Minorities “This was not a good session for minorities.” That’s Sen. Carlos Truan talking, and he’s not kidding. Neither the Mexican-American Caucus nor the Black Caucus can report the passage of much major legislation it really wantedwith the one exception that proves the rule. That exception is a tough law to protect the life and limb of people in police or jail custodya law needed to prevent incidents like the recent spate of chicano prisoner deaths. \(See, for effect on September 1, sets out severe penalties for physical violation of a prisoner’s civil rights \(up to life imprisonment if state attorney general as well as local prosecutors jurisdiction to investigate alleged violations. The only other good bill that sneaked through the 66th Legislature is a nice symbolic gesture, but not much more than that. Rep. Al Edwards’ HB 1016 making Juneteenth a state holiday is a first for the Lone Star statethis celebration of the emancipation of Texas’ slaves marks the first time the state has officially recognized any date dear to the black community as also worthy of celebration by the rest of the peoplebut it would be hard to maintain that getting a holiday will make for any real improvement in the quality of black life in Texas. Other bills that mattered to black legislators and would have made a difference never got anywhere. In general, the Black Caucus concerned itself with broad issues like communitybased prison reform and money for human services and welfare programs that would have benefited all poor people. The caucus also struck out on an attempt to bring the funding of the state’s two major black universities, Texas Southern and Pririe View A&M, up to par with that of other institutionsstruck out despite a major effort by Austin Rep. Wilhelmina Delco, who not only was vice chairwoman of the caucus but also chairedthe House higher education committee. Then there was Rep. Reby Cary’s bill creating a state Human Rights Commission, which won House approval but was killed by Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby \(Obs., Chicanos’ legislative priorities didn’t fare any betteras LULAC president Ruben Bonilla put it, “The MexicanAmerican community has been knocked to its knees by the 66th Legislature.” Very high on their list was a bilingual education through the fifth grade. Sponsored by Senator Truan, SB 195 enjoyed broad support and passed the Senate, but was killed in the House by what Bonilla called a Clayton-backed “massive conspiracy” to keep it off the calendar. The package of proposals to improve the lot of migrant farmworkers was virtually ignoredthe House agriculture committee did hold hearings on HB 227, which would have guaranteed these workers’ collective bargaining rights, but then buried the bill in an unnamed subcommittee \(Obs., worker bills didn’t even get that far. Finally, there was an attempt to put a stop to the sort of events that led to the death last year of the 11-month-old son of a migrant couple, who was turned away from hospital emergency rooms in Dimmitt and Tulia. A bill by Austin Rep. Gonzalo Barrientos would have stiffened the criminal penalties for hospital officials who deny treatment to non-English-speaking indigents. The measure passed the House the last weekend of the session, but was tagged by Sen. Betty Andujar at the request of Dean Davis, spokesman for the Texas Hospital Associ Thanks to Jessie Aronow, Eric Hartman, Edward Humes, and Tina Lam, who helped with the research for this article. ation, and that action prevented Senate consideration. When Andujar, who had earlier voted against the bilingual education bill, was asked for her solution to the problem, she replied, “My solution is they had better learn to speak English.” Family farmers Texas’ small farmers and ranchers didn’t get everything they wanted from the 66th Legislature, but they didn’t go home empty-handed either. Their most important victorypassage of the Family Farm Security Actisn’t complete yet, since the voters must still decide on a constitutional amendment needed to authorize it, but they’re well on their way. This legislationSen. Bob Price’s SJR 13 and Rep. Luther Jones’ HB 304is designed to buttress the family structure of agriculture by making it easier for young men and women just starting out to buy land; thus it would help keep prime farm and ranch acreage in production and out of the hands of speculators and big agribusiness corporations. Specifically, the law would allow the state to issue $10 million in general obligation bonds to back up loans to family farmers. Modeled after a successful Minnesota program, it’s been the pet project of the Texas Farmers Union for several years. With the help of agriculture commissioner Reagan Brown and groups like the Independent Bankers Association, the Texas AFL-CIO, and the American Agriculture Movement, TFU made it this year. SJR 13 authorizing the bonds will be on the November 1979 ballot, and HB 304 will allow the program to go into effect right away if the proposition passes. The farmers’ contribution to easing the gasoline shortage is gasohol. This blend of unleaded gasoline and alcohol can be used to fuel autos, trucks, and farm machinery, thus substituting a renewable energy sourcethe alcohol made from foodstuffsfor part of our petroleum needs. \(Apparently, current-model car engines could run without modification on a blend that’s 10 percent alcohol’, with some relatively inexpensive retooling, much higher concentrations of alcohol could be Reps. Dan Kubiak and Bill Keesepassed two bills that will help gasohol production along. HB 1986 amends the Alcoholic Beverage Code to allow the manufacture of alcohol for this purpose, and HB 1803 authorizes the Texas Industrial Commission to make loans for pilot project plants to manufacture fuel from agricultural products. But the farm security and gasohol successes gave small farmers their only cause for cheer this session. They were staunch members of the alliance that fought and lost the 66th’s big battles against anti-consumer legislation. They also lost their battles to exclude large corporate farms from the tax relief bill’s provision for productivity valuation of agricultural land; to prohibit future purchases of farmland by nonresident aliens; and to get Texas to join an interstate compact to investigate the anticompetitive practices of the big trading companies that control the world grain market \(Obs., Women The Texas women’s movement, tied as it generally has been to the state’s other progressive forces, suffered the same setbacks dished out to ordinary Texans this year. But some issues touch women more directly than men; those are the ones the various women’s groups take on a special responsibility for, and it turns out their 1979 scorecard shows more victories than defeats. Since it’s easier to stop someone else’s bill than to pass your own, it may have helped that their two highest priorities this year were negative: to frustrate any move to rescind Texas’ ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and to stop any bills restricting women’s access to abortions. Count a total success on the first; for the first time in four sessions, the anti-ERA 4 JUNE 22, 1979 Prv 41.414 -.!..k-,0
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