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Lobby’s Boy Keeps House Locked Up “Gib Lewis is dangerous,” a lobbyist for people’s issues told the Observer, “because he allows himself to be used without realizing what’s happening; Bill Messer is dangerous because he knows exactly what’s happening.” The 31-year-old three-term veteran is smart, hard-working, and cunningly savvy when it comes to the legislative process. He is also, body and soul, the lobby lackey whether it’s carrying the interestrate increase for the banking lobby, carrying the outdoor advertisers’ effort to gut city billboard ordinances, carrying the trucking industry effort preserving Railroad Commission regulation of the industry, carrying the automobile dealers’ version of a “lemon law” limiting dealer liability, or looking out for the interests of savings and loan institutions. \(Messer is also a director of the Bell County Savings When Bill Messer was three, his father died, and he was reared by his grandfather, long-time Bell County Judge W. T. Messer. Whatever he knows about politics, Bill Messer has said, he learned at his grandfather’s knee. And he’s no doubt learned a bit more from his father-in-law, Chemical Council lobbyist Harry Whitworth. At the time Messer made his first legislative race in 1978, he was serving as Belton city judge and as city attorney for Morgan’s Point, a resort community on Lake Belton. His opponent, five-term House veteran John Bigham, filed suit in the Court of Civil Appeals seeking to have Messer’s name removed from the Democratic ballot. Bigham charged that Messer was in violation of a state constitutional provision that prohibits persons holding “lucrative offices” from running for the state legislature until after their term of office expires. Messer claimed that he was not “qualified” for the two city positions he held since he had not taken oaths of office. Although he had been reappointed city judge, he said he was occupying the bench only until a successor could be named. He also said he had no official term of office as Morgan Point’s city attorney so that position could not be considered a “lucrative office.” The court denied the writ to remove Messer’s name from the ballot, saying there were questions of fact unresolved in the official records brought before the court. Bigham saw Messer gaining public sympathy from the lawsuit and decided not to pursue the matter. Messer defeated Bigham by a 2-1 margin and won re-election two years later with 80% of the vote. He was unopposed in 1982. His major financial supporter in Bell County seems to be Dr. Ralph Wilson, Jr., president of Ralph Wilson Plastics Co. in Temple. \(Rubber workers attempted to unionize Wilson Plastics several Messer has said he has no ambitions for a Senate seat or any higher office other than the House speakership he and Stan Schlueter have been considered prime candidates when Lewis vacates the office but even that ambition may have been jeopardized by his performance this session. His heavy-handed tactics as Calendars Committee chair and his brazen role as lobby water boy didn’t set well with many of his colleagues. Back home, Messer has also managed to antagonize teachers and public employees, particularly after he told a school teachers’ group he would oppose a teacher pay increase until he felt a “groundswell of support” from his constituents. A firefighters’ representative from Temple wanted to know if he had felt a “groundswell of support” when he carried the bill increasing the interest-rate ceiling in 1981. Both labor and the teachers believe dissatisfaction with Messer in Bell County is widespread. “I’d rather take him on in his district than in the House,” said one labor organizer. “He’s got more borrowers than lenders in his district.” What is needed now is a worthy opponent. Labor Hopes Go Unrealized LABOR went into the 68th session expecting great things but came away with less than they’d hoped for. Nineteen senators had been endorsed by labor in their campaigns. The largest House freshman class in a decade bred hope for new alignments. The labor lobby was prepared to push some positive lawmaking and not just defend itself against bad bills as had been necessary in past sessions. But Messer’s Calendars Committee in the House and the two-thirds vote needed in the Senate to take up a bill proved to be labor’s nemeses. Despite the fact that labor counted 84 and 86 votes respectively for prevailing wage and voluntary checkoff bills, they could not get the bills out of Calendars and on to the floor for a vote. In the Senate they were two to four votes short of the two-thirds needed to bring up a bill. But Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Joe Gunn wouldn’t complain about the twothirds rule. “It kept us from passing some things, but it saved us for so many years keeping the bad stuff off us,” Gunn told the Observer. According to Gunn and Texas THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21