POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Bad Faith v In a remarkable display of bad faith, state Rep. Robert Saunders, D-La Grange, held a press conference on May 6 to announce his latest committee substitute for a bill on the regulation of pesticides. Saunders’s bill establishes a troika of the Agriculture Commissioner, the state Health Commissioner, and the head of the Agricultural Extension Service to have rulemaking authority on pesticide regulations; This comes after months of negotiations among farm groups, pesticide producers and sprayers, the Texas Department of advocates, which had resulted in a compromise bill, somewhat limiting TDA authority. But apparently Saunders and the Chemical Council were not satisfied. After months of negotiating in what was thought to be good faith, they’ve come up with another proposal to undercut the negotiated compromise and run right at Ag Commissioner Hightower. Among other claims made by Saunders for his substitute were the fact that Sam Biscoe of the Ag Department was trying to sell notion that the board would protect the interests of farmworkers from a future ag commissioner not worried about their concerns. The United Farmworker Union’s Rebecca Harrington was not impressed. Saunders said his substitute was “taking care of the citizens of Texas,” though he did not add: whether they like it or not, since this removes pesticide authority from the auspices of a democratically elected and accountable agriculture commissioner. Ever sensitive to farmworker health issues, Saunders proclaimed: “The whole thing has to be economical. We can’t insure the health and safety of farmworkers and those working on farms without it being economical.” V One of the more time-worn ploys in legislative politics is the sneak attack. This session, we saw Rep. Robert Earley, D-Portland, trying to enact an “uncontroversial” school prayer resolution that almost slipped through during routine House business. Then, Representative L. B. Kubiak, D-Rockdale, tried to slip a “very vanilla” antiabortion bill through the House State Affairs Committee with a less than upfront maneuver. Kubiak’s original bill, though widely touted as merely a ban on third trimester abortions, contained some controversial provisions. But on the morning of the committee hearing, as supporters and opponents crowded in to testify, Kubiak’s office discreetly distributed a “revised version” of the bill. Problem was, the new version wasn’t distributed to pro-choice witnesses until the next day when their comments would not be on the public record and the bill’s revisions weren’t minor. Kubiak had added provisions that would require that all first term abortions would need to be certified as necessary by a doctor, and that would allow any “injured person” to file a lawsuit for an injunction stopping the abortion. “Injured person” was defined as a family member or any pro-life organization. Wary legislators, not surprisingly, balked at acting on so controversial a bill. Kubiak has rewritten his bill for a third time. According to an aide now all it does is ban third trimester abortions, honest. At press time, the bill was bogged down in subcommittee and time was running out. Gramm’s Cronies v In the last four months Sen. Phil Gramm has proposed candidates for six of the state’s thirty-four federal district judgeships. With a Republican President and a sympathetic Senate, confirmation of Gramm’s nominees seems assured. This could turn out to be one of the most lasting effects Gramm could have on the state when one considers that these judgeships have a lifetime tenure. Gramm is not a lawyer, so he has gathered a 12-member screening committee to advise him on his choices. The chairman of the group, attorney Wales Madden, a conservative Democrat from Amarillo, claims the purpose of the panel is to take the process “one step further from old-boy cronyism.” But Gramm’s effort to avoid the appearance of political cronyism has been itself an exercise in cronyism. The all-white group reads like a who’s who of big city establishment lawyers, all with impeccable conservative credentials. The one woman on the panel is the wife of another panel member, ex-state Republican chairman Ray Hutchison, and there are no members from the state’s eastern federal judicial district and none from small town or rural areas. Although Madden says that in the extensive interviews the group has come across at least one Hispanic, he concedes that they have not met with any black judicial applicants. Esther Chavez, chairperson of the Hispanic section of the State Bar of Texas, says that their group has not been contacted by the panel for any type of input in the nominating process. They are concerned about what the panel’s choices forebode for the future of the judiciary in the state, and the subject will be discussed when the group meets in Dallas next month. Twisted V Bryan High School officials were up in arms in April. A satirical newspaper called The Twisted Times had been stuffed in students’ lockers without permission. It must have taken a twisted mind, but the paper poked fun at of all people H. Ross Perot. The perpetrator was apprehended. Karl Evans, a 17-year-old straight A student, was given a two-day suspension under an obscure school rule that forbids distributing material without prior official authorization. According to the school principal, Jerry Kirby, the rule is standard policy in many Texas school districts, and a good thing, too. “What if students could pass out anything they wanted without some kind of control. Can you imagine what would happen?” The mind reels. Evans’ father says the rule is a violation of the First Amendment. The Texas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union planned to take the matter up at a school board meeting on May 13. v Senator Carl Parker on the problems of Texas education: “One of the problems with Texas today is all those folks left New York and New Jersey because it smelled bad . . . and now they’ve got down here and they want to tell us what’s wrong with Texas.” Parker was arguing in a Senate committee against allowing more out-of-state students into Texas law schools. Parker voted no on the grounds that it would take seats from deserving Texans. But Sen. Parker’s sympathy for “deserving Texans” goes only so far: he voted in favor of raising state law school tuition in 1985 to three times its current level. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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