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COVERING CHECKS IS `COURTESY' TO TEXAS LAWMAKERS

Congress isn't the only legislature whose members had the privilege of writing bad checks without penalties, a newspaper reported Friday.

Some Texas legislators have cashed bad checks at a personal check-cashing service operated by the State Treasury at Austin, spokesmen for the last two state treasurers told The Dallas Morning News.The overdrafts were repaid without any loss to the state and no records were kept of the legislators who wrote the checks, the spokesmen said.

Mark Toohey, a spokesman for current Treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison, said lawmakers and state officials had cashed about 300 checks at the service last year, and "a handful" of them were bad.

All of the bad checks were made good when they were presented again to the bank, Toohey said. He and a spokesman for Hutchinson's predecessor, Gov. Ann Richards, said no lawmaker was penalized and the bad checks did not cost the state anything.

Toohey called the practice "a courtesy" that has been extended to elected officials for more than a decade.

George Bayoud, chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission and the head of Common Cause of Texas, recommended Thursday that the perk be abandoned.

"Because of all the uproar that has taken place, and rightfully so in Washington with all those bounced checks, then it would not be a good idea to continue that practice any more," Bayoud said.

Toohey said Hutchinson would look into the issue.