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The printed word Several state representatives are of the opinion that the newsletters, magazines, brochures, and other printed matter that virtually every state agency churns out aren’t all that essentialin fact, some of them label most of it junk mail. The Texas Department of Health, for example, has not one but two publishing venturesTexas Health Bulletin and Texas Health Today. On its table of contents, the i bulletin boasts that it “is published solely in the interest of public health education,” but a random sampling of the last several issues confirms that legislators are not off-base in questioning the educational value of this number. Consider the monthly column offered by the state health commissioner; in the latest issue, commissioner Raymond T. Moore, M.D., advises that “if you have a cold, avoid coughing or sneezing without covering your nose or mouth, and don’t talk right in someone’s face.” For no apparent reason, the cover of some issues is graced with the beaming likeness of some state politico. Inside are such tantalizing articles as “For proper weightTo eat or not to eat, that is the question” and “Kidney stones de-, _ mand different treatment.” But it’s unfair to pick only on the Health Department. Slick magazines with full-color photographs also come out of the Agriculture Department \(at least it prints a couple of pages of recipes the Highway Department, and several others. Some are very pretty, like the Parks and Wildlife Commission’s magazine. But all are of questionable value, amounting to so much tax-paid advertising of the agencies and their officials. Hence, economy-minded legislators are surgically removing some from the state budget. TDH’s bulletin got the axe, though Texas Health Today has survived thus far. The Railroad Commission’s monthly entry, Texas Today, has also been terminated. The Legislative Budget Board recommended that the Agriculture Department’s quarterly be deleted, but it has survived the House appropriation processperhaps because the publication ran a not-too-subtle notice in its spring issue that it was about to go by the boards, leaving the impression that any readers wanting to keep the thing coming should be in touch with their legislators. The main problem for the budget cutters is that no one knows exactly how much these agency periodicals cost taxpayers. Though the Agriculture Department’s total budget calls for four photographers, two journalists, two illustrators, one information specialist, and a “market news manager,” it doesn’t specify how much of this expense is involved in the quarterly. One common-sense solution is the proposal by Rep. Charlie Evans, which has already passed the House. Evans’ HB 728 requires a publication to state its purpose, along with its annual cost, to be typeset in a box and printed in each document. Evans says he’s not against dissemination of information, he’d just like to have an idea how much state money is being funneled into these publications. “It’s amazing,” says Evans, “that all of [the state agencies] have a free hand now. There’s no way to even get a handle on expenses.” Vicki Vaughan The Beneficial bill Big loan companies making small loans have got a sweet deal in Tex as, and perennial loan shark foe Sen. Bill Patman fears this favorable climate is only going to be enhanced if a bill by Abilene Sen. Grant Jones becomes law. On May 1 Patman talked for more than an hour against SB 979, a measure he had considered innocuous at first, until he saw it given priority treatment by the economic development committee, a panel that only a lobby could love. Jones called his measure a simple “housekeeping” bill, but Patman recognized it for what it really is: specialinterest legislation tailored specifically’ o fit one or two national firms doing business in Texas. These are firms that make pressed consumersusually relatively poor peoplewho need extra cash to make ends meet. Under Texas law, these firms can charge 31.72 percent interest, plus insurance fees, on a loan of $300, and borrowers of $100 can be stuck with interest charges of 108.75 percent. It’s a lucrative field, and a handful of out-of-state conglomerates are gaining control of it rapidly. Patman reminded his colleagues that Beneficial Corporation, a Delaware-based outfit, already is the largest consumer lender in the state, with 60 offices, and it wants more of the market, which is what brings us to this bill. The state consumer credit code allows a company making loans of under $2,500 to have no more than 60 offices. Beneficial recently bought out First Texas Savings and Loan Association, which has 56 branches that make small loans, and Beneficial also is negotiating with Beatrice Foods Company to buy its small-loan subsidiary, Southwestern InTexas offices. In short, the consumer credit code is in Beneficial’s way, and they want it fixed. That’s what Jones’ SB 979 would doit removes the 60-office limit. In fact, it doesn’t put any ceiling on the number of branches that a firm can open. Patman begged his colleagues to send this measure back to committee so full hearings could be held on its ramifications, warning them that passage of the bill will result in just a couple of loan companies dominating the small-loan market. “Once they succeed in squeezing out all the others, they’ll raise interest rates. We don’t want just one loan company in this state.” Currently, figures from the state consumer credit office show that 80 percent of all loans under $2,500 are made by only 14 companies, all of them owned by out-of-state conglomerates. Passage of SB 979 will reduce that number immediately to 13. The Senate didn’t seem troubled by this narrowing of competition, however. When Patman tried to amend the bill to reinstate the 60-branch-office limit, it was an uphill struggle all the way. The Senate wouldn’t even accept his half-aloaf proposal to limit the number of branches to 140. That amendment ‘was killed 26 to 4. Only three senators, Babe Schwartz, Lloyd Doggett, and Oscar Mauzy, voted with Patman against final passage of this anti-consumer measure. The bill now goes to the House. Vicki Vaughan 12 MAY 11, 1979 ,144.t,ift.: 44.. tliwor ., . *41 #r