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Legislators Rated on the Issues Editor’s Note: This is a non-partisan attempt to rate legislators by record votes cast during the 72nd Legislature in 1991. Bills were selected by a group of progressive advocates in their respective fields of consumer protection, the environment, ethics and health and human services to give a representative view of Senate and House members on those issues. Votes were compiled by Kate Fain of Public Policy Research Co. of Austin Senate Rating 72nd Legislature CONSUMERS #1 Increasing Interest Rates 3/27/91: The bill increased the interest limit on retail credit agreements from an 18 percent ceiling to 21 percent. On third reading, SB 729 passed 198. Good government vote is no. #2 Suits Against Manufacturers of Household Toxics would allow suits to be brought against manufacturers of toxic household products if they failed to use child-proof containers or embittering agents to help prevent poisonings. A motion to suspend the rules and place SB 989 on third reading failed Good government vote is yes. #3 Loan Shark Bill \(HB The legislation would increase the amount of interest rates permissible under state law to 28 percent On third reading, HB 739 passed 17-13. Good government vote is no. #4 Insurer’s Burden of Proof \(HB Sen. Henderson offered an amendment to the insurance reform bill which sought to maintain the special status that insurers have enjoyed. That status forced consumers to prove that an insurer erred when denying claims. Defeat of the amendment placed the same burden of proof on insurers as any defendant in a civil suit. The amendment was rejected 14-16. Good government vote is no. #5 Deregulation of Electric & Telephone Cooperatives \(HB an amendment to HB 4 which sought to partially deregulate electric and telephone cooperatives which were regulated by the PUC. The amendment was rejected 15-16. Good government vote is no. #6 Motor Vehicle Inspection \(HB Sen. Haley offered an amendment to HB 4 which provided for compulsory inspection of certain motor vehicles used to transport hazardous materials. A ed 11-19. Good government vote is no on motion to table. ENVIRONMENT #1 Coastal Conservation Districts \(SB ed into law, could have led to the development of a resort owned by American General Insurance on South Padre Island. The bill would authorize creation of coastal conservation districts which could sell tax-exempt bonds and levy taxes on private citizens for improvements to benefit commercial enterprises. A motion to suspend the regular order of business and take up SB 1094 for consideration was agreed to 21-8. Good government vote is no. #2 Environmental Agency Sen. Parker offered an amendment to SB 35 providing that the governor appoint the members of the board of the new state environmental agency, rather than have them carry over from pre-existing agencies. The amendment was adopted 237. Good government vote is yes. #3 Pantex tion expressed Texas’ interest in having operations at the badly polluted Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant moved from Colorado to Pantex in Amarillo. A motion to suspend the regular order of business and take up SCR 152 for consideration failed 17-11 \(not receiving the necessary two-thirds #4 Aquifer Protection \(HB The legislation concerned the definition of subterranean streams and the ownership of groundwater, specifically defining underground streams so as not to include aquifers. Such a definition would bar the Texas Water Commission from regulating pumpage from the Edwards and other -aquifers. A motion to suspend the regular order of business to take up HB 2329 for consideration failed 17-12 \(not receiving the necessary two-thirds #5 Slimestoppers Green offered an amendment to SB 90 establishing procedures for a citizen to report a potential criminal violation of the state’s environmental laws, including payment of rewards to citizens whose information leads to convictions. The amendment was rejected 15-15. Good government vote is yes. ETHICS #1 Former Member of Legislature on Ethics Commission offered an amendment providing that at least one member of the Ethics Commission be a former the amendment was agreed to 19-10. Good government vote is yes on motion to table. #2 Ban Honoraria \(SB Green offered an amendment providing that members of the Legislature or statewide elected officials could not accept honoraria. A motion to table ernment vote is no on motion to table. #3 Revolving Door \(SB Parker offered an amendment prohibiting state legislators from lobbying before the Legislature for two years after leaving office. A motion to table government vote is no on motion to table. #4 Limit Industry Campaign Contributions \(HB an amendment providing that no candidate for the office of Railroad Commissioner could accept a contribution from any regulated gas utility or public utility totalling more than $1,000 per calendar year. The amendment also sought to abolish the PUC and transfer its functions to the Railroad ment was rejected 10-20. Good government vote is no on motion to table. HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES #1 Health Insurance for Mental Illness \(SB ance plans to cover biologically based mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, in parity with other physical illnesses. A motion to place the bill on third reading was rejected 21-7 \(not receiving vote is yes. #2 Equal Rights would prohibit employment discrimination based on race, disability, religion, sex, national origin or age. On second reading, the bill passed 20-9. [Note: This vote occurred prior to Armbrister’s amending the bill to clarify that protections in the bill did not extend to gay and lesbian people seeking marriage licenses.] Good government vote is yes. #3 Public School Health Services 5/17/91: The legislation set a minimum level of professional staff for the management, coordination, supervision and provision of public school health services. A motion to place the bill on third reading prevailed 19-7. Good government vote is yes. #4 Child Care Services for State Employees \(HB HB 2259 called for a program to provide child care services for state employees. On.third reading, the bill passed 21-7. Good government vote is yes. #5 Lottery Compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act Brooks offered an amendment which would prohibit issuing a license to sell lottery tickets to applicants who failed to certify compliance with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. The amendment was adopted 27-3. Good government vote is yes. House Rating 72nd Legislature CONSUMERS #1 Product Liability Restricting Right to Sue \(HB THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15