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Alan Pogue Kent Grusendorf A Personal privilege: heart of a Travis County delegation widely credited with generating much progressive legislation and quietly but firmly shepherding it through the process. Naishtat acknowledges that part of their effectiveness stems from the relative security of their seats, so that unlike other progressive Democrats, they don’t have to spend quite so much time and energy watching their backs or worrying about being punished for “wrong” votes. They have become greatly effective lawmakers. Maxey is characteristically soft-spoken about the mysteries of legislative wheeling and dealing. “People don’t understand this,” he says, “but half the battle in the Texas Legislature is being in your seat, doing your homework, and just not missing the deadlines.” Maxey was in his seat before the session started, when the House rules were rewritten; he and his staff get most of the credit that this is the first session in Texas history in which the term “regressivity”the question of the basic fairness and equity of the tax systemwas a watchword in every discussion of taxes. That was so because Maxey convinced Laney and the rules committee to require a “tax equity note” for every bill affecting taxation. “That simple tax equity noteof how the tax bill affects different populations and socio-economic groupsthat one thing changed the whole debate on taxes.” Throughout the session, Maxey worked closely with Dick Lavine of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Lavine’s ubiquitous tax fairness charts earned him the rare compliment of an irritated dismissal by Governor Bush, who told the press, “Oh, you can’t listen to those people [on regressivity]. They just want an income tax.” Bush may get more irritated in 1999; thanks to Maxey, the comptroller is now required says the reports will confirm “who’s winning and who’s losing” in the current system, and all future tax discussions will have to start from there. Convincing the Speaker and House Parliamentarian on the tax equity rules, Maxey says, “was a sweet victory.” Maxey also recited a long list of bills he wrote or co-sponsored which he believes will improve the lives of ordinary Texans: home-equity, HMO liability, contact lens prescription info, open college enrollment, high risk insurance, the Healthy Kids program, tobacco regulation. He cited the home-equity lending bill as a special instance of consumer groups banding together to out-maneuver the banking lobby, by drafting a bill filled with consumer protections. “How the hell did we take the lobby on,” Maxey asked, “as progressives, in a conservative, more Republican House?…We beat big tobacco, we beat nursing homes, we beat the bankers. And this is the Texas House of Representatives. Go figure.” It’s worth figuring, and from more than one perspective. Since he was first elected in 1991, Maxey’s person as well as his politics have been a House issue. As the “only openly gay legislator,” he has endured disdain, spite, and outright hatred throughout his tenure; he responds with a quiet dignity that has disarmed even most of his opponents. Now he has clearly become a “player,” and Republicans dread him for what he can do to their legislation. “The biggest compliment I ever got,” he said, “is that Kent Grusendorf devoted a meeting of his conservative caucus to what they should do about me, calling me ‘the biggest thorn in their side.’ I was hoping he’d put that in print, so I could campaign on it.’ But Maxey’s sexual identity also remains very much an issue, at least with Grusendorf and hard-right members who identify with the agenda of the Christian Coalition. They had two hot-button bills they desperately wanted to push this session: parental notification for abortions by minor children, and the banning of “samesex marriages” in Texas. A progressive coalition \(including some from becoming law. Maxey was personally responsible for putting himself in the path of the anti-same-sex proposals, which were little more than cynical exercises in gay-bashing. He first defied them directly, by preemptively announcing that should any come to the floor, he would essentially stop all House business by offering hundreds of amendments. But the proponents, led by Pampa Republican Warren Chisum, kept looking for a way to bring a same-sex bill to a votein hopes of forcing some Democrats to cast a “progay” vote that could be used against them in the next election. .The fight culminated in an extraordinary scene on the evening of May 26, following the defeat of the parental notification bill on a point of order raised by Debra Danburg. Chisum unexpectedly rose to amend a domestic violence amendment by Naishtat, which would have enforced out-of-state protective orders in Texas \(and proposed to refuse such orders in the instance of same-sex partnershipsbut he admitted that he really wanted a record vote on the JUNE 20, 1997 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11