Page 7


ALAN POGUE Ken Armbrister: Randy and Righteous testify in committee for several hours and then proposed to limit consumer reps to two minutes each. The meeting ran so late that several elderly citizens who had waited all day to testify about “medigap” coverage were never heard. Also deserving dishonorable mention in the House is Rep. Brad Wright, R-Houston. Wright has spent several terms in the House combining a mean-spirited agenda with an unpleasant, churlish style. As chairman of the Public Health Committee, Wright deserves a great deal of the blame for the ugly and unproductive turn the AIDS debate took in the House. Governed by contempt for gay activists, Wright seemed incapable of showing a trace of statesmanship. After the AIDS bill that he favored passed the House, he blamed the highly respected Legislative Task Force on AIDS for bringing “political agendas” to the AIDS issue. “This bill became controversial because we had a very liberal task force,” he told reporters. It was typical of Wright to remain stuck inside his defensive and fractious little world even in time of legislative success. Senator Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, deserves a special citation for a weird brand of hypocrisy that wasn’t much of a secret around the Capitol. He is generally known as one of the raunchiest members of the Senate and yet he made a show early in the session of standing up with a rightwing group to press for moralistic approaches to sex education in the schools. Armbrister became the champion of Concerned Women of America by sponsoring a bill calling on school districts to teach the virtues of sexual abstinence. He took part in a rally of a group of religious teens promoting a “Just Say No to Sex” theme. And he won the support of a group called Project Sex Respect. But the idea of Armbrister promoting sexual abstinence brought a good deal of snickering among legislative aides aware of his reputation. He is said to have a penchant for expressing his sexual desires to other Senators and to attractive legislative staffers. Within earshot of one reporter, he jokingly asked two young women if he could take a quick look up their dresses. Armbrister’s non-sex-related legislative agenda wasn’t much to rave about, either. He carried a bill to permit citizens to carry concealed weapons, a probusiness item to remove companies’ inventories from the tax rolls, and he has been an ever-reliable vote with the chemical lobby. Flip-Flop Artists A surprising number of Senators have become accomplished flip-flop artists during the past session. Chief among them is Senator Ted Lyon, D-Rockwall. Lyon can be at one moment fighting the good fight, and at the next smelling up ALAN POGUE Ted Lyon: Consumer’s Friend the joint. Thrust into the complex workers’ compensation debate late in the session, Lyon demonstrated what a good, tough Senator he can be at times. His perspective is that of a trial lawyer but that brought him into alignment with ALAN POGUE Ted Lyon: Big Utilities’Buddy labor’s approach and heended the session speaking against the business lobby like he was Joe Hill. Lyon was also the sponsor of several good amendments on the insurance reform bill. But put Lyon next to a lobbyist for the big utilities and he goes soft and mushy. He tried three times to get a special-interest . utility “self insurance” bill through the Senate that consumer interests opposed. He seems perfectly able to understand the public interest when it comes to insurance issues, but on utility issues he is a handmaiden of the lobby. Senator John Montford, D-Lubbock, is another. He led the insurance reform efforts while at the same time carrying a bill that in its original form threatened to weaken the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Senator Kent Caperton, DBryan, proved himself to be a capable leader of the Senate Finance Committee. He has traditionally been compassionate on social spending issues, but this session he helped reduce the anti-AIDS funding below the level that both the House and Senate had originally approved, explaining it later by saying gay activists had been “less than decorous” and had lost legislators’ support. Senator Hugh Parmer, D-Fort Worth, can be counted on to stand up for some of the most progressive measures in the legislature on hunger issues, affordable housing, or health care and the next day will be pushing for the expansion of the death penalty or standing on other “tough on crime” planks from the Republican party platform. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 37