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Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE V PESTICIDE OVERSIGHT. Consumer advocates seeking to increase the regulatory role of the Agricultural Resources Protection Authority failed to gain support from the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, which voted to strip the board’s power to hear appeals of state agency pesticide enforcement actions. The authority was created in 1989 to check then-Ag Commissioner Jim Hightower’s aggressive regulation of pesticides, but current Commissioner Rick Perry has suggested doing away with the authority. [See “Shrugging Off Oversight,” TO 12/30/95] The Sunset commission recommended that the Legislature renew the authority to coordinate and provide oversight of the state’s pesticide policies, review state pesticide rules and enforcement efforts and conduct periodic hearings on pesticide regulation. The Sunset panel also recommended expansion of board from the current nine members, seven of whom are state officials. Four new members, to be appointed by the governor, would include representatives of farm laborers, environmentalists, pesticide applicators and the chemical industry. V BAD AIR. The Senate has passed a bill to suspend the new auto emissions testing program in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Beaumont-Port Arthur as well as a bill to restore the State Board of Dental Examiners. Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, sponsored the bill to suspend the emissions tests for 90 days in the hopes that the EPA would relax the pollution standards. He said eight out of 10 autos are passing the tests, which were ordered by the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission after more than four years of planning, in an effort to meet the federal standards and avoid penalties, but motorists resent the tests, which cost $23 and can force them to get as much as $150 in repairs to reduce their emissions. “People do not respect this program; it’s too costly, too time-consuming and that’s why we need to go back to the drawing board,” Whitmire said. The Board of Dental Examiners expired September 1 after a dispute in the previous session over the regulation of dental hygienists derailed the bill renewing the agency. V SKIP OUT. Lionel “Skip” Meno is out as state education commissioner, as George W. Bush announced that he would seek a new face to shake up the Texas Education Agency. The State Board of Education recommends a candidate, who must be approved by the governor. Among those reportedly under consideration are Dallas school board president Sandy Kress, Houston school principal Thaddeus Lott, Lubbock school superintendent Mike More and former U.S. undersecretary of education Michael Williams. V BUDGET CUTS. The proposed $77.7 billion budget that lawmakers have before them would hold the line on taxes but it would require cuts in health and human services programs to low-income and handicapped Texans, the Center for Public Policy Priorities reported. While the budget prepared by the Legislative Budget Board included an 8-percent increase for health and human services, to $10.3 billion, the center found that would not continue the current level of services, given the anticipated growth in need for those services. As many as 67,000 Texans eligible for Medicaid services face cuts, including those with disabilities, elderly, children, people with catastrophic medical bills and low-income pregnant women, according to the center, an Austin-based think tank. V GOOD GOVERNMENT COSTS. Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock got $1.2 million from lawyers on both sides of tort reform and House Speaker Pete Laney, while not in Bullock’s league in fundraising, also got contributions from both sides of the hotly contested issue, the Dallas Morning News reported Jan. 16 after a computer-assisted analysis of campaign finance reports. In addition to the business, medical and insurance interests who are pitted against the trial lawyers and consumer groups, Bullock and Laney also got money from both sides on the issue of home equity mortgages and casino gambling. While the campaign finance reports indicate that opposing sides will be heard when it comes to negotiating bills, public-interest advocates wondered why they should have to put up the money in the first place. An old political adage holds that lobbyists contribute to the political leadership to avoid the danger of having “good government” done to them. PRIORITIES. When President Clinton invited the 13 new House Democrats to the White House, there were two no shows: Lloyd Doggett, who was back in his Austin district, and Ken Bentsen of Houston, who chose to attend the first full meeting of the House Banking Committee, the Houston Post reported. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston showed up at the White House. STILL WORK TO DO. State Insurance Commissioner Rebecca Lightsey, after hearing complaints that insurance companies refused home or auto coverage based on factors such as a customer’s age, race or zip code, swept aside objections from the incoming Bush Administration and adopted rules prohibiting insurance companies from redlining, or discriminating against consumers for reasons other than risk. Elton Bomer, the former state representative who takes over the agency Feb. 1, has the option of overturning the rules. WE ARE BIASED, TOO! After Democrats announced they would be monitoring Rush Limbaugh to combat his frequent liberties with the truth, the Republicans said Texas radio talk-show hosts also deserved credit for helping stir the voters. Continued on pg. 23 24 JANUARY 27, 1995 ff4i3e4730 ,…’411.4.401c -.6.0,00Pr