ALAN POGUE Lena Guerrero: in top ranks of the House D-Houston and Carl Parker, D-Port Arthur. Washington and his strong staff were a central part of efforts to get a humane and effective bill passed to deal with the AIDS epidemic. He is also the only Senator who votes and speaks against the death penalty. He is a strong civil libertarian and he uses his eloquence on behalf of those who have no other champion. Parker is the workingman’s Democrat in the Senate; sometimes he stakes out the most populist position in the upper chamber. He was at the center of the school finance debate, he was strong on workers’ comp, and he carried an important industrial hazardous waste reduction bill. ALAN POGUE Alex Moreno: passed colonias bill IN A SESSION in which the House seemed especially weak in the face of the twin evils of business lobby pressure and Speaker Gib Lewis’s leadership, there was a shortage of genuine heroes. But there were a few. Rep. Alex Moreno, D-Edinburg, proved himself one of the best emerging leaders in the House. He was visible when he needed to be and hard at work behind the scenes when he needed to be. He labored quietly most of the session on a bill to bring running water to the border colonias, and lo and behold, in the final weeks of the session he got it through the House and into the governor’s office, where he patiently explained the well-crafted legislation to the governor’s somewhat suspicious aides. Moreno understands the legislature and he never forgets who sent him there. Another rising star in the House is Rep. Lena Guerrero, D-Austin. Now in her third session, Guerrero is showing herself to be an exceptional legislator; she was in the top ranks in sheer number of bills passed, including child care legislation, a guaranteed student loan bill, and a tenants’ rights bill. She also carried one of the major pieces of legislation this session the Texas Department of Agriculture reauthorization, which faced constant sniping from the governor’s office. Guerrero stood up to the fire. The governor’s hit-men in the House who were going after the ag department’s pesticide authority found that Guerrero almost always knew more about the issue than they did. And in her forceful debating style on the floor she did a great deal to define and refine the intent of the sunset process. She was strong on environmental, housing, and consumer issues, as well. In her position on the House State Affairs Committee, she was a tough critic of business-backed bills, such as one by Rep. Curtis Seidlits, D-Sherman, on products liability. “Who benefits from your bill?” she kept asking Seidlits. Would that there were more legislators who take that question as seriously as Guerrero does. Everyone who has watched Rep. Steve Wolens, DDallas, in the House acknowledges that he is one of the brightest members there. But our concern in the past was with the uses to which he put his talent. Was he just another ambitious politician who was glad to help business interests find new ways to avoid regulation and new ways to feed at the government trough? Maybe in the past, but not this session. Wolens was in the middle of the biggest issues and he was on the right side. As chair of the Business and Commerce Committee he tried valiantly to improve the House version of the workers’ comp bill, and he continued to try when the bill came up on the floor of the House, insisting \(as not adequately address worker safety issues. He didn’t have the votes, just as he didn’t when he tried to strengthen the insurance reform bill, or when he tried to pass “hate crimes” legislation, or when he fought against a bad products liability bill. But he was one of the few in the House to make the good fight. The emergence of this legislator who has such exceptional talent as a champion of working people’s interests is one of the best pieces of news from the 71st session. ALAN POGUE Steve Wolens: a force to be reckoned with THE TEXAS OBSERVER 35
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