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The last time the Texas Legislature convened in a regular session the only seri ous candidate for House speaker faced a criminal indictment and stood squarely in the middle of an ethics scandal that implicated a number of House members and lobbyists. Yet Gib Lewis, then seeking an unprecedented fifth term as speaker, was elected in by apro forma vote at the opening session of a Legislature, which even before it convened had promised ethics reform that would end the very practices for which Gib Lewis then stood indicted. Lewis would latter plead no contest to two misdemeanor ethics violations and announce that he wold not run for reelection. Two months from now a new Legislature will convene and the reform movement that was part of a reaction to Lewis’s ten-year tenure seems to have run its course. The open-ballot system that elected Gib Lewis was enacted in 1963 and seemed reasonable and progressive. The intent then was to move the speaker’s race out into the open, ending secret ballots for the third-highest office in state government. With open ballots came the cards that have become the essential element in a system that concentrates power in the hands of the speaker, marginalizes the speaker’s opponents and encourages the almost routine reelection of incumbent speakers. It is the system that kept Gib Lewis in power for 10 years, despite serious questions about his ethical standards as early as his first term as speaker, and a cavalier no contest plea to financial disclosure law violations in 1983. The cards allow a speaker, once in office, to punish those who failed to support him. That punishment comes in the form of poor committee assignments, the House leadership’s refusal to support a legislator’s bills, and diminished campaign contributions. In an article published on the day the last Legislature convened, in 1991, Mike Ward of the Austin American-Statesman reported that one former candidate for the House had been told “his campaign contributions hinged at least in part on whether or not he signed the card. Lobbyists begin to cultivate favor among those they perceive to be most openly supportive of their preferred candidate and obsequiousness becomes, if not a virtue, at least an asset. As if to underscore how intractable the pledge card system is, Ward began his opening-day report with the account of a freshman House member who, based on his campaign and political philosophy, had to be counted among those most unlikely to begin a first day of a first term beholden to any candidate for speaker. John Hirschi, a progressive Democrat from the Panhandle, had run a progressive campaign and was highly regarded among the good-government types who refuse to accept the status quo. He had also signed a yellow card pledging his support to Gib Lewis the then-four-term speaker who had locked up his fifth by pressuring candidates to support him before they were elected. Also named in Ward’s story were progressive good-government types like Sherri Greenberg and Elliott Naishtat, both then freshmen House members from Austin. “I had people say that if you’re interested in being an effective state representative, then you ought to go ahead and sign a pledge card” Naishtat said, “because the speaker will be re-elected and he’ll look more kindly on you if you sign a pledge card than if you have not signed a pledge card.” “If there’s no contested race, what’s the difference?” said Greenberg. When an extra-constitutional mechanism becomes so much a part of an institution that the best representatives we elect cannot in good faith stand against it, because to do so would be to deny the constituents who elected them effective representation, opportunities for change are often only momentary. One such moment is about to pass. This year, some 30 representatives have joined together to form a “reform caucus.” As the leading speaker contenders Pete Laney, DHale Center, and Jim Rudd, D-Brownwood, collect pledge cards, some House Members are withholding their votes and demanding a secret ballot which might not be possible for this session’s speakers’ vote but can be written into the new House rules for thesnext session. The “rules reform” movement which includes other measures was started by Common Cause and is supported by the Texas AFL-CIO. After the election, the outgoing Legislature will convene in a lame-duck special session on education funding. Laney and Rudd each will be trying to close the sale, working the incumbents who will return in January and calling on newly elected representatives. As they close the sale, they foreclose the opportunity for reform. The business lobby opposes this reform because it would diffuse power in the House. So the reform movement must be driven from the bottom, by constituents calling their representatives, asking if they have signed pledge cards. Then asking: “Why?” L.D. ,,,,, THE TEXAS it Ok server NOVEMBER 13, 1992 VOLUME 84, No. 22 FEATURES Remember the Alamo Heights By Nancy Folbre 1 Stakes High in Senate By James Cullen and Ken Case 4 Bush Through the Looking . Glass By Molly Ivins 5 Fund-Raising Phil Gramm By Allan Freedman 1 0 DEPARTMENTS Editorials 3 Journal `Failed Newspaper’ Scrutiny; Unions Win in East Texas By James Cullen 13 Books & the Culture `Roe’ Reconsidered Book review by Nina Butts 14 Weddington Q&A Interview by Nina Butts 16 The Morning After By Debbie Nathan 18 Beautiful, Tortured Land Book review by Emily Jones 20 Book review by Emily Jones 22 Afterword Christian Soldiers By Louis Dubose 23 Political Intelligence 24 Cover photo by Alan Pogue ERRATA In “Bill Clinton’s Detractors” by Ronnie force, ” due to typesetting and editing errors, appeared as “internalized force.” EDITORIALS Call Your Representative THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3