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The Session at Midpoint Continued from cover jt FTER APPROPRIATIONS, it is said, everything else in the Legislature is poetry, but the $77.6 billion budget the House of Representatives approved March 27 is mainly boilerplate. The budget, which would not require a tax increase, represents a 3.7-percent increase over the 1994-95 biennium and accommodates expected growth in prisons as well as the school finance plan enacted last session, but it falls about $1 billion short of maintaining health and human services. It lacks $300 million to maintain current levels of higher education, another $400 million for Medicaid and $360 million to fully implement juvenile justice programs. The budget includes no pay raise for teachers or state employees and would reduce the state workforce by 12,000 positions. The Center for Public Policy Priorities estimates that more than 100,000 Medicaid recipients, elderly people, children of lowincome families, battered women, disabled people and those without health insurance would lose services under the House spending plan. The budget includes a $5 billion “wish list” that includes restoration of funds for social services and pay raises for teachers and state employees if the state comes up with extra funds at the end of the legislative session, but lawmakers expect any new money to go first to Medicaid, higher education and juvenile justice. The House defeated an amendment by Warren Chisum, conservative Democrat from Pampa, to cut funding for family planning as well as education, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. While the House budget would spend $200 million less than anticipated revenue, the Senate is expected to approve an $80.2 billion budget that contains fewer cuts in human services and higher education. The final budget will be worked out in a conference committee after Comptroller John Sharp updates his revenue estimate in May. BANKS ARE PUSHING for passage of a constitutional amendment to allow the use of homes as collateral in personal loans. Senator Jerry Patterson, R-Pasadena, is sponsoring the proposed constitutional amendment, which has cleared the Senate State Affairs Committee. The constitutional ban against putting homesteads at risk is unique to Texas and stems from a suspicion of bankers that dates back to the founding of the Republic. Consumer advocates and real estate interests generally oppose the change. They fear lenders would pressure Texans to pledge their homes on loans for businesses, cars and other goods and services. On another bill, the banking community was split between the big ‘uns and the little ‘uns over whether Texas should participate in the new interstate bank system that allows megabanks to dispense with separate boards of directors and accountability for each branch. Smaller, independent banks fear the new system would make it easier for big national banks to transfer deposits across state lines and drive the local banks out of business. After a 142-0 House vote to opt out of the system gave the Independent Bankers Association a stronger negotiating position, the Dallas Morning News reported the small bankers were indicating they would support interstate banking if Texas lawmakers first passed tax law changes, provisions that farmers and small businesses would have access to capital, consumer safeguards and other measures. CHOICE IS AT RISK, with Governor Bush prepared to sign into law bills that reach his desk restricting abor tion. After the loss of two pro-choice senators in the last election, women’s rights advocates are swamped by more than two dozen bills with the potential to interfere with reproductive rights. “We’re facing a serious challenge to Roe versus Wade,” said Pauline Cashion of the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. “We’re very aware that our opposition feels a mandate to get something passed, but if our troops are mobilized, we have a good chance of holding the stuff back this session.” The first bill up was Florence Shapiro’s S.B. 83, which would require parental notification before a teenager could get an abortion. The bill got a hearing in committee, but after Senator Royce West, Democrat from Dallas, withdrew his name as a co-sponsor and Senator Mario Gallegos, Democrat from Houston, drew on his experience as a former emergency medical technician to tell his colleagues about botched abortions where teenagers were unable to seek proper medical assistance, pro-choice forces were holding enough votes to keep the bill off the Senate floor. Other controversial bills would regulate abortion clinics so they are held to hospital standards, which Cashion said is a false issue for what is relatively minor surgery that rarely produces complications. And bills would declare fetuses to be persons for criminal prosecutions, as a backdoor way to establish their rights. DEATH ROW in Huntsville is full of condemned inmates, many of whom have been there more than a decade, and momentum is building in the Legislature to remove the few obstacles that stand in the courts between the condemned and an execution date. When it comes to a bill to “streamline” appeals of death row inmates, to hurry up their execution, said Jay Jacobson of the American Civil Liberties Union in Austin, “Nobody’s even close to rational.” Nevertheless, Allen Place, DGatesville, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, at least was hopeful that prosecutors and the defense bar could find a compromise on H.B. 3 by Pete Gallego, D= Alpine, or S.B. 440 by John Montford, DLubbock. Those bills would require the Court of Criminal Appeals to appoint an attorney for a condemned indigent defendant’s habeas corpus appeals to run at the same time the defendant’s direct appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals, but the bill also would severely limit the time period in which those appeals could be filed. Under the current law, the state provides an attorney for indigent defendants through the first direct appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals. For other appeals, defendants must rely on volunteer lawyers, some of whom are funded by the federal courts through the Texas Resource Center \(which The habeas reform bill requires the attorney on habeas corpus appeals to file a brief within 90 days of the filing of the direct appeal brief, or 180 days after the habeas attorney’s appointment, whichever is later. Failure to file the brief on time would waive that avenue of appeal. Jacobson suspects the motives of the sponsors. “The goal is not to give the lawyer adequate time to file the brief. The goal is to execute people as quickly as possible,” he said. The push is on to expedite executions despite the fact that nearly a quarter of death penalty convictions in Texas between 1973 and 1993 were overturned in whole or in part, according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. At least seven people who were sentenced to death in Texas have been released in that time. Under the proposed “streamlined” appeals, Clarence Brandley 4 MARCH 24, 1995 ,01, ,10!… 11.,