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session, but in the end, nothing changed. Efforts to expand the crimes that would qualify a person for the death penalty were unsuccessful. On the other hand, a bill that some opponents of the death penalty saw as the most meaningful chance at striking a blow against capital punishment also did not survive the session. The bill would have shielded convicted accomplices from the death penalty unless they had directly participated in a murder. It slipped quietly through the House, but died in a Senate committee in the final days of the session. Debra Danburg, D-Houston, remained an outspoken opponent of capital punishment; she commented at an Amnesty International press conference in February that although many people do not realize it, “the State of Texas does in fact kill people who have never killed people.” Asked about capital punishment in a March press conference, Gov. Bill Clements said, “I’m in favor of the death penalty always have been.” “The death penalty will go forward,” the governor said. Affordable Housing Although it got little notice, a resolution on affordable housing may become important in influencing the agenda of the 71st session in 1989. Passed by Rep. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen and Senator Hugh Parmer, D-Fort Worth, the resolution creates an interim task force charged with studying the state’s housing problems and making recommendations to the governor and legislators. The task force will consist of 18 members eight legislators and ten members from the general public, according to Karen Langley of the Texas Alliance for Human Needs, which initiated the resolution on the task force. “Nobody in government is dealing with housing problems at the statewide level,” said Langley, even though census statistics say Texas has the second highest number of substandard housing units in the nation. She said one goal of the task force should be to bring the housing problems to the attention of the public at large to do for housing programs what “big names” such as H. Ross Perot and Helen Farabee did for public education and indigent health care, respectively. Homestead Protection The lending lobby came forward with its standard plan to eliminate the 148year-old Texas homestead protection guarantee and immediately got the attention of Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, among others. The sponsors of the proposal to amend the constitution claimed that homeowners deserve the right to borrow against their equity. Hightower described it as another threat to the family farmer and homeowner. In Texas only the lending institution that holds a lien or mortage or the government that holds a delinquent tax notice can take a person’s home. Homes can not be lost because a person can not pay other debts. The provision was carried in the House by Charles Evans, R-Hurst and Debra Danburg, D-Houston. Consumer groups, labor organizations, senior citizens, and realtors joined forces to protect the family homestead and Reps.. Bruce Gibson, D-Godley; Hugo Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi; Steve Carriker, D-Roby and Orlando Garcia, DSan Antonio, held off the lending lobby and assured that the anti-homestead act died in committee. Women’s Rights After three sessions, Houston Democrat Debra Danburg finally won passage of legislation against spousal rape. The bill, according to Debbie Tucker of the Texas Council on Family Violence, goes a long way toward giving women in Texas control over their own bodies by sanctioning their right to say no. In the Senate the bill was opposed by Carl Parker, D-Port Arthur, and Bob Glasgow, D-Stephenville. Glasgow at one time threatened to filibuster but Tucker suspects that he reconsidered because “it’s not easy to stand up and speak on behalf of rape.” Women’s rights advocates give high marks to Cindi Krier, R-San Antonio, who introduced the bill in the Senate and worked to persuade Senators like J.E. “Buster” Brown, RLake Jackson, who just couldn’t quite come to terms with the concept of spousal consent. Another important piece of women’s rights legislation was passed by Rep. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Senator Chet Brooks, D-Pasadena, who carried bills to limit fees that counties can charge for protection orders lower court orders to protect women from batterers by denying access to homes, workplaces, and schools. Protection orders were established in a previous session but the legislature relinquished to counties the right to set fees beyond the $16 established in the original legislation. Cass County’s $253 fee and Harris County’s $177 fee for protective orders effectively denied protection to many women. The Houston Patrolman’s fled on behalf of the bill and Hinojosa and Brooks successfully argued for a $36 maximum for women’s protection from abuse, threats and harassment. Open Meetings Senator Kent Caperton, D-Bryan, and Rep. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, successfully broadened the state’s open meetings law. The law now requires governmental bodies to keep records of all that occurs when they meet behind closed doors. The bill is intended to limit abuse of “executive sessions” by which governmental bodies often exclude the public from discussion of controversial issues. Certified agendas or tape recordings are now required of all official meetings of public officials. Tapes or agendas must be made public to citizens who challenge actions taken by governmental bodies. John Hildreth of Common Cause praised the efforts of Caperton and Hinojosa and the advocacy group Texas Media. The bill faced early opposition from groups such as the Texas Municipal League, The Texas Association of School Boards, and the University of Texas. Groundwater Senator Tati Santiesteban, D-El Paso introduced most of the session’s groundwater protection legislation. Santiesteban’s bill to regulate underground tanks requires leak-detection systems and careful monitoring of point sources. The bill imposes a fee on tank owners to provide for agency monitoring. Rick Piltz, a groundwater specialist at the Department of Agriculture said that the bill represents the first effort to regulate underground tanks in Texas. Piltz praised another Santiesteban bill that provided the Water Commission the authority to set minimum standards for regional water districts. The bill makes it more difficult for county and local governments to establish non-functioning water districts to avoid state regulation. Another Santiesteban bill that would have created an interim committee, with members appointed by the governor and the legislature, to study water quality and make recommendations for future regulation failed. Austin Democratic Senator Gonzalo Barrientos’s Edwards Aquifer protection legislation passed but in watered-down form. The conservation district that it proposes to create by a confirmation election has no taxation power and no power to regulate land use. The bill represents a compromise to keep developers from lining up against the local election. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15