Longform

Paper Chase

It had come from lobbyist Don Lee, of the urban counties association; and the Texas Municipal League (TML) wasn't far behind. As chairman of the County Affairs Committee, Lewis had a longstanding close relationship with the local government groups.

Shanna Igo, 35, a former Senate aide among nine TML employees formally registered as lobbyists, says her group had set out to kill House Bill 1718--or at least block its progress. And Lewis was a willing participant in that game plan, she says. "He was just gung ho."

Out on the House floor, Turner, feeling ambushed, pleaded with Lewis to reconsider.

"Sylvester, I'm going to have to fight you on this one," Lewis responded.
"Fine," Turner said. "I can't take the amendment."
Less than 10 sentences into his opening remarks, Turner peered toward the rear of the cavernous House chamber and saw Rep. Fred Hill, a Richardson Republican, on his feet, leaning into the microphone.

"Does this dictate to local governments what they can charge?" Hill asked.
"It does not dictate to them," Turner said, citing the ability to appeal to the General Services Commission. "The whole essence of this bill is to make information available....We did not believe that agencies, counties, school districts ought to just be making a profit off of people simply making a request for information."

Turner's responses may have been on track. But momentum was not on his side.

"Mr. Speaker and members, this session we've heard a lot about local control," declared Lewis, his hands gently clasped on the lectern. Describing his amendment as allowing local governments to charge only their actual costs, Lewis seemed the epitome of reason. "That's all this amendment does, members."

Rep. Warren Chisum, a Pampa Democrat and head of the 89-member House Conservative Caucus, took a swing by characterizing the proposed state cost schedule as a dreaded "unfunded mandate."

Seeing Chisum enter the fray, Turner knew the fight was all but finished. As he put it later: "This was the session when local control was the sounding call. If you really wanted to rattle the chains, you just said 'local control.' When I saw Warren at the back mike speaking for the amendment and in opposition to me, I felt it was going to be rough. Republicans, by and large, vote in lockstep. If you're not listening to the debate and you look up and see who's talking, then that's what you have." (Chisum was not a Republican yet--he would switch after the session--but he had been voting like one for as long as anyone could remember.)

Still, Turner urged members to oppose the proposed changes. "If you vote for this amendment," he wa

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Gardner Selby