in the House, as several Sam Houston Caucus-inspired rules changes dealing with seniority, committee assignments and calendars committee reforms were brushed aside, getting a high of only 60 votes. Clayton’s own rules package then passed by 125 votes to 8, prompting Sam Houston Caucus member Dave Allred of Wichita Falls to ask, “Did you get the number on that truck?” The speaker also easily weathered a move to open up his office accounts to the entire House; Clayton lieutenants said such a move might “embarrass” the speaker. A cocky Clayton later scoffed at the efforts to restrain him: “I haven’t really paid that much attention to it all,” he told Dallas Times Herald reporter Robert Garrett. He has even taken to referring to himself as “we,” in the manner of kings. And when John Wilson of La Grange had the temerity to announce that he would be a candidate for speaker two years from now, Clayton came down on him hard, rushing forward with the startling declaration that not only did he intend to run for a fourth term \(which would make already collected pledges of support from 90 members, 14 more than needed to win. Furthermore, Clayton claimed that he would have ten more pledges within the next 24 hours. This little maneuver was heavyhanded enough, but Clayton was not through toying with the mavericks. He was withholding any announcement of committee assignments, he said, even though he had had since last November to make up his mind. Many members were furious at this bald ploy and openly charged that Clayton was extorting pledges for a fourth term by withholding choice committee assignments until a promise of support was made. “We’ve got a Mutscher situation here,” said Jones. “Clayton can be speaker for the restof his life. Under the open ballot system, members are so easy to intimidate. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” Jones and Whitmire said Clayton’s actions were “a violation of the spirit of the Speaker’s Race Bribery Act.” Things were only made worse when Clayton finally announced his choices for committees. Urban members were plenty upset that none of their number won chairmanships on three of the most important committees in the House. Leaders of the Mexican-American caucus pointed out that no chicano was named to chair any committee. And while there are technically two black and two women heads of committee, Austin Rep. Wilhelmina Delco fills two of those four slots, since she fits both “black” and “woman” categories. And to rub it all in, Clayton named four Republicans to chairmanships. The committee that will be laying the groundwork for redistricting \(just one and districts panelwas purged of urban liberals and turned into a rural, conservative bastion, with Clayton trusty Tim Von Dohlen of Goliad replacing San Antonian Ron Bird as chairman, and speaker’s men such as. Buck Florence of Hughes Springs replacing the likes of Lance Lalor of Houston. The only progressive who held on was Paul Ragsdale of Dallas, but of course his will now be a lone voice. A final insult to the reformers in the House is the lingering presence of Jack Gullahorn, Clayton’s hit-man during the 65th session. When the Sam Houston Caucus was at its peak in last summer’s special session, its members demanded that Clayton get rid of Gullahorn. Whether because of this pressure or not, Gullahorn did leave the speaker’s staff and is serving as a lobbyist this session for the firecracker industry and others. Yet some legislators charge that Gullahorn was soliciting pledges for Clayton’s fourth-term ambition and that he worked on the committee assignments. Vicki Vaughan 12 FEBRUARY 2, 1979
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