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\(.6.61.- GOVaRNOR ,You’Re SUPFORTinla A CoMPACT WITH MAINE AND VER/AORr THAT Wri.l. MAKE TEXAS T;45 ..,,…… NUCLEAR. WASTE DUMP FOR MC Wi-loiX NATION? 010 DO FORE EXPECT TO 5UPPogr YoU AFTER THAT? 47Gfi e ti ,44 POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE TORT TRAIN ROLLING. “When you run over a member of the Legislature, you may be next.” Houston Representative Harold Dutton was feeling a bit like a bug on a windshield as he concluded a lengthy Frida ‘ y night House debatewhich he bravely and thoroughly lostwith a brief moment of personal privilege. He was hoping, he said, simply to “prick the conscience” of those colleagues who had just voted to silence him. Dutton had been the only House member willing to place himself directly in the path of the S.B. 220 tort-reform express, a bill carried by San Angelo Democrat Rob Junell and a centerpiece of the business lobby’s program to suppress employee lawsuits. S.B. 220, the forum non conveniens bill, would keep non-Texas plaintiffs out of state courts. More specifically, it would protect Owens-Corning and other asbestos manufacturers from injured Alabama miners whobarred by absurd twoyear statutes of limitation in Alabama had turned to Texas as a forum of last resort. The bill had languished in committee until what Junell called a “compromise” allowed pre-1997 plaintiffs to remain in Texas courtsbut only if they accepted the radical limits on damages passed in the 1995 session. Dutton at first tried to derail the bill with a point of order, but when that was overruled he began a home-made filibuster of endless amendments, hoping to persuade the House to at least reject the “retroactive” element of the bill, which will effectively overturn the legal rules in force prior to January 1997. “It is simply not right,” argued Dutton, “to tell people who were obeying the law at the time, that we are now changing the law after the fact.” Among Dutton’s colleagues, only John Longoria of San Antonio and Miguel Wise of Weslaco rose to support him; Longoria passionately denounced the bill as the “selective protection of a particular industry.” But as each of Dutton’s serial amendments was voted down, push eventually came to shove. An impatient Pete Gallego moved the previous question, the opponents were sidestepped and S.B. 220 later why he thought so few members were willing openly to defy Junell \(or Owenssponded bluntly, “This House started to change in the 1995 session, when we passed that first round of tort reform bills. There now appears to be a groundswell in favor of business intereststo a House controlled by the larger business interests.” Dutton added that he hoped at least a few members would still remember they need to be “on the side of the peoplewhether or not the people happen to live in Texas.” D.C. WASTE WAR. It wasn’t long after the Legislature restored funding to the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Authority that the Texas-Maine-Vermont radwaste compact bill was scheduled for a House committee hearing in Washington. The threat in Austin to cut funding to the state agency which, according to El Paso Republican Representative Pat Haggerty, “spent $12 million on legal fees for only nine days’ worth of actual hearings,” was mostly bluster. In the end the Lege came through. So while opponents of the Authority’s proposed Sierra Blanca nuclear waste site are tied up with the dump’s permit fight in Austin, much of the action has shifted to Washington. This battle has been fought once before in Washington, when the last multi-state compact bill was defeated after Dallas Congressman John Bryant protested that a loophole in the compact bill would allow any number of states to dispose of nuclear waste in Texas. When Bryant offered to drop his opposition in exchange for an amendment that only would allow only Texas, Maine, and Vermont into the nuclear compact, the bill’s sponsors turned him down. They’re back, and the bill is scheduled for a series of hearings before the House Commerce Committee. The House Bill has twenty-two co-sponsors, including seventeen members of the Texas delegation. Governor Bush also supports it. Republican Henry Bonilla of San Antonio and Democrats Silvestre Reyes of El Paso and Lloyd Doggett of Austin oppose the bill, as do the commissioners courts of Presidio, Jeff Davis, and Culberson countiesall of which have passed resolutions against the compact. When the last compact bill was defeated by a two-to-one margin in September of 1995, senior Democrats Bryant and Ron Coleman of El Paso led the fight. Neither has returned to Congress. SMOKE ‘EM OUT. According to Ethics Commission filings, for this legislative session there were twenty-four lobbyists officially registered on tobacco company payrolls \(at a cially, add such industry groups as the Texas Civil Justice League and the Texas Association of Businesses and Chambers of Commerce, which allowed tobacco companies to dictate their opposition to H.B. 119, sponsored by Wichita Falls Democrat John Hirschi, et al. If signed by the Governor, the bill will require cigarette manufacturers to 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 6, 1997