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Cast of Characters The Good, the Bad, and the Dim Bill Hobby: without peer in the Senate There should be no mistaking Hobby as an economic populist, or even as a consistent progressive. He is a businessoriented Democrat. As one consumers’ lobbyist says, when it comes to economic issues and consumer issues, “his mindset is business, business, business.” But most who have watched Hobby over recent years have come to respect his humane instincts and his fairness. He has done a surprising amount of good for the people of this state. AS THE FINAL minutes of the 71st session ticked away around mid night on May 23, several Senators rose to pay tribute to Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, who was about to bring the gavel down on -his final regular session as presiding officer of the Senate. The speeches were emotional and affectionate but Hobby stood on the podium looking tolerant and slightly bored. He wore a button on his lapel that said MY WAY. Hobby’s way has not been to call attention to his leadership, and yet more and more over the years the Senate has done things his way. Luckily for the state, Hobby is one of those rare politicians who has actually gotten better as his power has increased. And consequently the Senate is now the body progressives depend on to undo the legislative damage consistently done by the House. There are several Senators who generally tend to favor the public good over special privilege, but in the 71st session they have all been minor satellites around Bill Hobby. None of them is his peer in political vision and in overall impact. While the state has suffered for more than a decade under either outright reactionary or weak and unimaginative governorship, Hobby has emerged as the, de facto progressive governor. At the start of the session he stepped up with an “anti-crime plan” that recognized the roots of crime are in poverty and social problems. Then, quietly, while Gov. Clements focused mostly on building more prisons, Hobby’s social spending measures took shape. By the end, the Legislature had addressed the school drop-out problem, had increased funding for early childhood health care and education, and had funded drug rehabilitation programs and alternatives to prison service. Hobby also honored a political commitment to community groups along the border to help pass a water and sewer development bond program for the impoverished residents of border colonias. In the complex negotiations over workers’ compensation reform, Hobby gave representatives of labor and trial lawyers the respect the House was unwilling to give. And it was Hobby and his staff that provided the countervailing power that held the governor in check as he went after the power of Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. 34 JUNE 16, 1989 Senator Chet Edwards, Democrat from Duncanville, was unwavering in his support of consumers and working people this session. As chair of the Nominations Committee he took tough stands against Gov. Clements’s corporate-minded appointees to the Public Utility Commission. He was a key force in stopping an ill-considered bill sponsored by Dallas Republican Ike Harris to allow exorbitant interest rates to some loan companies. He stood up for better regulation of “medigap” insurance companies that prey on the elderly. Edwards’s role as a dependable advocate of consumer issues has been especially important in the Senate where many members are swayed by sophisticated arguments from the business lobby, and where the leadership is indifferent or hostile to consumer protection issues. Carlos Truan is the Senate’s most unabashed liberal the senator that public-interest lobbyists contend has finally found the right mix of principle and pragmatism. Truan advances a solidly progressive legislative agenda and always makes a good fight against the business-lobby bills aimed at consumers’ pocketbooks. He has a strategic vision that recognizes that in Texas reform requires resolve; his legislative agenda at times seems four sessions long. Truan has emerged as a genuine environmental hero. His interim study focused attention on the lax regulation of the state’s uranium industry and, though only two of the seven uranium bills he passed in the Senate made it through the House, he can be expected to spend the next two sessions advancing desperately needed uranium-mining reform. Truan has been especially outspoken against utility company welfare bills. This session he used his position on the Economic Resources committee to stop a “loan shark” bill and staked out a progressive position on school finance. In the second tier of Senate heroes, we name Senators Craig Washington, ALAN POGUE