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costly and more difficult. “In my district,” Soileau said, “you can drive a hundred miles before you reach a federal courthouse.” County courts are much more accessible, they are not usually so overloaded, and the cost of litigation in county courts is not so great, Soileau explained. By a 93-51 margin, Soileau’s amendment was tabled. The Observer votes no on the motion to table an amendment that would have protected consumer and plaintiff’s rights. 6.Fair Housing Not since 1975 has their been a straightup vote on a strictly gay/lesbian issue. AIDS votes are not gay-issue votes but rather public-health-issue votes though some legislators never quite understood that. But Canadian Republican Dick Waterfield provided the opportunity for a gay/lesbian-issue vote when he moved to exclude “homosexuals and transvestites” from protection under the state’s fair housing act. Consider this vote: a discriminatory provision amended to an act to prevent discrimination in housing. Some members stood with Houston Rep. Debra Danburg when she moved to table the Waterfield amendment . The Observer votes yes with Danburg, who lost by a 81-54 margin. Hardly the House’s finest moment, but better than its last gay rights vote which in 1975 got only 17 votes. 7.AIDS Victims’ Insurance AIDS is not transmitted in ambient air, but homophobia seems to be, particularly in the Texas House. House Bill 2608 was an item the insurance industry wanted: a vote that would allow insurers to test for the AIDS virus. Gay/Lesbian Rights lobbyist Glen Maxey worked to include language in the bill that would mandate that testing be “nondiscriminatory” not aimed at individuals but at entire and clearly-defined actuarial classes. The bill also included provisions that protected group policy-holders and prevented group insurers from renegotiating contracts so that they could drop policyholders with AIDS. Though the industry had to have the bill to avoid lawsuits over testing, many objected to it because it provided some protection for persons with AIDS. The Observer votes yes on the bill, which passed both houses but faces a veto as we go to press. SENATE RECORD VOTES INSURANCE REFORM and utilities regulation produced especially important record votes in the Senate. In our voting table we list eight key Senate votes, the explanations for which follow here. 1. Workers’ Compensation The workers’ comp bill seemed hopelessly stalled in the Senate as time was running out on the session in May and Senator Bob Glasgow, D-Stephenville, couldn’t broker a compromise. Late in the game, Lt. Gov. Hobby suggested that a new working group of Senators give it a try. Democrats Ted Lyon and John Montford and Republican Ike Harris huddled with labor representatives and trial lawyers and produced a bill which was voted on by the Senate in a committee-as-a-whole. The Senate adopted the Lyon-Montford-Harris version on May 19 by a 16-12 vote. \(Though he is not listed on our chart, Hobby was one of the 16 Observer votes yes. 2.Insurance Reform Ted Lyon offered several strong amendin the Senate. One of the most important was to repeal the anti-trust immunity for insurance companies. “The fact is,” said consumer representatives who supported the amendment, “the insurance industry is so powerful today that, when acting together, it completely overwhelms the regulatory capabilities of the states.” They charged that the kind of insurance fraud that has plagued Texas is a natural by-product of the lack of competition in the industry. The Senate adopted the amendment \(later removed in Observer votes yes. 3.Pesticide Fines The action in the Senate against Ag Commissioner Jim Hightower was fairly restrained. The ag department sunset bill came up on March 20. Senator Bill Sims, D-Farm Bureau, teamed up with Republican Bill Ratliff of East Texas to limit the amount the department can fine violators of pesticide regulations. “We in agriculture do not feel it’s fair to have this kind of administrative penalty,” said Sims. “We don’t quite understand why it needs to be done.” The Sims amendment was adopted 16-13. The Observer votes no. 4.Utilities’ Self-Insurance Erstwhile consumer champion Ted Lyon had a soft spot this session for the big utilities. Three times he brought up his pet bill to allow a utilities self-insurance scheme, and by the the third time he had changed it enough to mollify the opposition. But the bill as brought up on April 21 was opposed by consumer interests, led by Senator Carlos Truan, who said it would require utilities to amass huge amounts of capital that would end up costing more for the ratepayers. In fact, Truan was still opposing it when it passed the Senate on May 2. “This is a bad bill for the consumers of this state,” Truan declared. “Frankly, there is no need for your bill, Senator,” he told Lyon. On the April 21 vote, the Senate refused to bring the bill up for consideration, by a margin of 16-10. The Observer votes no. 5.Utilities’ Fuel Surcharge Senate Bill 217 was a Ted Lyon utilities welfare bill that would have allowed utility companies to pass on increased fuel charges to consumers even if the charges were passed on by fuel suppliers owned by utility company subsidiaries. Approximately onehalf of utility bills is comprised of fuel charges. . The Observer votes no with the 13 senators who voted against bringing the bill up. 6.PUC Confirmation On 15 Public Utility Commission votes monitored by the consumer interest Public Citizen group, PUC Commissioner William Cassin voted in the interest of the ratepayers only four times. Duncanville Senator Chet Edwards, chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, took a stand against Cassin and Marta Greytok, another Clements PUC member appointed during the interim between sessions. Edwards took the heat from the governor’s office and Texas cousumers will probably ultimately pay the cost for both Cissin and Greytok. The Observer votes no with the seven Senators who stood against Cassin. 7.”Loan Shark” Bill Dallas Sen. Ike Harris’s bill would have increased’ interest rates on small loans and imposed burdens on consumers who have the least borrowing power. If Harris had succeeded, interest on a $2,000 loan would have gone from a usurious 23 percent to an outrageous 27 percent. The Observer votes no with the 15 Senators who voted not to suspend the rules and bring the bill up. They prevailed, as a two-thirds vote was required. 8.Rivers Protection Environmentalists were optimistic that this would be the session when a measure to protect Texas rivers would finally pass the Sierra Club to protect certain parts of certain rivers passed the Senate. But apparently it faced quiet opposition from the Farm Bureau. When it got to the House calendars committee one of the members succeeded in blocking it from coming to a House vote. Sponsored by El Paso Senator Tati Santiesteban, the rivers bill passed the Senate in April by a 21-8 vote. The Observer votes yes on the bill. Key votes compiled by editorial interns Jim Lacy and Brian Maffly THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29