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POLITICAL INTEL Target on His Back FIRE WHEN READY The News Gods cannot possibly be this kind. Former state Rep. Mike Martin, a politician of known caliber, set his sights on a city council seat in Bee Cave, but his attempted return to elected office proved too much of a long shot. \(We Perhaps we should reload a bit of history: In 1981 Martin was a Republican representative from East Texas who made national news after allegedly arranging to have his cousin shoot blaming his injuries on a Satanic cult \(specifically, the Guardian Angels of the Underworld, who Martin said were The cops didn’t bite, and Martin found himself in their crosshairs \(make us that maybe Martin was trying to fire up public sympathy to bolster a bid for higher office. When the heat came looking, Martin hid in a stereo cabinet at his mother’s house. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor perjury charge, paid a $2,000 fine, and promised not to run for the Legislature again. Since then the 55-year-old has been going by Wayne Martin \(Wayne is his cal engineer in Bee Cave, a town nestled on Austin’s southwest border, and was one of four candidates for three council seats in the May 12 election. Martin now says, according to the Austin American-Statesman, that he lied about the shooting incident for years because what really happened was that he got into a fracas while driving on South Congress Avenue and fired the first shot himself. How could Bee Cave voters know he’s shooting straight now? Because, he said, his aim is true. \(We really, really apologize, but at this point we’re out Bee Cave need my expertise,” he told the Statesman. Would Bee Cave voters embrace the skills of a politician who’s been tested under fire.? Nope. They apparently decided Martin was shooting blanks and sent him packing. PAYDAY, MAYDAY El Paso Democratic Sen. Eliot Shapleigh came into this session with a handful of bills to tighten regulations on payday loan operators, businesses that promise cash advances with a short-term loan. These lenders charge exorbitant interest rates and fees, often starting at around 600 percent, but accumulating to over 1,000 percent. Of all Shapleigh’s bills, Senate Bill 855 seemed most likely to pass. The bill would protect active military and their families from predatory lending by capping interest on payday loans at 36 percent. A 2006 report by the U.S. Department of Defense found that payday loan operators around the country are targeting members of the armed forces, clustering around bases and using names like “Military Cash Advances.” Congress has said the loans are a security threat \(though what isn’t have on soldiers’ morale. Shapleigh’s bill is modeled on a federal law, passed last year, to take effect in October. It would allow for increased enforcement at the local level, according to the author. After a smooth hearing in the Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee, the bill passed the Senate unanimously. San Antonio Republican Rep. Frank Corte, who chairs the Defense Affairs Committee, agreed to sponsor the bill in the House. Then the bill was sent instead to the Financial Institutions Committee, and suddenly its future seemed dim. “The predatory lenders have many friends on that committee,” Shapleigh says. In the last election cycle, the banking and insurance industries threw $128,000 at committee Chairman Burt Solomons, a Carrollton Republican, including donations of $5,000 each from two of the nation’s largest predatory lenders: Southern California’s ACC Capital Holdings Corp., and David Davis, who, with his father and brother, runs Cincinnati-based CNG Financial Corp. After a disastrous trip through Solomons’ committee, the bill is set to hit the House floor more or less defanged. Rather than allowing for state enforcement of the interest rate cap, the committee substitute mandates that Texas’ consumer credit commissioner forward complaints to the feds. As written, the bill would provide no additional enforcement. If approved by the House, the bill could head to a conference committee, where Solomons could still stand tough on behalf of lenders. “Once these bills get to the floor,” Shapleigh says of his predatory lending package, “once they see the light of day and people start to hear the facts, these bills will pass.” At this point how much of a difference that makes is questionable. CONSCIENCE IN THE HOUSE Many assumed El Paso Democratic Rep. Paul Moreno was about to announce his retirement when he wheeled to the front microphone of the House chamber on May 8. After a month’s absence from the chamber, Moreno had requested permission to deliver a personal privilege speech. The longest-serving Mexican American lawmaker in the nation, according to the El Paso Times, had experienced a tough few months. He was injured in a fall from his wheelchair. His chief of staff for more than a decade died during surgery to remove colon cancer. And his longtime caretaker, his “beloved Maria,” required emergency surgery to remove a mass from her stomach. It would have been understandable if, after 40 years in the Texas House, 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 18, 2007