Workers’ Comp, At Last At long last, the legislature passed a bill providing workers’ compensation coverage for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. But it wasn’t easy. A committee appointed by White, Hobby, and Lewis, and chaired by Austin attorney Tony Korioth, had drawn up a compromise solution satisfying everybody except the Texas Farm Bureau. Sen. Bill Sarpalius, who had killed the bill with a filibuster on the last night of the 1983 legislative session, co-sponsored the measure carried by Sen. Hector Uribe. The bill provides workers’ compensation coverage in a phased-in program, based on payrolls for migrant and seasonal workers, and contains exemptions from coverage for family farmers with two or fewer full-time employees. As the special session began, Uribe could count 25 and House sponsor Juan Hinojosa knew he had more than half of the House lined up. Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby was eagei to get the bill passed, as he had been stigmatized since the 1983 session by his failure to prevent the Sarpalius filibuster that killed the bill. But then bill sponsors, special committee members, and lobbyists for Texas Rural Legal Aid and the United Farm Workers found themselves bouncing back and forth between the office of the Governor and that of Gib Lewis in their efforts to make sure White would include workers’ compensation in the business of the special session. Lewis blamed White for the procrastination in putting workers’ compensation on the legislative call, and White blamed Lewis for the hold-up. Both were using the issue to help line up Mexican American legislative votes for the education and tax bills, while the. Mexican American Legislative Caucus was using its voting bloc on those issues as a bargaining chip for inclusion of workers’ compensation legislation. Also figuring into the equation was the state district court ruling earlier this year by Judge Harley Clark providing coverage for farmworkers. The ruling is being appealed by the Attorney General’s office. Mattox had said he thought the matter should be resolved legislatively rather than in the courts. On June 28, White finally announced inclusion of the workers’ compensation bill in the session’s business. The bill passed both houses with little difficulty. Its passage is an indication of the growing strength of the urban and minority vote, which was able to force a compromise in the select committee that produced a bill to ride straight through the legislature. Meanwhile, the Industrial Accident Board reports that a large number of workers’ compensation policies have been taken out by farmers since the ruling by Judge Clark. A large percentage of these policies were sold by the Texas Farm Bureau. G. R. But there were other winners. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus proved its value as a voting block, coming away with an equalization formula it can live with and with a workers’ compensation bill. The Texas Interfaith Network organizations gained some measure of the equalization for which they have been fighting. For sticking with the compromises of the bill, they also gain a favored place with THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7 Pho to by Alic ia Da n ie l Rep. Bob Barton: “equalize taxes ” “Since we had a, corporate executive do education reform,” a teacher do tax reform.” Winners S THE DUST settles on the special session, we find an improved educational funding apparatus, complete with a career-ladder and teacher pay raises, and the provision for a temporary appointed board that will be entrusted with the implementation of the new structure. “After the education bill passes,” Walter Martinez warned, “we’ll want to prevent erosion rather than expect improvement.” COPS President Sonia Hernandez said she “would like to have seen higher numbers, but there’s good momentum now. The next legislature will meet after a few months of having the reforms in place. Our agenda for January will be to see that the Legislative Budget Board has the correct figures for accountable costs. The Equity Center will verify the figures the Texas Education Agency comes out with.” Ernesto Cortes, Jr. and Sister Christine Stevens organize at the Texas Interfaith Network rally, June 18. “The fact that there’s going to be an assault [in January],” said Ernesto Cortes, “indicates what a step forward this is. Every action generates a reaction.” White, Hobby, and Lewis emerge victorious from the special session, having delivered an education bill and money to fund it. For White it was a matter of do or die, and he survived. Lewis showed an ability to coerce votes that he had not previously displayed. Hobby, without fanfare, had the Senate do his bidding. Pho to by Al ic ia Da n ie l
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