Continued from pg. 10 Toomey, a lobbyist for Texans for Lawsuit Reform. They also gave $85,000 to two successful Republican Supreme Court candidates: Justice Nathan Hecht, and Priscilla Owens, a Houston corporate lawyer. The state’s workers compensation system, which is under appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, likely will come up for review in the next session, the AFL-CIO’s Ed Sills said, but workers’ interests are in a lot worse position. “Even if we get a positive ruling out of the Supreme Court, any revisions will be written to the business community’s liking, and we just hope to be at the table,” Sills said. Other items expected to be reviewed include the state’s prevailing wage law and the . Texas Employment Commission. Unions also will be concerned about plans to privatize schools and prisons to save Money at the expense of workers. Dee Simpson, a lobbyist for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was not looking forward to the coming Legislature. “The way our world looks now is we have Bullock on the left and there’s no more Carl Parker. You have Bullock on the left and [House Speaker] Pete Laney in the middle. It’s rough.” Simpson, like a lot of people, wondered where Bush was going to find the money to put into local education, as he promised in his campaign. “My guess is the only way he can deal with this is with an income tax and that’s what he’s going to have to do to pay for an increase in educationor shut down the highways. You and I know they’re not going to shut down the highways and he’s not going to shut down the prisons.” Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen called the election results “devastating” to consumer advocates. “Not only the loss of the governor, but we lost the Senate when we lost Parker and Carriker. We had anticipated Soileau and Martin being elected to help shore up the progressive forces but the way it’s shaping up it’s going to take some senators who are not generally considered progressive to vote to stop bad bills.” In addition to the push for “massive” tort reforms, Smith expects an attempt to legalize home equity lending at the expense of homestead protection, attempts to gut consumer agencies such as the Office of Public Utility Counsel and the Office of Public Insurance Counsel and environmental protection agencies such as the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. The Republican gains also bolster the chance of developer interests passing a bill to require state or local governments to compensate land speculators for restrictions on development of their property. “We can expect a massive assault on welfare for low-income families and a shift to ward wealthy families with tax and regulatory relief to industry and large landowners in Texas. That’s what we’ve seen with Bush during the campaign as the Rangers [baseball club] got special rights to condemn land and tax exemptions and the oil companies [Bush was connected with] got bailouts to clean up the land they had polluted,” Smith said. “We hope the Republicans read the election as a sign that Texans want dramatic change in the way we govern and campaign for and finance our elections and that they will be willing to work with us to end the dominance of special interest money in campaigns. But we’re not holding our breath.” John Hildreth of Consumers Union was waiting to see the Bush Administration’s commitment to consumer protections already in place, particularly the insurance and utility counsels, both in terms of quality of appointment and level of funding they’ll support. “Bush ran a very focused campaign and the issues he talked about were not central to consumer protection items. Subsequent to the election he mentioned tort reform as one of his major initiatives in the first session and obviously a lot of what gets talked about under the term ‘tort reform’ seriously undermines legitimate protections.” Hildreth said Consumers Union is prepared to fight for the insurance reforms Richards helped to achieve. He also expects another effort by small finance companies to increase their interest rates. Richards vetoed a bill in 1991 that would have allowed interest rates of 30 percent or more on short term loans. Ken Kramer of the Sierra Club said Bullock’s commitment to address “property rights” is a major concern. “If it means things like tax incentives to maintain property that’s fine but if it means instituting economic impact reviews, such as were defeated in Arizona by 60 percent of the voters, and which would have blocked environmental regulations, that will be another matter.” Kramer also expects some kind of attack on local governments’ ability to protect water resources that will be similar to the bill last year, which Gov. Richards vetoed, that would have undermined Austin’s restrictions on developments in the Barton Creek watershed. “There’s not as much likelihood that the new governor would veto something like that,” Kramer said. Kramer believes the electorate supports efforts to keep air and water clean as well as species diversity. “What we have to do is get our Republican members to bring pressure on the Republican officeholders and to frame our arguments on public health protection and fiscal conservatism where there is common ground,” he said. What Next? The Democratic party has to make some changes to appeal to the Texas electorate, but talk about realigning the party on the left is “suicidal thinking,” Polinard of UT-Pan American said. The Texas Poll has consistently found less than 20 percent of Texans identify themselves as liberal \(it was 16 permakes it a fairly chummy group,” Polinard said. “One rule that still does hold is who captures the center holds the winning hand. I don’t think the Democrats should ignore the traditional Democratic constituency but you don’t want to be isolated and six out of every 10 [white] men are voting against you. Democrats can take some comfort in the fact that, after 27 percent of Texas Hispanic .voters called themselves independent in a 1992 exit poll while 66 percent called themselves Democratic, this year 73 percent of Latino voters in the Southwest Voter survey called themselves Democrat, the independent Hispanics were down to 17 percent and the Republicans were holding steady at 10 percent. “If the changes that have been taking place in party identification and voting preferences can be called realignment, Latinos have not been participating,” said Bob Brischetto, the institute’s executive director. “If anything, it is an Anglo realignment.” Anderson of TSU advised the Democrats to recast themselves as the party of the mainstream rather than allowing the Republicans to continue to define them as the party of “tax and spend.” He added, “If Richards had articulated something different maybe that would have motivated African Americans to get out in greater numbers.” Simpson of AFSCME said reforming the Democrats depends on what progressives want to accomplish. “What do progressive Democrats expect out of public policy? If it’s socialism, there is no hope. If it is a totally pristine environment, there is no hope. Do they want to move the ball on public policy? Of course there’s hope. But for four years we’re not going move the ball. We’re going to get that ball vetoed.” Simpson said liberal Democrats must accept that there is a cultural war going on and the liberals are losing as long as the debate is about lifestyles rather than jobs. “They don’t like our ass…. We used to have communists to hate and nuclear war to fear and behind that in the white culture we had James Brown and the Famous Flames. We’ve removed the godless communists from the mix and now we have nothing to fear [except liberals.] This is Billy Sunday’s wet dream. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord and he’s one big Anglo-Saxon son of a bitch with guns and he’s a mean bastard. I think we’re in a real dark moment and it’s cultural warfare because there’s nothing else to do after we beat the communists. “The upside, I hope, is that we can have intelligent conversations once again about who voters are because they’re the ones ultimately that make decisionsnot the people, but the voters.” THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21 Irr r le :.
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.