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ing legislators’ voting records into campaign issues. “Almost everyone in Texas knows the ’90s are the decade of the environment,” Kramer said. “But obviously, not the majority of Texas legislators.” Education Not even on the issue that consumed most of the 73rd’ s time did this Legislature succeed. A public education finance equity bill, patched together in the closing days of the session, somehow managed to include the worst of several plans that had been considered during the session. The multiple-choice plan, which allows property-rich school districts five options to transfer wealth to property-poor districts, creates a bureaucratic nightmare for the Texas Education Agency, whose commissioner now becomes a chief of revenue police. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that forced the Legislature to act, is already in court challenging the new plan, which they contend places an unfair local tax burden on poor school districts. They cite the 50-cent tax increase that Brownsville Independent School District will have to put into effect to maintain their current level of services to students, while wealthier Arlington can maintain its current levels with a one-cent increase and Clear Creek can do the same while decreasing its tax rate by five cents. Budget In the $70.1 billion budget the Legislature approved for the next two years, Lieut. Gov . Bullock noted, the Legislature increased spending for health and human services by 22.5 percent an increase of $4.3 billion in state and federal matching money for the next two years. “We favored programs that provided service to children over those that ‘coordinated,'” he wrote. “And every program that came out of this session and out of taxpayers’ pockets emphasized accountability making sure that each dollar went as far as it could.” Dianne Stewart, chair of People First!, a coalition of statewide organizations concerned about funding for health and human services, was inclined to credit Bullock for pushing to at least restore most of the social services appropriations that were threatened in the early budget proposals. But she noted that the appropriations still ended up more than $400 million short of the amount needed to maintain the current miserable levels of service. “The question is whether you count as a success when you get back to ground zero,” Stewart said. “We didn’t make any progress and are going to lose services, such as a jobs program for welfare.” She said 14,000 women won’t receive the education, training, placement and support services necessary to leave welfare and become employed; 6,000 lowincome parents will lose child care that enables them to pursue work; and 4,000 will lose AIDS medications and other health assistance. Child Protective Services’ budget will be reduced by $19.7 million on the assumption that abuse of children will be averted by an intensive preventive program. There was little to applaud in the House appropriations process, she said. “It was hard to be a hero on the House side,” Stewart said. “It was a very difficult and controlled process. Certainly when the conference committee began meeting [House Appropriations Chair Rob] June11 made the first move to bring the House to where the Senate was. But he wasn’t willing to go much farther. The con .ference committee was a two-man show [with Junell and Senate Finance Chair John Montford, D-Lubbock]. Other conferees were conspicuously silent. The things they became animated about were higher education, bringing home the bacon.” Even with the struggle over this biennium’s budget, Stewart said, the next session could be worse, because of the expected loss of federal funds while the need for state social services grows. “We’ll lose $1.2 billion because of federal cuts and we’ve financed GAIL WOODS health and human services for the last two sessions in large measure through federal disproportionate-share funds that will probably be eliminated,” she said. “There’s going to have to be some very serious work done to figure out how we can meet the most basic needs of the state.” Bullock noted that the state put money into immunization of all children; extended the hours of service for the federally funded Women, Infants and Children nutrition program to evenings and weekends; expanded the federal school-lunch program in the summer; established a birth-defect registry to allow the state to monitor malformation and seek to pinpoint environmental problems; gave the attorney general more authority to collect delinquent child support from absent parents; removed restrictions on interracial adoptions; and set up the Texas Commission on Children, which will attempt a comprehensive look at ways of helping less fortunate children. For those less fortunate children who are already growing up without the help, the Legislature also appropriated funds to build 22,000 new state jail beds, 10,000 new prison beds and 7,000 beds for substance abuse treatment, as it increased the appropriation for prisons and public safety by $830 million. With the new penal code and sentencing guidelines, Texas, with 59,000 beds now, is projected to need 183,000 prison beds by Crime, Punishment & Civil Rights Senator John Whitmire of Houston and Representative Allen Place of Gatesville surprised some people when they pushed a new penal code through the bramble of competing and suspicious interests that is the Texas Legislature. The new penal code is designed to double the time violent offenders and major drug dealers spend in prison, but trolls in the House of Representatives would not let it pass without preservation of the criminal sanctions for homosexual sodomy. To clarify their motives, a majority of House negotiators in the conference committee insisted on stripping the prohibition the House, in its puritan fervor during the floor debate, had placed on heterosexual sodomy, leaving the misdemeanor charge for homosexual conduct, which is worthless for prosecutors but is important as a grounds for discrimination against gays and lesbians. Governor Ann Richards, not inclined to be drawn into the sodomy debate, declined the calls of gay and lesbian activists to veto the penal code, as she instead signed it into law. “This landmark legislation will make Texas a safer place,” she said, adding that the courts likely would settle the sodomy issue. “The price that is paid for a veto is far too great,” she said. Despite some questionable amendments, Gary Bledsoe, the president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the new penal code is an improvement over the old one, but he added, “The criminal justice problems are still there…. I don’t know that many understand there is a problem with the disparity in criminal justice.” A bright spot for minorities was passage of S.B. 456, a bill sponsored by Senator Rodney Ellis and Representative Scott Hochberg, both Houston Democrats, which enhances penalties for hate crimes. The bill rolled through the Senate, but stalled in the House until the closing weeks of the sessions, when it was negotiated out with the penal code bill. The ambiguous language in the bill appears to cover assaults that single out gays, lesbians or others identified as a member of an identifiable group. After six years of running up against the British Empire in his attempts to place controls on the state’s investments in Northern Ireland, 12 JULY 16, 1993