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The Texas QBSERVER The Texas Observer Publishing Co.. 1979 Ronnie Dagger. Publisher Vol. 71, No. 7 April 13,1979 Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Demo crat, which in turn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate. EDITOR Jim Hightower MANAGING EDITOR Linda Rocawich ASSOCIATE EDITOR Eric Hartman EDITOR AT LARGE Ronnie Dugger PRODUCTION MANAGERS: Susan Reid. Beth Epstein ASSISTANT EDITORS: Vicki Vaughan, Bob Sindermann Jr. STAFF ASSISTANTS: Margot Beutler, Viki Florence, Jeannette Garrett, Helen Jardine, Ann Kriss, Donna Ng, Anne Norman, Beverly Palmer, Martha Owen, Karen White, Harris Worcester CONTRIBUTORS: Thomas D. Bleich, Ave Bonar, Berke Breathed, Warren Burnett, Bob Clare, Jo Clifton, Bruce Cory, Keith Dannemiller, Jeff Danziger, Chandler Davidson, John Henry Faulk, David Guarino, Roy Hamric, Doug Harlan, Jack Hopper, Dan Hubig, Molly Ivins, Susan Lee, Tim Mahoney, Maury Maverick Jr., Dave McNeely, Kaye Northcott, Lois Rankin, Ray Reece. Laura Richardson, Ben Sargent, Lisa Spann, John Spragens Jr., Sheila R. Taylor, Stanley Walker, Eje Wray. Ralph Yarborough A journal of free voices We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them because this is a journal of free voices. BUSINESS STAFF: Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year, in January and July: 25 issues per year. Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Publication #541300. ISSN 0040-4519. prepaid. One year. $14; two years, $25; three years, $36. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilmed by MCA. 21 Harristown Road, Glen Rock, N.J. 07452. POSTMASTER: Send form 3579 to The Texas Observer at address below. Editorial and Business Offices 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 2 APRil. 13, 1979 Making the state safe for unsafe products By Tina Lam Austin A big item on the corporate wish list submitted to the 66th Legislature, ranking right up at the top with such priorities as the evisceration of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and jacking up the ceiling on home mortgage interest rates, is something slippery called “tort reform.” What it means is the systematic undoing of legal doctrines that have given consumers a fair shot dangerous productseverything from Ford’s famous exploding Pinto to unsafe home appliances, toys and drugs. A spate of bills that would grant the corporate lobby’s wish have been introduced by Sens. Ray Farabee and Bill Meier, and by Reps. Doug McLeod, Bob Davis, Bob McFarland and Stan Schlueter. Seven of these bills to restrict consumers’ rights to sue and recover damages have already made it intact to the Senate floor; six companion bills and a couple of others are now in a subcommittee of the House state affairs panel. The measures probably won’t start moving again until the signal is given from behind closed doors, where a powerful business coalition backing the bills faces opposition across the negotiating table from the Texas Trial Lawyers Association tion, though not of the negotiations, are the Texas Consumer Association and the Consumers Union. The big gun on the business side is the Texas Association of Business, which includes on its roster virtually every large corporation in the in addition to Texas-based manufacturers like Lone Star Steel and E-Systems, Inc. Behind TAB stand the Texas Association of Retailers, Texas Restaurant Association, Texas Motor Transport Association, Texas Association of Defense Counsel among others. The whole lobby effort is coordinated through a Coalition for Product Liability Reform, with TAB lobbyist Don Adams at the helm. While the two sides argue the merits of the issues in closed meetings, they’re also letting their political contribution money