ustxtxb_obs_1985_06_14_50_00036-00000_000.pdf

Page 14

by

financial interest is specifically affected in a way that is different from the effect on others engaged in the same profession, trade, or occupation. A violation was to be a Class A misdemeanor and include possible removal from office. Wolens sponsored several other ethics bills, including one that completely revised the state’s Ethics and Financial Disclosure Statute and included the same provisions as the Parmer/Wolens conflict-of-interest bill. But in May, Wolens dropped the more far-reaching bill and substituted the Parmer/Wolens measure in committee. He amended the senate bill to include a revolving-door restriction that would have provided a twoyear prohibition for a former state employee representing another person before a state agency on a matter in which the employee was involved while in state employment. The committee added an exemption for legislative employees and passed the bill with the recommendation that it go on the Local and Consent Calendar, which is reserved for supposedly non-controversial legislation. It finally made it to the last Consent Calendar of the session, where it was knocked off by another legislator who was angry at Wolens because of other legislation. Although there was an attempt to get it on the regular calendar, the effort came too late and the bill died with the session. There were other ethics bills filed this session, including one by Senator John Montford, D-Lubbock, placing limitations on political contributions, and one by Senator Kent Caperton, D-Bryan, limiting contributions in certain judicial races. Rep. Tommy Adkisson, D-San Antonio, proposed a revision of the state’s antiquated nepotism law that had been recommended by the ethics study committee and passed in 1983 but was vetoed by Governor Mark White because of his disagreement with a minor provision in the bill. Adkisson changed the language that the governor had objected to, but this bill, like the others, went nowhere. The defeat of the only major attack on ethics laws this session provided the ‘only real victory for those interested in ethics reform. A Caperton bill sought to abolish the State Ethics Advisory Commission on the grounds it wasn’t doing enough. The Commission, one of the best kept secrets in state government, was created to issue opinions on campaign finance, conflict of interest, lobby regulation, and Title 8 of the Penal Code, which covers the actions of all public servants in the state. Neither the Commission nor the media has done much to inform the public or those affected of its existence or of the 27 opinions it has issued to date. Nevertheless, the bill was defeated in the Senate State Affairs Committee, despite the fact that Caperton presented letters of support from former Supreme Court Justice Robert Calvert and Republican Party Counsel Leonard Davis, who, like Caperton, are members of the Commission. The legislature did, however, reduce its funding by $3,000 per year from its previous $60,000 yearly budget. As John Hildreth remarked after the committee vote to defeat Caperton’s bill, “First they won’t give it any power. Then they won’t give it any funding. Then they want to abolish it because it can’t do anything. ” And that’s the way it goes in the wonderful world of legislative ethics, at least until the next good scandal comes along. LI Austin ACONTROVERSIAL bill deregulating the securities industry in Texas died in the closing weeks of the session, but the debate has given new life to an ongoing debate within the state’s legal community. The deregulation bill was backed by many of the state’s large law firms, who joined with investment bankers and brokers to stage a major lobbying effort in the legislature. But, naturally, there were lawyers on the other side of the issue, too. And some of them are raising questions about the involvement of the State Bar in what they see as “special interest” legislation. A section of the State Bar raised at least $150,000 by asking large law firms to contribute $1,000 for every 25 lawyers in the firm. The amount was matched by $150,000 from the securities industry. Most of the money went to hire three of the most expensive lobbyists in Austin to get the bill through. A letter from a large securities firm to one of those high-priced lobbyists, former state Senator Don Adams, was obtained by the Observer. The letter lists 14 securities firms “who have made financial contributions to the Corporation Banking and Business Law Section of the State Bar in furtherance of our effort.” It is signed by John Dees, Jr., Senior Vice president of Eppler, Guerin & Turner, a Dallas investment banking firm, and one of those contributors. The others are also major securities firms, such as Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Rotan Mosle, and Underwood Neuhaus. In his letter dated February 15, 1985, Dees added “and E. F. Hutton has advised that they will contribute.” Although the same securities bill lost by a large margin in the House two years ago, it passed this year 117-27. The Senate passed it on second reading 1811, but final passage was stalled in the last week of the session for lack of the 21 votes needed to bring it up once more. Don Adams, Rusty Kelley, and former state Rep. Lynn Nabers were the lobbyists who got the bill within a hair’sbreadth of becoming law. The Texas Supreme Court, which . oversees the budget of the State Bar, decided to rule out expenses for State Bar lobbying last January. In previous years, the Bar had hired an outside lobbying firm to represent lawyers in the legislature. The State Bar has thus gone without a lobbyist this session, but the various sections and committees have been permitted to organize their own lobbying efforts. Justice Franklin Spears says, “It was the unanimous feeling of the Court that the State Bar is a state agency and should not be paying an outside lobbyist for their legislative program.” Other state agencies are not permitted to do this, he says. Spears says the Bar is considered a state agency because it is created by statute. “And the State Bar wants to be considered a state agency,” he says. “They are resisting efforts of the Federal Trade Commission to regulate the admission to practice, and the regulation of lawyers throughout the country. . . . And the State Bar is saying, no, you don’t need to do this; we are already regulated; we are a state agency.” Tom Forbes, of the Austin firm Stone and Forbes, in previous years has been the paid lobbyist for the Bar. He argues that the Bar has an obligation to address Bar Lobbying Questioned By Dave Denison 36 JUNE 14, 1985