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Photos by Alan Pogue GOING FOR MORTG NOT Austin attorney Robert Sneed, left, conferring at S&L hearing with state insurance commissioner E. J. Voorhis It looked like a lobbyists’ promenade when the Senate’s economic development committee convened on February 12 to consider raising the mortgage interest ceiling to 12 percent \(Obs ., George Christian and Jerry Hall, two lobbyists who had spent weeks hustling the state’s press to come down on the side of the lenders, were looming large, and Savings and Loan League lobbyist Durward Curlee, point man in the whole campaign, was pacing the floor like a nervous host. Also hanging around were Sam Kimberlin for the Texas Bankers Association, Robert Sneed for several lender-clients of his Austin law firm, Wade Spilman for the securities industry, Gaylord Armstrong for the Texas Society of Association Executives, assorted other industry reps, and several whispering clusters of savings and loan chiefs hauled in for the event. Not that those for the increase were the only ones there. Texas AFL-CIO members showed up en masse wearing badges that featured a cigar-smoking pig and the slogan “stop the greedy savings & loans,” and several American Agriculture Movement farmers were also on hand to protest the hike. Committee membership is weighted entirely in favor of the industry’s bill, but at least the members had to hear plenty of stout arguments against the measure. In fact, if testimony swayed committees, as the textbooks teach, the interest rate bill wouldn’t have had a prayer, for AFL-CIO. president Harry Hubbard, American Agriculture Movement spokesman John Scott, Texas Consumers Association director Jim Boyle, Texas Farmers Union spokesman Ron Butler, and several individual realtors and builders clearly carried the day against industry witnesses. But testimony is not power, and this committee had its mind made up well before the opening gavel. After only two hours, by 6 MARCH 2, 1979 a unanimous vote, the bill was placed in subcommittee for safekeeping, and when the leadership signals its readiness, the bill will come whizzing out of there and the full committee will report it to the Senate floor by about the same tally. The outcome was no different on the House side, where a usury rate hearing was held later the same day, but in this case the treatment of those testifying against the rate increase got downright nasty. Like its Senate counterpart, the House financial institutions committee is stacked, overwhelmingly in favor of the lenders, so “borrower” witnesses were down from the start; but chairman Nub Donaldson and some of his bullying colleagues, not content with that advantage, seized every opportunity to kick witnesses they disagreed with. It was a pathetic performance. DOnaldson, who is also the sponsor of the industry’s bill, warned his colleagues at the outset that some of the good-fornothings about to appear before them would toss out “red herrings” and resort to certain factual “ploys.” It was the job of the committee, he intoned, to rise above such partisan pleas, presumably by doing the industry’s bidding. He not, only mocked witnesses against his bill before they had a chance to speak, but also made them take last place in line to testify. By the time their turn came, most of the press had given up and gone home. As consumer, farmer and labor interests at last got to have their say, they were insulted with tight-voiced belligerence by Donaldson and freshman Rep. Bill Messer, whose purpose seemed to be to serve his chairman as a sort of snarling attack dog. They went after Ron Butler of the Farmers Union so violently that he struck back at them with the question, “Is witness abuse part of this committee’s rules?” At least one witness, David Samuelson of the American Agriculture Movement, countered Donaldson’s clumsy sniping with aplomb. After he delivered a strong statement on the rising indebtedness of Texas farmers and the added burden Donaldson’s bill would place on them, Samuelson was chided by the chairman for opposing a lenders’ rate increase in Austin while his AAM colleagues were in Washington asking for higher farm price supports. Replied Samuelson: “Sir, I would be glad to compare the income of agriculture to the savings and loan associations’ any day.” There is no adequate explanation for Donaldson’s behavior, but one House member says that the Gatesville attorney doesn’t intend to run fOr re-election and is making a bid to become an Austin lobbyist. Hence he doesn’t care about offending farmers, labor and consumers, Left to right, lobbyist Jerry Hall, gubernatorial aide Hilary Doran, and lobbyist Wesley Roberts, watching and waiting