Page 36


CONTENTS FEATURES 2 Constitutional Alert Geoffrey Rips 5 Organizing Neighborhood Clout Geoffrey Rips 7 Chavez on the Grape Boycott Dana Loy 10 Rumble on the Far Right Dave Denison 15 A Guide to South African Resistance James Ridgeway DEPARTMENTS 4 Dialogue 18 Political Intelligence 21 Social Cause Calendar Books and the Culture: 20 Screwball Comedy Elise Nakhnikian Afterword: 23 Pop Quiz Willie Mae Kneupper abuse, Hollowell said, “I’m not trying to hurt anybody, but you look at Hightower’s [expenditures for consultants]. I haven’t got them on all the others. You look at that business where he’s paying some black man to make a speech and he’s paying for telephone surveys on nuclear power. The Highway department has contracted with Virginia firms, Ohio firms, and Massachusetts firms. I’m not saying there’s any corruption there. But I believe in taking care of Texas first.” Hollowell says his amendment is necessary as a remedy to zero-based budgeting, adopted by the legislature several years ago. This budgeting did away with the detailed, lineitem appropriations process previously in use and required general appropriations for general programs in each agency. Even without the line-item appropriation mechanism this past session, the Texas Department of Agriculture, in particular, was subjected to a rigorous and highly politicized accounting by legislative committees. This amendment would simply mean that agriculture department programs \(whose budgets have continuing legislative control. In effect, the agriculture department would be ceding authority for the administration of its duties to some legislative organism, be it Legislative Budget Board or legislative committee. The constitutional division of powers would suffer serious abuse. Hollowell contends that his bill is designed to put a check on the abuses of agency payments to consultants. These payments, he says, are often for political reasons and not for the proper conduct of an agency. The two agriculture department examples he gave the Observer, however, present a different argument. “Some black man making a speech” was Charles Prejean addressing a black farmers conference in October 1984. Prejean is the founder and was the executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, which served as a training and resource center to foster economic development for low-income people, including many poor farmers. The federation has taught people from thirteen southern states everything they would need to know about organizing a cooperative, including bookkeeping and management practices. Prejean was paid by the agriculture department to address its second annual black farmers conference in order to help those farmers develop marketing cooperatives, an important part of the TDA marketing program. Prejean advised the farmers on problems such cooperatives faced and ways to deal with these problems. The nuclear survey Hollowell objected to was a joint project of the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Department of Public Safety, coordinated by the governor’s office, and charged with monitoring the federal nuclear waste disposal designation. Part of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Policy Act provides for state review of NRC action affecting the state. In this case, the state has an obligation to review the selection of the site in the Panhandle as a possible dumpsite for high-level radioactive waste. The telephone survey targeted by Hollowell was part of an effort to determine the economic, environmental, and psychological impact of a nuclear dumpsite in the Panhandle. Hollowell’s objections in these cases, then, seem to be more ideological than fiscal. These allegedly political expenditures become, in fact, political footballs when legislative committees get into the business of determining policy for state agencies. Beyond that, the language of the proposed amendment is so vague that it could make all appropriations by state agencies, not just those for consultants, vulnerable to legislative supervision and eligible for prior approval. In addition, the enabling legislation for the resolution must be passed in the next legislative session. That legislation will determine the parameters and methods for the application of the resolution, should the amendment pass. Without knowing what that legislation will entail, a vote for the amendment could give legislators the green light to appropriate as much executive power as they can. The League of Women Voters of Texas has gone on record in opposition to the amendment, calling its wording “deceptive. ” Among other reasons, the . League opposes the amendment because it “could prevent state agencies from carrying out their legally.required duties” and because allowing the legislature “to be involved in budget execution is a violation of the constitutional separation of powers.” A considerable amount of power in this state is already centralized in the hands of a few legislative leaders. This amendment could extend their reach into the administrative function of all state agencies, destroying any measure of checks and balances in state government. While there are surely instances of the abuse of state moneys in the hiring of consultants, the dismantling of the constitutional separation of checks and balances hardly seems to be the way to correct such abuses. Nor does it seem appropriate for the legislature, in order to manage the budget between sessions, to take over the executive functions of state agencies for that time period. We urge a NO vote on Amendment 9 in November. G.R. Hero of the People The Observer is seeking nominations from readers for our second annual “Hero of the People” award. The award is designed to recognize an individual or organization whose work has staved off the forces of evil or has contributed to the making of a more progressive Texas. Please send your nominations with any supporting material to the Observer by December 1. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3