When a public official refuses to deliver an open recordone that has already been determined to be openthat should be a crime and some criminal punish ment should be attached to that refusal. ***,..eistroatomikonoteeresii worpc,ArigiMANONVortatiMoilti leOP\(… control of money in this stateas to warrant an investigation by your staff of whether some, at least, of the bankholding companies do violate the branch-banking ban? There’s a decision of the Federal Reserve system that lists 11 points as the basis on which to judge whether or not a holding company in fact controls a subsidiary bank, and we looked at these ourselves and think it’s pretty obvious that on about eight of these points, the holding companies do control. WHITE: I frankly am not familiar with those standards. I’ll look at them. OBSERVER: Good, we think it’s really important. WHITE: Oh, I do too. I think right now in Texas at least there is an equilibrium. But have we gotten to the point that it’s so over-concentrated there’s no competition? That’s a policy question for the Legislature to decide. OBSERVER: But the question here is not whether we’re for or against bankholding companies. We think there are factual violations now of current policy that you should look into. WHITE: Well, I’ll be glad to look at it. If that be true, then I’ll be glad to look at it. I’d like to. But as for holding to the contrary of the Daniel decision, I think there’s no legal basis to do so. A lot of the independent bankers have asked me, “Would you reverse that opinion?” I said, “No, not unless there’s a mistake in the lawand I don’t think there is.” The holding companies have relied upon that opinion and made an enormous capital commitment. I think it’s up to our legislators. If they don’t like what he said the law is, they ought to change the law. OBSERVER: One of the attorney gen eral’s most important roles, as far as we’re concerned, is decision-maker under the Open Records Act. Texas has a strong law, but there have been problems getting some public agencies to comply. WHITE: I’ve got people in the office right now drafting some amendments to bills that have already been introduced in the Legislature. OBSERVER: What sort of amendments? WHITE: Amendments to the law that would allow me to carry out my commitment to see that the law is enforced. When a public official refuses to deliver an open recordone that has already been determined to be openthat should be a crime and some criminal punishment should be attached to that refusal. OBSERVER: There’s another enforcement barrier that we’ve run up against. Say a person asks a public agency for a record, they disagree about whether it’s open, and the agency refuses to ask the attorney general for a decision. WHITE: Well, we can’t have that. OBSERVER: The Observer has a case like this with the University of Texas that’s been dragging on for more than a year. We’ve asked for some records and university officials say they’re not open, but won’t ask your office for an opinion that would settle it [Obs., Dec. 15, 1978]. It’s not their legal responsibility to, decide, but that’s the effect of their inaction. There’s nothing weor youcan do. WHITE: I don’t think it’s proper for that to be the case. I think .there should be some built-in time limit after which they either give you the record or ask for the opinion. OBSERVER: Would you support an amendment to that effect? WHITE: I don’t have any problem with that. OBSERVER: Let’s get back now to what you said was your biggest concernenergy. You said you think of it as a consumer protection issue. Could you elaborate? WHITE: A lot of people think of the term “consumer protection” as applying only to the relationship between business and the consumer, but it ought to be a much broader concept. I don’t know what your feelings are about deregulation of oil and gas, but what’s happening on energy is just devastating to this state. We’re selling natural gas on a regulated market at a lower-than-market price. We’re being forced to convert to coal for power generation at a high price. And the people of Texas are the ones who are suffering. When we’re forced to-use coal and there’s a free market for coal, and forced to pay the railroads to haul the coal at federally-set rates that have gone from $10 a ton to $16 in the last three yearsthat’s the biggest bill a person pays now except for his homestead. I’m talking about consumer protection. I’m afraid some people misinterpret my outspokenness on this”well, it’s just old Mark White talking about the federal government again.” I look at just the reverse: the colonial approach to Texas that the federal government applies and, frankly, the complaints the Colonies had against England were no less severe than the complaints I think we’ve got against the federal government on energy now. If the country wants to take advantage of the surplus of our natural gas, then it should compensate the people here in Texas who paid for the surplus. We paid through the nose with the highest gas rates in the country, and now there’s a federal energy policy that takes it away from us.
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