and Randall Adams, two of the best-known cases of wrongly condemned convicts, both of whom spent more than a decade on death row, “would have been executed and they were innocent,” Jacobson said. “That doesn’t seem to be a great concern to a lot of people. They haven’t even come to grips with the reality of what they are advocating.” S.B. 280 by Buster Brown, R-Lake Jackson, which passed the Senate, would hamstring other criminal appeals. The bill would stop appellate courts from reversing convictions unless the court finds the error affected the outcome. Keith Hampton, a lobbyist on behalf of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said the bill was part of a legislative attack on judicial administration. Ironically, Hampton said, the bill would make it easier for prosecutors and courts to ignore other laws, since there would be little or no sanction remaining against evidence that was illegally obtained or rules that were not followed. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION and other public health and safety reg ulations would be set back by S.B. 14 \(sponsored by senators Teel Bivins, RAmarillo, Bill Sims, D-Paint Rock, and Ken Styled by its sponsors as the Private Real Property Rights Preservation Acts, also known as “takings bills,” they would allow landowners to sue the state or local governments to recover damages or invalidate actions that would limit their use of property. Landowners who won in court would be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees and other legal costs, while the state would not be able to recover costs from property owners who lose their lawsuits. The bills also would require cost-benefits analysis of environmental and other regulations, so that regulators would be forced to consider the cost of forcing businesses not to pollute versus the benefits of having clean air and water. A threat to the recovery of pollution damage comes from bills that would establish a privilege for Texas businesses and industries from having to disclose reports of environmental audits. The sponsors, Representative Warren Chisum and Senator Buster Brown, named H.B. 2473 and S.B. 1591 the Texas Environmental, Health and Safety Audit and Compliance Management System Privilege Acts, but environmentalists call them the pollution secrecy and immunity acts because they have the potential to keep pollution incidents secret and shield polluters from being held accountable in lawsuits. Among other bills of interest, S.B. 298 by Bill Ratliff, R-Mount. Pleasant, which would lower water quality standards in most Texas streams, was advanced by the Natural Resources Committee. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION has a fair chance for some advances under H.B. 1718 by Sylvester Turner, D Houston, which would limit what state and local government agencies could charge under the Open Records Act. The bill requires government entities to abide by charges set by the General Services Administration, which has set a charge of 10 cents per page up to 50 pages; agencies can charge overhead fees for larger requests. The bill also provides that members of the public, who now must go to district court to appeal overcharges, could take their cases to the General Services Commission, which can award treble damages for the amount of the overcharge. The bill also would repeal the exception that allows governments to remove from public inspection documents that may be involved in litigation. “This has been very much abused,” Common Cause’s Suzy Woodford said. Other pertinent bills include S.B. 58 by Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, the Texas Freedom of Information Act, which would shield news reporters from being forced to disclose information and sources of information; S.B. 246 by Jeff Wentworth, RSan Antonio, which would close a loophole that allows governmental bodies to hold closed-door briefings; and S.B. 274 by Tom Haywood, R-Wichita Falls, which would make secret the names of jurors. GOOD GOVERNMENT is a value more honored in theory than in practice, but there are a few bills that aim to bring out the better angels of politicsor at least give the public a better look at the devils. H.B. 2094 by Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, would require legislators and government officials to wait two years before they become lobbyists. S.B. 67 by Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, would prohibit lawyer/legislators from representing clients before state agencies. H.B. 808 by Steve Wolens, D-Dallas, would require all county officials to disclose their personal finances, as officials in the six largest counties do now. H.B. 1110 by Sherri Greenberg, D-Austin, would provide for public financing of Supreme Court races. H.J.R. 118 by Karyne Conley, D-San Antonio, and H.J.R. 24 by Jerry Yost, RLongview, would -provide for annual sessions of the Legislature. S.J.R. 52 and S.B. 1368 by Jeff Wentworth would create a nonpartisan Redistricting Commission. And H.B. 2555 by Jerry Madden, RRichardson, provides that a proposition on the ballot must clearly express the scope and character of the constitutional amendment it proposes. HATE CRIMES would be specified under S.B. 141 by Rodney Ellis, DHouston. The Senate Criminal Jus tice Committee on March 23 approved the bill specifying that punishment would be enhanced for crimes committed on the basis of bias or prejudice against race, color, disability, religion, national origin, ancestry or sexual orientation. The Department of Public Safety recorded 197 instances of hate crimes in the first half of 1994, Ellis said, with 61 percent motivated by racial bias, 16 percent by ethnicity or national origin, 16 percent by sexual orientation and 7 percent by religious bias. At the committee hearing Carolyn Galloway of Texas Eagle Forum objected that protecting gays might lead to stronger rights for gays and lesbians in schools, and workplaces. INITIATIVE AND REPERENDUM is a popular move to take legislative issues out of the hands of lawmakers and put them on statewide ballots. Legislative leaders have come up with S.J.R. 5, a proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by David Cain, D-Dallas, and Jane Nelson, RFlower Mound. It is really a “bait and switch” that keeps the Legislature in control of the process, which progressive activists are coming to realize may be a good thing after all. Under the Cain-Nelson plan, which is endorsed by Lieut. Gov . Bob Bullock, the Legislature, with two-thirds votes of both chambers, could submit proposals to statewide votes, which is what they now do for constitutional amendments. Unlike other states, such as California, where initiative and referendum has been a mechanism for right-wing populist revolts against property taxes, immigrants, and lately, affirmative action, the Texas plan would not allow referenda to be initiated by petition drives. Other proposals that would allow petition initiatives have been filed. Luis Wilmot of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Foundation said his group opposes initiative and referendum plans. That is a testament to the increasing influence Hispanic Texans feel in the Legislature. In the 1960s, Wilmot noted, then-Senator Joe Bernal proposed initiative and referendum because progressives and minorities could not get anything passed any other way. “Now he’s the biggest opponent because it can be used by an ultraminority with megabucks” that can influence opinion in a referendum, Wilmot said. UVENILE CRIME PREVENTION Eill got mugged in the House, which voted 118-24 for more punishment for juvenile offenders in revisions to the juvenile justice system that the Fort Worth Star Telegram editorialized resembled a dirigible: “impressive, thinly covered and fragile THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5
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