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POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE V AS A MATTER of custom, bills expanding the use of the death penalty usually sail through the legislature with hardly a note of opposition. So when Gov. Clements opened the agenda of this summer’s special session to a Republicanbacked bill to make killers of children eligible for the death penalty, it seemed a good bet to end up on the books. The bill, sponsored by Senator Buster Brown, R-Lake Jackson, passed the Senate easily enough, but didn’t make it to the House until the final day of the session. Opponents of the death penalty, such as Rep. Harold Dutton D-Houston, and Rep. Paul Moreno, D-E1 Paso, spoke against the bill on the grounds that the death penalty is discriminately applied. Brown’s bill mandated that a killer of a child seven years old or younger be eligible for the death penalty. Dutton proposed an amendment that led to a fascinatingly ambiguous vote: the amendment broadened the bill to cover the killers of people 65 and older, as well. Because the bill was on the House floor on the last day of the session, Dutton knew that an amendment would reduce its chances of final passage because it would be required to go back to the Senate for concurrence.. So the amendment offered representatives the chance to go on record as voting to broaden the death penalty, while at the same time effectively helping to kill Brown’s bill. Dutton’s amendment passed 124-1. But then an even more surprising thing happened: just enough House members voted against the bill on final passage to kill it outright. Because the bill had not been read on two successive days, it needed a four-fifths’ vote to go back to the Senate. The bill failed by one vote: 99-25. Speculation after the votes was that many Democrats were happy to see Brown’s bill defeated, since Republican Brown is a likely candidate for Attorney General. Democratic Senator Hugh Parmer had a death penalty bill in the regular session that would have given drug felons the death penalty, but the governor showed no interest in opening the call of the special session to Parmer’s bill. Parmer, of course, is running against Republican U.S. Senator Phil Gramm. V HOUSE SPEAKER Gib Lewis continues to amaze all observers. In midJuly the Austin American-Statesman reported that the House parliamentarian, Bob Kelly, has financial ties to several lobbyists, including one for the insurance industry. This is significant for at least two reasons: one, Kelly is Lewis’s right hand man in running the House, and two, it was Kelly who advised Lewis to make an extremely dubious parliamentary ruling toward the close of the regular session that effectively gutted an insurance reform bill. \(Kelly and Lewis held that several proposed amendments that were opposed by the industry were not germane to the House bill even though they were contained in the Senate On the last day of the session, Lewis was asked by Statesman reporter Laylan Copelin to explain his view of Kelly’s role. “Easy,” said Lewis, “easy.” Whereupon he gave an answer that essentially denied the very existence of such a concept as conflict of interest as applied to public officials. “You know, there’s nothin’ that would prohibit you, me [from] having business with anybody you want to have business with,” he said. “I mean, you can interpret which I think has been I think grossly misinterpreted, by many people, as being something wrong. I don’t see anything wrong with it at all.” // AUSTIN’S DAILY, the AmericanStatesman, has distinguished itself in recent months by staying out front on a whole set of ethical questions about Capitol politics that have been crying out for attention since long before the chickens came home to roost. It was the Statesman that broke the story about Boneless Chicken magnate Bo Pilgrim’s forays into the Senate, in which he passed out $10,000 blank checks to Senators who were willing to listen to him complain about the workers’ compensation system. The Statesman has also been aggressively reporting on various junkets that lawmakers have taken at the expense of influence-seeking lobbyists. If the state’s media can keep attention on the glaring ethics problems it may lead to campaign finance reforms as soon as the next special session, which is expected to be called for October or November. V DIPLOMACY BROKE down in the final days of the special session, as House and Senate negotiators met through the weekend of July 16-17 and tried to find a way to agree on a workers’ compensation bill. Senator Ted Lyon, D-Rockwall, repeatedly accused the House leader on workers’ comp, Rep. Richard Smith, R-Bryan, of having designs on the Senate seat of Kent Caperton, the Bryan Democrat. Smith told the Observer, “I wouldn’t think [Lyon] was an expert on Bryan politics, so I don’t know what basis he has to make that statement. . . . He knows nothing about what my plans are and neither does my wife. And she’ll know before he does.” Are you planning to run for the Senate? we pressed. “I have made no plans beyond trying to get out of here today,” Smith said on the last day of the session. Another vociferous detractor of Smith was Senator Carl Parker, Democrat from Port Arthur. Parker said that Smith has said publicly on several occasions that he does not want to see the workers’ compensation discussion get “sidetracked” by discussions of the workplace safety issue. “He does not see any connection with what worker safety has to do with holding down the cost of comp.,” Parker said, adding, “It’s kind of basic.” V THE SUPREME COURT’S recent decision on abortion is not likely to be an issue in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Democratic State Treasurer Ann Richards, who in the past has defended women’s right to abortion as defined by the Roe v. Wade decision, said she has no intention of changing her position. “I have always said that it [abortion] is a real serious personal decision to make a personal decision and a family decision that should not be made by government.” Richards said that the abortion debate now threatens to replace a fundamental policydebate on social services for children and pre-natal care for women. “Twelve percent of the women in Texas have no prenatal care,” Richards said. According to Richards, the true test of “whether we love our babies and our children” is the commitment that government demonstrates to women without pre-natal care and the large number of children living in poverty. Attorney General Jim Mattox has also been a consistent defender of the Roe decision. Mattox, like a number of state attorneys general, filed an amicus brief before the Webster case was argued, urging the Supreme Court to let stand the Roe decision. V LABOR LOBBYIST Dee Simpson once argued that he could justify his support for the American Leauge Texas Rangers in more ways than one. The Rangers, Simpson contended, kept Eddie Chiles’ money and energy tied up and thus did some public good: the reactionary Republican owner of the Rangers remained preoccupied with baseball and had little time’ to devote to politics. Could be that Simpson was right, because here’s former Ranger-owner Eddie Chiles signing on as statewide co-chair for the Republican gubernatorial campaign of Clayton Williams. But only half right, some might argue, since it’s net likely that Williams will go far. The telephone magnate is considered to be a long distance from the governor’s mansion. 12 AUGUST 4, 1989 14, ..1t t