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Topwaters and Shiite Baptists BY MOLLY IVINS Austin MIXED REVIEWS for the 73rd session thus far. First, the good news. Our legislators are working long, and they’re working hard. So much for the good old days when guys ran for office so they could come to Austin and party for five months.. These folks are working like mules \(and let’s not pass up this chance to remind ourselves that they now have full-time, year-round, year-in and year-out jobs and Also, under the benign influence of the new speaker, Pete Laney, there is a continuing emphasis on ethics. It’s not so much a one-time push as it is a new atmosphere, erasing much of the sleazy feel of previous sessions. Lege, we hardly know ye. Alas, the end product being put out by all these conscientious beavers is not greatly improved. In fact, the Lege seems to be more lobby-driven. Not lobby-owned anymore, but one senses that for a lack of a better vision, the lobby is setting the agenda. Unlike the federal system, where the president proposes and Congress disposes, under our famous “weak governor system” \(and guv does not set the agenda. This is not Miss Ann’s dance card. It’s as though the entire purpose of the session were to vote on proposals made by the special interests. Sometimes the Lege votes yea, sometimes nay, but the subject is always some special plea from the State Association of This or the Society of That. And it’s all keeping the legislators so busy that no one has time to look up and think about what the state should be doing for its residents. Particularly those who are not affiliated with an organized lobby with a political action committee. For example, Bubba and the kids. Not that this is new. The main purpose of state government has always been to “create a healthy bidness climate.” And let me be real blunt about the result: The rich get richer and the people get screwed. Ronnie Dugger used to say, “The people who run Texas never mess with the topwaters.” The topwaters are the little fish that swim on top of a pond. State government concerns itself only with the big fish, who swim deep and give money. Outright bribery may be a thing of the past, Molly Ivins, a former Observer editor, is a columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 14 APRIL 9, 1993 but look at what Freeport-McMoRan and other developers have bought with $100,000 in contributions to pols around the state. Freeport-McMoRan is a multinational development corporation that is involved in a fight with the city of Austin about a proposed development on the Barton Creek watershed. The city says the development will pollute Barton Creek and thus the city’s crown jewel, Barton Springs, as well. According to the Austin AmericanStatesman, Freeport-McMoRan contributed almost $17,000 to Senator Ken Armbrister of Victoria, who has obligingly introduced a bill to keep cities from changing regulations that would inhibit development. Representative Ron Lewis of Mauriceville got a $7,000 contribution and has introduced a bill that would oblige Austin to apply the new watershed standards citywide, at prohibitive cost. Armbrister told the Statesman that the city of Austin is “certainly not in sync with the rest of Texas.” And isn’t, that sufficient reason for a legislator from Victoria to go messing in Austin’s bidness? Austin voters overwhelmingly approved the new watershed standards. While the special interests are writing most of the new laws, that old legislative standby stupidity is writing others.’ On March 25,’the House Public Safety Committee \(now there’s that will permit Texans to carry concealed handguns. Great, just what we need in this state, more guns. More Texans are already killed by firearms every year than die in automobile accidents. But the National Rifle Association, with former Speaker Gib Lewis lobbying for it, declares that the.bill provides. for weapons training, gun-safety education and background checks. Uh-huh. And David Koresh could have passed them all. Don’t Dis Our Food Another bad bill alert: Senate Bill 967 by Bill Sims of San Angelo would create a cause of legal action against anyone who says disparaging things about Texas fruits or vegetables. Don’t ask me why. Maybe they’re trying to nail George Bush for trashing broccoli. But you know how it is with our Lege: If you want to speak out against the pink grapefruit or pinto beans, you’d better do it fast before they pass this sucker. The most controversial bill of the session is destined to be S.B. 20 by Sen. Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth, the sex education bill. This one brings us to the most discour aging development of the session so far. The Lege has been inundated by Shiite Baptists who seem to have no grasp of the most elementary rules of either argument or conduct. Look, you can argue all day against sex education bring out whatever evidence you have that knowing about sex encourages promiscuity, insist that abstinence is better, whatever reasoning you like but you’re not entitled to run around declaring thai those who disagree with you are agents of the devil. The amount of hatred that has been heaped on poor ol’ Moncrief who, let us face it, is the squarest of the square is simply incredible. Hate is not a family value. I bring this up because some of the brethren and sistren seem to have forgotten that hatred deforms the hater. Ignorance is not a family value. Neither are distorting, fabricating and massively lying about the contents of a bill. Moncrief says, “If I had received some of the misinformation that is being so widely distributed about this bill, I’d be scraping myself off the ceiling, too.” Hauling out the Bible and claiming the exclusive right to interpret its message is not sufficient to prove an argument. As Roger Williams, one of the early Baptists in this country, once wrote, “Compulsion stinks in the nostrils of God.” S.B. 20 is being heard in tandem with two other bills one, by Dan Shelley, would abolish APPAC, the state council created to advise and report to the Legislature on the issue of teenage pregnancy. It has done so. It does not create curricula; it simply reports facts such as that Representative Leticia Van de Putte has the distiiiction of having the state’s youngest grandfather in her district. He’s 24. The abolition of APPAC is not going to make this granddad any older. The second bill, by Jane Nelson, provides that if sex education is taught in the schools, it must consist of the information that abstinence is best. Fine, but before a kid can subscribe to abstinence, he or she has to know what it is, you know? “Just say no” is an even less effective slogan with sex than it was with drugs. Sex is not a subject about which people have been noticeably rational. The fear, fascination, prurience, envy and condemnation it provokes are apparently without end. But teenage pregnancy is a very real problem; it is getting’ dramatically worse, and its consequences for both the teenagers and their babies are, for the most part, unbelievably griin. 141.0,A1.1, nee ,21,11