were removed by the time it came to the Senate floor. By the time the bill passed both the House and the Senate, consumer groups considered it a minor net loss. It brought claims under the DTPA under the 1987 tort reform law and allows a greater number of businesses to voluntarily waive the act. One of the interesting sidelights on the issue was a lobbying effort by big business to preserve an exemption from the DTPA. The Senate bill removed an exemption from current law that says companies with at least $25 million in assets cannot sue under the act. But a powerhouse lobbying team got the House to restore the exemption. The Texas Lawyer reported June 5 that the big business effort was led by representatives of Bechtel Corp., which is based in San Francisco. Rusty Kelley lobbied for Bechtel and was joined by former Senator Babe Schwartz and his son Richard, and Gordon “Doc” Arnold, who were working for Houston-based Becon Construction, a subsidiary of Bechtel. Senator Montford told the Lawyer it is “ludicrous” to exempt big business from the DTPA but that he agreed to go along with the House action in order to ensure final passage of the bill. DRUG TESTING What seemed to be a compromise bill between business and labor on worker drug testing ran aground after it passed the House committee in the final days of the session. The drug testing bill was probably the most controversial “non-controversial” bill of the 71st. When Galveston Rep. Lloyd Criss brought the bill up in the House on May Day, he described it as “an agreed bill between labor and business.” With little discussion and no dissent, the House passed Criss’s bill without a record vote. But behind the scenes a bitter argument had broken out between Criss, labor representatives, and the Texas Civil Liberties Union. Criss was angry because on the day before he originally planned to bring up the bill labor asked him to send it back to committee for further work. “I don’t deserve that kind of treatment,” Criss said later. “I’ve passed more labor legislation than anyone who has ever served here.” Labor and the TCLU accused Criss of not working closely enough with them on the bill and sneaking it out of committee. Criss makes an argument for his bill that would probably play well with many working class and middle class families. “We ought to get tough on drugs,” he says. “It’s not fair to the worker who’s out there trying to make a living to carry the load for the screw-ups.” Criss argued that drug testing is already going on in many workplaces and that his bill was simply an attempt to define what employers can and can’t do. The bill required employers in certain hazardous occupations to put their policies in writing and to notify workers of those policies. But Jim Harrington of the TCLU said the bill would have created more problems for workers than it would have solved. Early in the session Harrington supported Criss’s original legislation. But Harrington contended that “every step, [the bill] got progressively worse; it never got better.” Harrington said the bill would have “sanctioned any kind of drug testing” and would have encouraged even employers in non-hazardous occupations to start testing for drugs. Harrington’s position was that drug testing should only be used when there is reasonable cause to suspect a worker’s impairment. An especially dangerous provision of the bill, Harrington said, would have granted employers immunity from lawsuits if they violated employee rights with approved drug testing policies. “What he would have done under the pretext of helping workers was to stab them in the back,” Harrington charged. Criss made no attempts to hide his bitterness toward Harrington for his part in helping to kill Criss’s major legislative initiative. “I lost all use for Harrington,” he said. “He and I were friends, but now we’re enemies.” Harrington charged that Criss’s bill in final form was written by Gov. Clements’s staff. “It’s hard to see why Lloyd Criss would carry the governor’s bill,” Harrington said. “I think they hoodwinked him.” ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION The big bill here was comprehensive waste. reduction legislation sponsored by Port Arthur Senator Carl Parker. But the bill never got beyond the Senate, where it passed. It attracted the opposition of the Texas Chemical Council but many considered it a victory that the last-minute initiative got as far as it did. It was conceived only in December when local environmental groups working with the Texans, United coalition elected to advance a concept based on the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment studies of nonregulatory methods to reduce pollution using existing technology. The concept will get some mileage out of EPA horror stories about levels of pollution in Texas, which leads the nation in tons of toxic materials released into the atmosphere. And Texans United lobbyist Jeaneen McMaster promises to be back in the next regular session perhaps with House sponsors. Corpus Christi Senator Carlos Truan began a long needed overhaul of uranium : mining regulation by passing two of seven bills he proposed that affected uranium mines, which are located preddminantly in South Texas. One bill imposes requirements on the Texas Bureau of Radiation Control’s management of state-owned lands.. The other provides for safer groundwater protection standards around uranium mines. Uranium mining was Truan’s interim issue and his interim report, according to public interest lobbyists, will provide the basis for reform of the industry. HEALTH CARE The big health care item this session was a Medicaid bill that raised the income eligibility cap and thus has the potential of extending health care to some 38,000 indigent women and children. The bill, sponsored by Pasadena Senator Chet Brooks and Houston Rep. Brad Wright, raised the level of income that families could earn and still qualify for Medicaid programs. Before the bill’s passage, only one-third of the state’s families living below the poverty level were eligible for Medicaid. In the lobby the bill was advanced by an odd coalition of health-care advocate’s and health-care-for-profit consultants. The bill offered something for everyone: the business community and rural health care providers got a promise of more money for failing rural hospitals and clinics, as well as limits to liability of physicians and hospitals providing health care under Medicaid \(some described this provision as a component of last session’s tort reform as the Gray Panthers and the Children’s Defense Fund got the expanded health care that they argued is so desperately needed. HOUSING The legislature gave signs two years ago of recognizing the dimensions of the growing problem with affordable housing. After the 1987 session a task force was appointed to study housing issues. Senator Hugh Parmer, D-Fort Worth, sponsored a task force’s recommendations and set up a housing trust fund with the Texas Housing Agency. The bill authorized up to $20 million in state expenditures. “It’s certainly not going to solve the affordable housing problem in Texas,” Parmer told the Senate on May 12, “but it’s a step in the right direction.” But as was the case with a good number of well-intended Senate bills, Parmer’s housing bill didn’t make it through the House, where it was held up long enough to get lost in the end-of-the-session crunch. PRISON CONSTRUCTION The Senate passed a package of criminal contained more of the usual approach to included reasonable attempts to address the crime problem through alternative measures, such as community corrections. Some THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19 a ilea…a:4n an…:saatkaa,
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