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one at the federal level. If that proves to be true, however, you can expect the chemical lobby to be back in the halls of the Capitol urging future legislators to abolish the board. COMING TO GRIPS WITH AIDS THE AIDS ISSUE was treated in the Senate with a reasonable amount of compassion and enlightenment, but the issue was vexing to members of the House, and it caused some of the lowest moments of the session in the lower chamber. Yet, by the end of it all, the legislature passed a bill codifying the state’s response to the epidemic and greatly increasing funding to fight the disease. In January leaders in the fight against AIDS were hoping for about $50 million in funding; the previous legislature had appropriated a measly $3.4 million. Soon into the session the word came from Lt. Gov. Hobby’s office that $20 million would be a more realistic figure. By mid-March, though, a Senate committee moved toward a significant increase over the “realistic” figure and set the funding at $34 million. To everyone’s surprise, the House moved in April to top that; Speaker Gib Lewis announced his spending priorities and .set anti-AIDS funding at $48 million. Public health activists and gay activists were guardedly optimistic. What they didn’t know, but might have suspected, was that it would be all downhill from there. The up-again, down-again funding drama was being played out in the House and Senate appropriations processes, in connection with the budget allocations for the Texas Department of Health. It so happened that by the time the state budget was in a House-Senate conference committee, state leaders had decided that there was a multi-million dollar shOrtage of revenue. Looking for places to cut, Senate and House negotiators turned quickly to anti-AIDS funding. Rather than compromising on a figure somewhere between the House’s proposed $48 million and the Senate’s $34 million, they undercut both figures and brought it down to $18 million for the next biennium. But the budget wasn’t even the hard part. The intention of the leaders on the AIDS issue was to pass an omnibus AIDS bill separately that would define the state’s strategy against the disease and stipulate how the money would be spent. This promised to bring the discussion out of the far-removed appropriations process and into the open. For the House, that’s where the trouble would begin. As the bill began to be discussed it soon got all tangled up with the anti-homosexual sentiment of many of the House members and before long the issue was no longer one of public health but of “the gay agenda.” The presence of gay activists at the Capitol was far beyond what previous sessions have seen. The Lesbian/Gay Caucus, led by former Senate staffer Glen Maxey, pursued a traditional interest group approach, taking an interest in the fine points of the legislation and appealing to reason, as much as that was possible. Meanwhile, a more theatrical and unconventional group of gay activists maintained a presence, as well, often parading around the Capitol in the final month with death masks in front of their faces and shirts that carried the message, SILENCE = DEATH. Gay activists had reacted bitterly when the anti-AIDS budget was ‘cut. But some legislators blamed the activists for triggering ill will. Senate Finance Committee chairman Kent Caperton, a usually progressive Democrat from Bryan, said, “I think there probably was some reaction against the lobbying techniques of some of the AIDS [funding] supporters.” Caperton, who made the motion in committee to slash the funding, said that legislators disapproved of the activists’ “less than decorous” behavior. He gave as an example their drawing of chalk figures representing AIDS victims on the Capitol sidewalks. The House experienced a few convulsions of outright homophobia. A memorial resolution expressing sympathy for AIDS victims passed the House as routine business, but later 55 members asked to have their names omitted from the resolution other bills, such as tlie one to create a new classification of “hate crimes” for acts of violence or harassMent toward ethnic groups or other :minorities. The House defeated the bill because it was seen as primarily a move against “gay-bashing” incidents. Clearly, the mood among conservative House members was to avoid any measure that might make them look “pro-gay.” This became a nettlesome factor in passing the omnibus AIDS bill, for the conservative element insisted that messages be sprinkled here and there through the bill that the homosexual “lifestyle” is “not acceptable” and that homosexual conduct is illegal in the state of Texas. Though it has been primarily groups of gay activists who have been on the forefront of caring for AIDS victims, House conservatives wanted to make sure that no groups that “advocate” or “promote” illegal activity, i.e., homosexual sex, would be eligible to receive state grants. Naturally, the gay activists found some difficulty in accepting this style of bill. By mid-May, the Senate and the House were qn different courses. The Senate passed a bill by Senators Chet Brooks of Pasadena and Craig Washington of Houston that reflected the sound judgement of the Legislative Task Force on AIDS, which had been led by the exceptional Episcopal minister, the Rev. Chris Steele. Rev. Steele was on hand as the Senate passed the AIDS bill and told reporters that the nature of the discussion had’ shown “the kind of leadership we’ve needed for eight years.” She was not as satisfied with the House version of the bill, which she said was taking a “disproportionate preoccupation with the criminal aspects of this, as opposed to the fact that this is a public health emergency.” When Rep. Mike McKinney, a Democrat from Centerville, stood up in the House on May 19 to introduce the AIDS bill, he acknowledged the tensions the issue had brought about. “It has political overtones,” he said of the AIDS issue. “For us to ignore that is not very bright. The political overtones are there.” McKinney told his colleagues, “It has been insinuated that I carried this bill for the Gay and Lesbian Caucus. I’ll tell you right up front, that’s not my deal.” McKinney, who is a physician, tried to put the epidemic in proportion as a public health problem. As of that day, he told the House, there had been 4,094 deaths from AIDS in Texas. There were currently 6,676 AIDS cases and by next session that figure was projected to be 24,000. He spoke of “the real life problem that [AIDS] is not confined to the homosexual community.” Before a full-fledged debate could break out, the bill was postponed. After a few days of continuing negotiations between conservatives, gay activists and public health-oriented House members, it was brought up again on May 23, with six _days left in the session. The House leadership had decided to make a show of unanimity, so as to strengthen the House’s position in working out differences with the Senate. After some debate, the bill passed 141-0. Immediately afterward the House leader’s, including McKinney, Nancy McDonald, DE1 Paso, Brad Wright, R-Houston, and Billy Clemons, the conservative Democrat from Pollok, held a press conference to declare themselves finished with the issue. According to McKinney, they had asked the Speaker not to appoint a conference committee in the event the Senate did not accept the House version. “This is our best effort,” McKinney said. By the next day, that strategy had crumbled. Senate leaders did not appreciate McKinney’s dictum that there would be no conference committee. “The effect of telling the Senate you won’t have one,” said Wright, “is to ensure that you absolutely will.” But the effect of having a conference committee with less than a week to go in the session is to ensure that the bill will go down to the wire. By Monday, May 29, the last day of the session, House and Senate conferees had not reached agreement on the language relating to the supposed promotion of illegal activity by gay groups and on such matters as a House-approved provision to allow the department of health to trace the past sexual contacts of those whp test positive for AIDS. The Rev. Steele was in 24 JUNE 16, 1989 4w ww4’Nnan,