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new rules that place 12 senior House members on the budget-writing committee, 16 of the 27 seats will be held by members rated progressive on health and human service issues. Calendars Committee, the unaccountable graveyard for progressive bills in past sessions, was opened up by the new rules and may be more hospitable this session with Chair Mark Stiles, a moderate Democrat from Beaumont, providing the swing vote on the 11-member committee. State Affairs, Pete Laney’s old committee which handles many bills of statewide impact, is rated a relatively progressive committee under new Chair Curtis Seidlits, a Sherman Democrat. “It’s probably the best we’ve ever done there,” said Emmett Sheppard of the Texas AFL-CIO. On committees of importance to consumer issues, Laney has stacked the Business and Industry and Insurance committees with business-oriented conservatives. Potentially more moderate is Economic Development under Rene Oliveira, a progressive Democrat from Brownsville; Investments and Banking under Kenny Marchant, a conservative Republican from Coppell chairing a moderate committee; and Licensing and Administrative Procedures under Ron Wilson, a Houston Democrat. “No new taxes” is the new reality at Ways and Means under new Chair Tom Craddick of Midland, who also heads the House Republican Caucus. Craddick virtually ruled out a tax increase but said the committee, dominated by conservatives, will look at a potential overhaul of the tax structure. Public Education, headed by Libby Linebarger, a Manchaca Democrat, will be the very model of a moderate committee. Another moderate committee will be Higher Education under Chair Ashley Smith, a Houston Republican. On committees that deal with justice, Corrections under Allen Hightower, a Huntsville Democrat; Criminal Jurisprudence under Allen Place, a moderate-progressive Democrat from Gatesville; Public Safety under Keith Oakley, a Terrell Democrat; and Judicial Affairs under Senfronia Thompson, a progressive Houston Democrat, figure to be moderate committees. Committees that deal with energy and the environment generally are bad news for progressives. Laney, a farmer from Hale Center, chose a solidly conservative Agriculture and Wildlife Management Committee under Chair Pete Patterson, a conservative Democrat from Brookston. Expect no breaks from Energy . Resources, which will be responsible for bills dealing with energy policy, under Chair Robert Earley, a Portland Democrat; as well as Environmental Regulation under Warren Chisum, a Pampa Democrat; and Natural Resources, which has five potentially progressive members against six solid conservatives, including Chair David Counts, a Knox City Democrat. Health and Human Services may be a progressive committee despite Chair Harvey Hilderbran, a Uvalde Republican, while Public Health should be a progressive committee under Hugo Berlanga, a moderate Democrat from Corpus Christi. On other committees, County Affairs will be headed by Ben Campbell, a Carrollton Republican; Elections by Debra Danburg, a progressive Democrat from Houston; General Investigating by Wilhelmina Delco, a progressive Democrat from Austin; House Administration by Layton Black, a Goldthwaite Democrat; Insurance by John Smithee, an Amarillo Republican; International and Cultural Relations, LAST NOVEMBER’S general election results gave the 5th Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals, little recourse but to find the at-large election of judges in eight urban counties illegal under the federal Voting Rights Act. In a 216-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the circuit struck down the current election system in Bexar, Dallas, Ector, Harris, Jefferson, Lubbock, Midland and Tarrant counties and ordered the Texas Legislature to produce an acceptable plan within 180 days. In 1989, U.S. District Judge Lucius Bunton of Midland, in a lawsuit brought by the League of United Latin American Citizens, ruled that the at-large system diluted votes of African Americans and Latino voters and ordered that the counties be split into subdistricts. The 5th Circuit overturned that order, but the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the appeals court to reconsider its action. In the eight urban counties, the court found, only 12 of 157 district judges were black or Latino in 1989. \(The court ruled Travis County has no voting rights problems despite its lack black judicial candidates in Harris County were defeated this past November and it should not have escaped the panel’s notice that the only incumbent unseated from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was Fortunato “Pete” Benavides, an otherwise distinguished judge who had been appointed by Gov. Ann Richards. Black and Hispanic legislators appealed to Texas Attorney General Dan Morales to settle the lawsuit. At press time, Morales was undecided on how to proceed, but the Austin American-Statesman reported that appellate Judge Patrick Higginbotham of Dallas, the Republican-appointed dissenter in the 2-1 ruling, has called for a review by all 13 active judges on the 5th Circuit, where Republican appointees hold an 11-2 advantage; Higginbotham has circulated a proposed ruling that would uphold the at-large elections, concluding, “There was no evidence that minority candidates could not be elected in any county. In all counties, minority candidates were elected with support from the white community.” \(We are so glad the appointed federal judiciary is not The state’s judicial districts vary wildly in size, from the 39th District, with jurisdiction over 11,700 people in Haskell, Kent, Bob Hunter, an Abilene Republican; Local and Consent Calendars, Ciro Rodriguez, a progressive Democrat from San Antonio; Redistricting by Delwin Jones, a Lubbock Republican; Rules and Resolutions by Al Edwards, a Houston Democrat; Transportation by David Cain, a Dallas progressive Democrat; and Urban Affairs by Fred Hill, a Richardson Republican.J.C. Stonewall and Throckmorton counties, to the 59 judicial districts that elect judges at large in Harris County, whose population is 2.8 million. While lawmakers have dragged their feet on judicial reform, most of the state’s major newspapers who have weighed in on the subject want nothing to do with the concept of single-member districts or one vote, one judge for urban areas. The Wichita Falls Times-Record-News, in a December 3 editorial, was probably the most candid in its opposition to change. The Times-Record-News editors have trouble with the proposal of merit selection, where a blue-ribbon panel would send a list of qualified candidates to the governor, who would nominate one, subject to approval by voters. “We’re most troubled by the idea of single-member districts, which could be mandated by the federal appeals court. We believe finding enough minority judges to ‘racially justice to an alarming degree,” said the newspaper, which proposes non-partisan judicial elections instead. Ask members of minority communities in Texas whether the election of Africanand Mexican-American judges would dilute justice. The Waco Tribune Herald, fearing that election of judges from single-member districts would cause them to represent constituencies in a way they do not now, on December 16 embraced appointment of judges, in an editorial that said, “Texas is at a fork in the road. One fork leads to a more politicized judiciary. The other leads to one in which electioneering is de-emphasized and where qualified jurists serve the law, not some constituency. Choose the latter.” We doubt that Texas voters will stand for appointed judges and we trust that those newspapers and legislators who hold as sacred the inviolability of county lines in the formation of judicial districts will call for a reapportionment of the state’s judiciary so that each court represents 2.8 million Texans \(the conhold down the “undue influence” of any constituency. Let’s see how well that goes down in Haskell as well as Waco and Wichita Falls. One way or the other, it is long since time the Legislature did away with the double standard of single-member districts in rural areas and atlarge districts in urban areas. J.C. Judiciary: Fix it THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7