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BAD BILLS Legislation To Look Forward To.. . BY THE BAD BILLS GIRL Superbaaad! S.B. 571 Sponsor: Sen. Jon Lindsay \(R -And the winner of the James Brown Honorary Superbaaad Bill Award is…Lindsay’s S.B. 571, a bill that would bar cities from increasing the minimum wage above that of the remainder of the state. Never mind that the former County Judge with the checkered past ran for Senate on a Republican let’slimit-government platform: apparently as long as state regulations are OK with business, they’re OK with Lindsay. The bill, which passed the Senate 26-3 on April 7, attempts to drive another nail into the coffin of Houston’s failed Living Wage campaign. In a spirited articulation of the race-tothe-bottom theory of regional economics, Lindsay has warned that the very prospect that a city might raise its minimum wage could deter businesses from moving to Texas. Looks like every Senator agrees with him except for Carlos Truan \(D-Cor\(D-D-Galena There are a few more dissenters in the House, where Rep. Kevin Bailey \(D-HousD-the state’s minimum wage to $6.50. Citizens, Be Quiet Already H.B. 2444 Rep. Robert Talton \(R -There are industry-sponsored bills that masquerade behind some supposed good like “tort reform,” and then there are those that just charge baldly forward. In the latter category is Talton’s 2444, which would end contested case hearings on pollution permits issued by the Texas Natural Resources Under current law, when a polluter moves to the neighborhood or tries to expand its operation, citizens can challenge the permit application by requesting a contested case hearing, in which the citizen, the applicant, and the agency all present evidence, give testimony, and cross-examine witnesses. Fewer than 1 percent of permit applica tions, renewals, or amendments go to hearing; nonetheless industries would like to eliminate the hearings and replace them with a quick-and-dirty procedure. In Talton’s bill, the public would have thirty days to comment on an applicationhardly enough time to seek expert opinionand could request a which the agency would be free to ignore. Name That Drug S.B. 1444 H.B. 2571 These bills would sneak an amendment into the Texas Pharmacy Act to make it harder for pharmacists to substitute generic drugs for more expensive name-brand ones. For a class of medications known as Narrow and H.B. 2571 require that a pharmacist refilling a prescription use the exact same drug that was initially dispensed, unless prior consent is obtained from the doctor. \(Currently a doctor indicates whether or not she’ll allow substitutions by checking “dispense as written,” or “product selection permitted” on the prescription form; pharmacists are required by law to obey these instructions and to check with the patient Dupont-Merck, which wants to safeguard a particular drug called Coumadin from generic competition, has been pushing the same legislation in a number of states and bankrolling an advocacy group called the “Coalition for NTI Drug Safety.” But the proposed measures would do more than protect name-brands. They would also spell hassle for patients who’re given generic drugs on their first pharmacy visit, since they would then be required to keep getting the same generic drug \(which Bad Chemistry H.B. 1144 Sponsor: Rep. Bob Turner \(D -The boss from Voss and his friends at the Chemical Council and the Texas Depart ment of Agriculture would like to repeal the 1987 state farmworkers’ right-to-know lawlegislation that requires farms to inform workers and communities about the pesticides they’re using, and to keep records of pesticide use with the Department of Agriculture for 30 years. Turner has been proposing to do away with these requirements for several sessions now. This year he’s trying it again, cide information standards have gone into effect, so Turner can claim that the state law is no longer necessary. Not so, says AFL-CIO’s Walter Hinojosa: the federal legislation complements the state law but doesn’t substitute for it. Under state law, farmworkers must receive detailed “crop sheets” upon being hired; in other words they’re given immediate, specific, bilingual instructions and an illustrated document. Federal standards are vaguer, stipulating that workers be told about pesticides sometime within their first five days of work in recently-sprayed fields. Just one line of the long bill repeals the workers’ right-to-know law; the rest is unobjectionable stuff combining pesticide and herbicide regulations, and the AFL-CIO is still hoping to excise the right-to-know repeal. Last session the same regulationstreamlining bill failed because of the repeal provision. Now, the proposed legislation has mysteriously gone underground: H.B. 1144 was voted out of committee in late March but hadn’t made it to the calendar committee at press time. Hinojosa called this “suspicious….Normally that takes a couple days.” A bill gone missing at the Capitol? Next time you’re out walking alone late at night and hear what sounds like the chemical industry breathing behind you, look outkeep a safe distance, and report any sightings to FollyWatch at 1-800-BAD-BILL. \(And in the meantime, let your state rep know you Bad Bills are compiled by the Observer’s Bad Bills Girl. If you have a candidate for APRIL 25, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15