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CAPITOL NOTEBOOK JAIALMG3 M4,40WO.W4MOw.WW ,04,..1r0 GUARD YOUR BEER The Star Bar in Austin is not a good place to go if you are overly sensitive to cigarette smoke or the blustering of local politicos, as the air there is thick with both, and the odor of blustering still clings to your sweater the next day. Right around five o’clock, though, before the fumes get too bad, you can observe certain Capitol personalities easing out of their work days at the bar’s small outdoor patio. Thanks to the invention of the cellular phone, this is not a discrete switch from working to not-working, but instead a continuous transition, as the lobbyist interrupts his drinking with calls, and vice versa. On a recent afternoon, for instance, Don “Dee” Simpson of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees was seen alternating long swigs of beer with gossip, grousing, and his little black phone. The bar talk soon fell to Simpson’s high blood pressure, Rio Grande Valley grapefruit, and the recent indictment of Yvette Lozano, the woman accused of sending a Bush debate preparation video to a Gore campaign adviser. In between disquisitions on these topics, however, Simpson passed around a chart comparing employment conditions for correctional officers in different states. The problem of understaffing in the Texas prison system is rooted in more than just low pay, Simpson pronounced, wielding a Dos Equis and a Parliament cigarette. “Compared to what these don’t do anything,” he said. In states like California, Connecticut, New Jersey, NewYork, and Pennsylvania, where state correctional officers have access to a labor-management committee, thirdparty grievance procedures, career lad ders, and continued training \(as well as top salaries ranging from $35,000 to percent to 7 percent. In Texas, where correctional officers enjoy none of those workplace benefits and top salaries of under $30,000, turnover is 23.6 percent. “What we have is the old Southern system with a little cowboy flavor thrown in,” said Simpson. “We don’t modernize, and don’t modernize, and don’t modernize. We’re still compensating people with a side of beef.” Legislators seem aware of the gravity of the problem, he says, but because of the lack of surplus funds this session, the lobbyist must work extra hard. Indicating an ornately tatooed waitress wearing tight leather pants, Simpson suggested that his next tactic might be to try to hire her to lobby for the guards, since “I don’t’ think I could find pants like that to fit me.” SWITCHING CHAMBERS CHANGING GENDERS Senator Leticia Van de Putte has taken up the banner for the transgendered, having introduced a Senate version of Representative Debra Danburg’s sexchange bill.”Currently Texas law is silent when someone has gone through a sexchange process,” says Van de Putte, sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. As a result, it can be difficult for transsexuals to legally change their name and gender, which leads to problems when it comes to applying for a job or getting married. Van de Putte has a more than theoret-. ical interest in the legislation: Her husband’s uncle is married to Christie Lee Littleton, the San Antonio woman whose previous marriage was declared invalid by the courts because she was born male. \(Littleton tried to sue for medical malpractice after her former husband’s death, but was denied standing on the premise that she had not been legitimately married to him. In its opinion on the case, the state’s 4th Court of Appeals said it was up to the Legislature to clarify the procedure by which a judge can grant recognition of a gender 15 years,” says Van de Putte. “I went to her beauty shop, and she did my daughters’ hair for prom. My husband’s uncle lived around the block from there, and she used to cut his hair.” She knew the two had been dating for about a year, she says, and recently they informed her they’d been marriedoutside of Bexar County, where Littleton’s first marriage went unrecognized. “As a family, everybody loves Christie Lee,” says Van de Putte. “To us it’s a real problem. What I’m trying to do is a clarification, as was requested in the court opinion.” Van de Putte also noted that she knows of at least one lesbian couple that was able to wed legally in Texas, because one of the women had once been \(and still was, CLAYTON’S GI FT March 7 must have brought back the good old days for former Speaker of the House Billy Clayton, as he stood out in front of the Capitol, before a crowd of several hundred cheering women. “I believe you are true citizens of Texas, you believe in individualism, and that a person can do what they want with their own money!” he declared to hoots and applause. While Clayton now lobbies for a variety of clients, including Hewlett Packard and Southwestern Bell, officials ,from those companies don’t often line up to hug and kiss him the way the members of the Texas Gifting Coalition did a few weeks ago. The TGC, whom Clayton also lobbies for, is made up of people who participate in “gifting”a curious hybrid of Junior League, feminist empowerment, The mostly female participants give “gifts” of money to a designated recipient, who can use her windfall however Statehouse Follies Dispatches from around the dome BY KAREN OLSSON 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3/30/01