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Key House votes 1.Usury rate ceiling This one tells all there is to tell about the 66th Legislature. HB 409, sponsored by Gatesville Rep. Nub Donaldson, raises the interest-rate ceiling on home mortgages from 10 to 12 percent and will result in a multi-million-dollar rip-off of Texas borrowers by the savings and loan industry \(Obs., For a while, it did look as though the little homebuyers had a chanceGov. Bill Clements promised in April to veto the bill if it got to his desk \(Obs., April quickly regrouped with a little help from the Federal National Mortgage Association, whose chief called a halt to its purchases of Texas home loans, and Clements promptly reneged on his veto pledge \(Ohs., That cleared the way for action, and on May 8 the House tentatively passed the measure, 78 to 47. Rep. John Bryant and a handful of other opponents managed to talk the House into a couple of amendments that helped a littlefor example, the law will self-destruct in 1981but it’s still a disaster for lowand middle-income people who’d like to, but now won’t be able to, buy their own homes. The House finally passed HB 409 on May 9 and sent it to the Senate \(see Observer zeros to the 78 who caved in to the S&Ls on May 8. 2.Small loan interest rates HB 451 was the main loan shark bill of the 66th session. It would have allowed interest rates and fees on loans of $100 to $300 to climb from an annual rate of about 30 percent to as much as 90 percent. The House financial institutions committee approved it unanimously, and the House dutifully passed it on second reading by a vote of 80 to 48. That was on May 7. On May 8, however, the House passed HB 409, the usury-rate bill, and members apparently began having guilt pangs. On May 9, Rep. John Bryant made an impassioned plea against raising small-loan rates too, and, in the most dramatic flip-flop of the session, the House reversed itself and killed HB 451 on third reading, 44 to 85. The Observer’s stars go to the 48 who voted “no” on second reading even before standing up to the loan sharks got “popular.” 3.Consumer protection Cutting the heart out of the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act was a key item on the business lobby’s agenda for the 66th Legislature \(Obs., passing Sen. Bill Meier’s SB 357 \(see the session’s fiercest fights. After Lt. Gov. Hobby twisted the rules to crush a filibuster in the Senate, the battle shifted to the House, where the bill was carried by Rep. Danny Hill. Pro-consumer reps first tried guerrilla tacticswhen Meier’s bill came up on second reading, they left the floor and came within two votes of breaking the quorum needed to conduct House business. Then they met the bill head-on with amendments to retain at least some of the current law’s deterrents against business fraud and deception. A critical vote came May 10 on such an amendment by Rep. Smith Gilley, who damages for a deceptive trade practices mandatory treble damages for consumer losses of more than $5,000, unless the defendant could show the deception was not intentional. Rep. Gerald McLeod did his bit for the lobby by moving to table Gilley’s proposal, and the motion carried, 89 to 50. The House gave final approval to a slightly improved version of SB 357 the next day. Stars go to the 50 who voted to keep the Gilley amendment alive. 4.Auto documentary fees Texas auto dealers didn’t just commit grand larceny this year; they also engaged in a little pocket-picking. Their SB 359, sponsored in the House by Rep. Nub Donaldson, will allow them to charge car buyers an extra $25 for the paperwork connected with the sale, a service performed by bounty officials for 65 cents \(Obs., originally called for a $35 fee, passed the the House voted down an identical measure attached to a different bill in early May. A couple of weeks of intense lobbying by the car dealers changed all that, however. When the House took up the matter again on May 23, it turned a deaf ear to the outraged pleas of Texas Consumer Association director Jim Boyle, who termed SB 359 “blatant special-interest legislation” that would add some $30 million a year to the cost of new cars alone. The House also ignored the attempts of several lawmakers to soften the blow to consumers with amendments that would have drastically reduced the moneyed establishment. Then, on Clements’ inauguration day in January, Hobby delivered a speech that made some think he had mistakenly picked up the Republican’s text. And if there was any further doubt about where the lieutenant governor’s loyalty would be this session, he erased it when he appointed the members of the economic development committeechaired by Tom Creighton and rounded out by Ike Harris, Ed Howard, Grant Jones, Peyton McKnight, Bill Moore, and Bob Price, this was a panel only a corporate lobbyist could love. Hobby assigned all the interest rate bills, the Consumer Protection Act amendments, the products liability package, and a mess of other bad bills to this committee, and the members churned them out whenever called on to do so, usually by 7-to-0 votes. Hobby personally backed the bill to raise homebuyers’ interest rates, the bill to gut the Consumer Protection Act, the bill to rig next year’s Democratic primary, the bill to let auto dealers squeeze $25 more out of consumers, the bill .. . well, you name it, he was pushing it. Moreover, he handled himself badlyhe infuriated members by crudely breaking a tag-team filibuster against the consumer protection measure, summoning a hundred lobbyists to an Austin watering hole asking them to pressure senators for passage of his presidential primary ploy, and trying to manipulate the Senate rules to get last-minute consideration of the primary bill. With the leadership firmly in hand, business lobbyists rolled over their opposition, pretty much taking whatever -they wanted. They took too much. Maybe they think they have fooled the people, but it’s not going to take many trips to try to get a home loan or to buy a car before the people catch up with them. Some lawmakers will attempt to gloss over the damage done by the 66th and maybe even point to the few baubles tossed to the home folks during the session, but there is no way to pretty up the overall picture. The people were gouged. The close of the Legislature on May 28 brought to mind the old country refrain, “It felt so good when it stopped hurting.” They are gone at last, but they should not be forgotten. To help you remember them, the Observer offers the following compilation of voting records on some of the session’s key issues. There are hundreds of votes in a session, and our tally is not intended to identify Hundred Percenters or Observer Gold Key Winners, but simply to give readers a measure of how their own representatives’ performed when it really countedthe record here is on some of the votes that drew the line sharply between the public interest and special interests. J.H. 4 JUNE 8, 1979