‘Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE V ‘NO CHOICE’ WINS. Nearly 66 million Americans voted in U.S. House races on Nov. 8less than 34 percent of eligible voters and barely two-thirds of those who voted in the 1992 presidential election. While 54 seats swung to the Republicans, giving them control of the House, in 38 of those districts the winning Republican candidates got fewer votes than losing Republican candidates received in those districts in 1992. [In Texas, Steve Stockman beat Jack Brooks of Beaumont with nearly 11,000 fewer votes than Stockman got in 1992, when he lost by 10 percentage.points. Mac Thornberry beat Bill Sarpalius of Amarillo with 55 percent this year but only 2,000 votes more than Sarpalius’ challenger got in 1992, when Sarpalius won with 60 percent.] Nearly two-thirds of Congressional races in 1994 were won in landslides, in which the winner received 60 percent or more and even in this “year of change” 91.1 percent of incumbents were re-elected. Over 24 million voted for losers, leaving 42 million-23 percent of eligible votersto elect the House of Representatives. This according to the Center for Voting and Democracy, which noted that most Congressional district lines are drawn to protect incumbents and blamed voter apathy on the odds that are stacked against challengers. As Texas and several other state legislatures face the prospect of Congressional redistricting next year, due to federal court findings that minority districts amount to racial “gerrymandering,” the center supports a move to proportional or preference voting, in which candidates would run in multi-member districts with voters getting as many votes as there were seats up for election. This would allow minorities, whose votes are diluted in singlemember districts, to pool their votes and elect their own candidate. Such a system could be adopted for U.S. House elections without a constitutional amendment. For information call 202-882-7378. MOTIVATION TECHNIQUES. Texas’ Adult Protection didn’t inform law enforcement when a technician with the Richmond State School’s Behavioral Treatment and Training Program administered a shock to a mentally retarded resident with a Hot-Shot Power Mite cattle prod. When Adult Protective Services finally reported the Nov. 23, 1993 incident to the Fort Bend County sheriff’s department this November, Sheriff’s Detective Tom Honeycutt filed felony abuse charges against the former employee, who had later been fired for “using the prod improperly.” Apparently on their superiors’ orders, employees of the school were themselves put to the prod, in the words of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “to understand how it feels.” The legality of the use of the device, good for up to 5,000 volts, has yet to be determined, Detective Honeycutt said. The school has been using the prods, not designed for use on humans, since 1989, describing them to one patient’s family as a psychiatric tool with a 9-volt jolt. Meanwhile, the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported that, following a review, it has been recommended that the ban on the use of cattle prods on Swedish cattle remain in effect. V NO NEW COURTS. The U.S. Justice Department, citing concerns about Texas’ “discriminatory” method of electing judges, apparently will keep the state from creating new courts until the system is reformed, Attorney General Dan Morales said. Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department must approve any changes in elections and it has served notice that the county-wide election of judges in urban areas dilutes minority voting and is therefore objectionable, even though the Republican-dominated U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in August 1993 overruled a district court and found the lack of minority judges Was due to political party choices and not racial discrimination. Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock has put together a task force of judges, legislators and citizens to study possible reforms of judicial selection. V HEALTH CARES. The defeat in California of a proposition to implement a singlepayer health plan by a margin of 73 percent to 27 percent was a clear rejection of that concept, but health care still ranks very high on the list of concerns to voters, including Texans, John Hildreth of Consumers Union said. “It was not more of an issue in the election because the voters had been so thoroughly confused by the misinformation put out in the health care debate at the federal level, so that there was no clear-cut choice for them to make. But the cost factors in health care are going to have to be addressed,” he said. Getting welfare spending under control requires the Legislature to examine how much of that funding is Medicaid, Hildreth said, and there will be coordinated efforts by business, consumer and senior groups to authorize collection of data on health care costs for the first time. “I don’t anticipate a lot of progress, short-term, but I know the failure of the Legislature and Congress to address major issues of cost and security are going to result in a new public momentum in the not too distant future.” READ HIS LIPS. Confronted by Senate Finance Chair John Montford’ s \(Dto find the revenue he is looking for for education reform, and the realization that welfare reform could also be difficult, Governor-elect George Bush, speaking through the Republican Party’s Karen Hughes, said that these reforms will follow tort reform. Tort reform, according Hughes, will improve the business climate, generating more tax revenue. NO CONFLICT OF INTEREST. When the debate on reform of public education begins next year in the Texas Legislature, no one will be able to accuse George W. Bush of a conflict of interest. His daughters, who now attend the Hockaday School in Dallas, will attend St. Stephen’s in the hills west of Austin. St. Stephen’s, which includes both a boarding and day school, is the most expensive private school in the city. PRISON MILESTONE. While the number of inmates in America’s state and federal prisons topped 1 million this sum mer, Texas ranked second with 100,136 prisoners, behind California’s 124,813, ac cording to the -Bureau of Justice Statistics. Texas also was second in the rate of incar ceration, with 545 prisoners per 100,000 population, second only to D.C.’ s 1,578 per 100,000. The United States is second only to Russia in incarceration rates. The in crease was blamed on America’s propen sity for violent crimes and its insistence on prison terms for illegal drug users. In 1980, 19 people out of every 1,000 arrested for narcotics violations were sent to prison. 24 DECEMBER 9, 1994
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