Onslaught of Proposition 12 ads scales new heightsAirborne banners push 'yes' vote
By JANET ELLIOTT, Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
August 30, 2003
AUSTIN -- Even college football fans won't be able to avoid the ad blitz on Proposition 12 this weekend.
Airplane banners featuring the phrase, "Tackle Frivolous Lawsuits, Vote Yes on Prop. 12" will fly at the University of Texas vs. New Mexico State, Texas A&M vs. Arkansas State and Prairie View A&M vs. Texas Southern University games.
Gov. Rick Perry appears in the latest TV ad from the Yes on 12 campaign, now airing statewide. Perry appears with Evelyn Tobias-Merrill, a Corpus Christi physician who quit practicing after her medical liability premiums increased 300 percent.
"Vote for your doctors and for accessible and affordable health care," Perry says.
Opponents of the measure also have statewide television ads running. One spot features criticism of the amendment from two former Texas Supreme Court justices, James Baker and Deborah Hankinson. Baker is quoted as saying the amendment "cripples trial by jury."
Another commercial shows actors dressed in 19th-century garb gathered in a log cabin writing the Texas Constitution with quill pens. A lobbyist pulls up in a big, black sedan, scares the horses outside and then uses a pen to cross through words on a parchment document.
Proposition 12 adds a provision to the Texas Constitution authorizing the Legislature to set caps on lawsuit damages. Early voting started Thursday on the measure and 21 other proposed changes to the constitution. The election is Sept. 13.
Lawmakers this year enacted a cap on noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering of $250,000 for doctors and $250,000 for hospitals and other institutions with a maximum amount of $750,000. A previous cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases was ruled in violation of the open courts provision in the Bill of Rights.
The amendment also would allow the Legislature to enact other caps on damages in future legislative sessions.
Opponents on Friday released an analysis showing proponents of Proposition 12 gave $5.3 million to Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and lawmakers in 2002. Texans for Public Justice, an advocacy group that tracks money in Texas politics, counted direct contributions from PACs, businesses and trade groups that have supported the passage of Proposition 12.
These donors include insurance companies, HMOs, hospitals, nursing homes, doctor associations and pharmaceutical companies. They also include direct contributions from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the Texas Civil Justice League, the Texas Apartment Association and the Texas Association of Business.
Members of the Texas Legislature received a total of $4.5 million from the interest groups, Perry received $576,472 and Dewhurst got $247,700.
Lawmakers passed legislation putting Proposition 12 on the ballot, and also enacted a far-reaching rewrite of civil liability laws.
"Proposition 12 reveals the raw power of special-interest campaign money," said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice.