more hostile to trial lawyers, whose interest often overlaps the interest of consumers. As Harvey Kronberg wrote in the pro-business Quorum Report: “Never let it be said that Bob Bullock is a slow study. After watching long time friend Temple Dickson lose to Bill Sims \(D-San in his primary challenge to the more promessage was clear. Although the new redistricting maps from the Nowlin court were contributory, plaintiffs’ attorney Ted Lyon’s in the general election amplified the message. Although Bob Glasgow was never a reliable trial lawyer vote, his demise to Republican partially due to anti-trial lawyer sentiment. … When the smoke had cleared, the “trials” had lost their stranglehold on the Senate and a bipartisan tort reform coalition of legislators had emerged.” Whether Kronberg’s irony was intended or not, the “smoke” never cleared. In fact, it was only beginning to accumulate. Consider a few names from the 40-lobbyist list compiled by Doctors Ought to Care, a public interest physicians lobby, of tobacco-interest lobbyists who advanced the products liability bill. Begin with Angelo Zottarelli, a former legislative aide and the manager of Bill Hobby’s 1982 campaign for the office of lieutenant governor. Then there is Philip Morris’ Billy Clayton, former Texas HouSe Speaker and mentor of current Speaker Pete -Laney; Rusty Kelly, once an assistant to Clayton and former Sergeant at Arms in the House; Kraege Polan, a former assistant to House Speaker Price Daniel Jr.; Mack Wallace, former railroad commissioner; former legislator Don Adams, who also served as vice chair of the board of the Texas Cancer Council; R.J. Reynolds’ Johnson boys, Gordon and Robert Parliamentarian; Stan Schlueter, former chair of the House Calendars Committee; and George Christian, the former press secretary to Lyndon Johnson, who is so frequently consulted by reporters from national news media in their cyclical electoral quests to understand Texas. For the tobacco lobby, this year in Texas is a critical one. Not only are the planets in alignment in the Senate, but as Austin American-Statesman reporter Bruce Hight wrote, a procedural law adopted by the Texas Supreme Court in 1990 has opened more records in lawsuits. Under the new law, civil suits filed by victims of tobacco-related illness \(Hight reported that 23,000 die in Texas to divulge information they have kept secret for years. Tobacco money, in the form of contributions, also made a difference, according to both Public Citizen and Doctors Ought to Care, which released campaign contribution documents indicating that over the past two years the industry has donated a total of $75,650 to Richards, Bullock and a number of legislators. Not only smokers lose on this bill. In a last-minute attempt to persuade the Governor to veto the bill, Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said Richards probably will not be presented “in her four-year term in office with a bill that is so clearly anti-consumer, antipublic-interest, anti-health of the citizens of the state of Texas as this legislation will be.” Sam Russell, the Governor’s legislative liaison, said Richards had little choice but to sign the bill, which passed both houses by overwhelming margins, after she had indicated she would sign a negotiated bill. “To have vetoed that bill, I think she thinks, would have probably set up an unnecessary Confrontation with the Legislature that could very well have affected other issues that still must be resolved,” he said. Other than the provisions favorable to tobacco interests, the bill generally makes litigation more difficult for anyone injured by a defective product. In exempting retailers from liability, it removes the last line of defense that had protected the public from an onslaught of bad products. In the absence of GOOD-GOVERNMENT TYPES had high hopes when they won changes in the House of Representatives rules that make that chamber more open. Unfortunately, given the conservative cast of players, that just makes it easier for progressives to watch the train bear down on them. The Legislature is only a week past the 60-day mark, when it is supposed to start seriously considering bills, but already it has approved three proposed constitutional amendments, one of which is drawn to help close the gap in school resources. In addition to the products liability legislation \(see ediof lawsuits in Texas courts for injuries suffered out of state, both of which passed over the objections of consumer groups and organized labor, the Lege has financed more state prisons to house an ever-increasing number of convicts, set up a boll weevil eradication program over the objections of some environmentalists and created a felony criminal offense of stalking despite the doubts of some civil libertarians. A “smart jobs” fund to help businesses with job training was relatively noncontroversial. Maybe we just haven’t read it closely enough: “Augh!” was the one-groan assessment by Jude Filler of the Texas Alliance for Human Needs of the first two months. The Republican personal liability, which in the past was shared with manufacturers, retailers will be less inclined to refuse to sell hazardous products. Perhaps the biggest obstacle an injured party will encounter as a result of new products liability law is the requirement that the plaintiff filing suit after being injured by a defectiVe product prove that a safer, economically viable alternative design of the product existed. “What’s the safer alternative design for a lawn dart?” Public Citizen’s Smith asked, referring to a product that was removed from the market not by manufacturers or retailers but by trial lawyers suing on behalf of children blinded or otherwise injured by the once-popular toy. Public Citizen founder Ralph Nader has predicted that the Texas law will be copied by other state legislatures, in a nationwide campaign coordinated by the corporate community. Enactment of the bill, with the Governor’s tacit support, already has served as a green light to business interests who have always run the House but are just beginning to understand their utterly dominant position in the Senate. Although the 73rd Legislature is nearing its midpoint, the sooner it is gaveled to a conclusion, the safer the rights of the consumer in Texas will be. But don’t rest too easily. These guys will be back. L.D. breaching of the Democrats’ two-thirds majority in the Senate allowed the GOP to form a working majority with conservative Democrats to transform that chamber, which formerly was the stopper for many bad bills. “I see every business hustler showing up with bills that would have been stopped in committee last session and they’re flying through,” Tim Curtis of Citizen Action complained. “Product liability and Alfaro passed so easily that everybody figures they got the green light.” With little notice in the public prints, the House on an 80-51 vote March 15 approved HB 414, which would exempt securities dealers from the Deceptive Trade Practices Act in the first of a series of bills to dismantle the anti-fraud statute. John Hildreth of Consumers Union also warned of attempts to dismantle the insurance reforms gained in 1991. “The industry is all over the Legislature and they’re going to be seeking to repudiate a number of very important consumer advances that were legislated in 1991,” he said. The House Insurance Committee is seen as shifting to a pro-business slant in this session. Bankers will try again to advance a constitutional amendment to do away with the prohibition against second mortgages. The large bank holding companies reportedly are demanding the elimination of the ban on loans secured by home equity. They face a coali Steamed 4 MARCH 26, 1993
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