75TH TEXAS HOUSE VOTER CHART The Record Speaks Somewhere in the mid-latitudes of the 75th Session, Speaker Pete Laney advised the House that he had ordered technicians to inspect the voting consoles in each legislator’s desk to ensure that they were working properly. The Speaker was referring to a common malfunction, which results in House mem bers claiming that the machines had reflected incorrect votes. There never were any malfunctions, of course nor were any technicians called into the House to check on the voting equipment Laney was referring to phantom voters who cast votes when a representative steps away from his or her desk, or to legislators who vote one way, then step outside to talk to a committee chair or a lobbyistand sud denly realize that the vote cast was not wel4 not exactly what was intended egislators know that on rare occa sions their voting record matters. A truly egregious record of voting against the public interest can pro vide an incumbent with both an opponent and the finan cial support of the lobby. Warren Chisum of Pampa is an example of just such an incumbent. Chisum, a tobacco-industry franchise, earned his cigarette money this session when he passed an amendment that allows cigarette manufacturers to keep the contents of their products secret, although those contents are a threat to the health of the consumer; attempted to add to a bill a provision that would allow retailers to place cigarette machines within reach of all consumers including children; and twice attempted, unsuccessfully, to strip the enforcement funding from a tobacco bill by deleting a 10 percent tax on cigarette billboard ads. As ‘voting records do matter, we have selected twelve House votes related to education, the environment, health and human services, tax equity, and workers’ rights, and asked public interest lobbyists for their comagainst the public interestas defined by groups such as the Sierra Club, the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, and Texans for Public Justice. \(Because so many Senate votes are “agreed to” before they are brought to the floor, and because votes in the Senate tend to be extremely onesided, we have listed no Senate votes. The selected House votes are as follows: Education Vote 1 was an amendment to House Bill 4, best described as a faux voucher amendment. Offered by Talmadge Heflin, the amendment would have allowed a child to leave his public school and take all but $1,000 of the per-student state funding to a private school of choice. Its proponents claimed that because it left some when a child left, and also provided the school accepting the child between $3,500 and $5,500 per child, it was fair to all. It was tabled by an 81-66 vote. An “aye” or public interest. Education Vote 2 was an outright voucher vote offered up by Houston Democrat Ron Wilson. In defending his amendment, Wilson referred to “pimps and bloodsuckers” in public education, and promised that “sooner or later, we are going to have vouchers in Texas.” It was tabled by a 69-66 vote, although tabling it required recalling Democratic House members from committee meetings. The 69-66 vote was the closest the Legislature has come to enacting a voucher law to move tax dollars from public to private schools. An “aye” vote to table was a vote in the public interest. \(It is notable that House Education Chair Paul Sadler voted against Education Vote 3 was on final passage of Democrat Irma Rangel’ s bill to provide scholarships for teacher aides pursuing bachelors degrees and teacher certification. The bill, later killed in the Senate, would have required the aides to have worked in public schools for two years. It was viewed as a means to address a teacher shortage and to provide financial assistance to teacher aides, school personnel who are often drawn from lower socioeconomic classes and therefore unable to afford higher education. The bill would have cost the state nothing because its funding would have been moved from funds derived from a bill passed last session by Senator Gonzalo Barrientos. Barrientos’s bill offered a $1,000 bonus to students who graduated from high school in three years, and it reaped a large windfall from students who left the system a year early. An “aye” is a vote in the public interest. Environmental Vote 4 was a second reading vote on Democrat Sylvester Turner’s environmental justice bill, which would have required that solid waste facilities are no longer disproportionately located in low-income minority communities. The bill passed 85-54 in the House but was killed in the Senate. An “aye” vote for the bill is a vote in the public interest. Environmental Vote 5 was a second reading vote on Republican Ray Allen’s grandfather bill for refineries which, in effect, would have provided to refineries exemptions from air quality restrictions if the refineries had been emitting the same pollutants before new air control standards were put in place. The bill passed the House 93-37, and later passed the Senate. A “no” vote is a vote in the public interest. Environmental Vote 6 was a vote on Democrat Lon Burnam’s attempt to improve a bad piece of legislation filed by Republican Robert Talton. The bill would have allowed the Natural Resources Conservation Commission unprecedented freedom to exempt facilities from pollution controlsif there is no specific federal law THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21 JULY 18, 1997
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.