In an emotional half-hour speech before his colleagues in the House of Delegates, Del. Thomas W. Moss Jr. (D-Norfolk) denounced a newspaper article that said he sponsored legislation aiding his law clients.
"I have never sponsored a piece of legislation at the behest of a client," he said in attacking an article in The Washington Star's Sunday edition. "I have never sponsored legislation that would benefit me financially."
A short way into his speech, which Moss began as a "point of personal privilege," it appeared the veteran legislator, well-known for his quick wit even dealing with arcane subsections of the Virginia Code, would start crying.
After Moss finished his extemporaneous remarks, all the other delegates rose and applauded him.
The Star article, nothing that Moss had represented a savings and loan association and many applicants for alcoholic beverage licenses, said he has sponsored "many pieces of legislation very helpful to their same industries."
Moss said in his speech that four of the six alcoholic beverage bills he sponsored this session were requested by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. ABC officials confirmed they had requested them. Of the other two bills, one would permit patrons to be served drinks while standing (it passed both the House and Senate) and the second would permit license applicants to appeal a rejection to the Circuit Court (it also passed both Houses). Moss said "not a bill I have sponsored under the ABC laws can be of any benefit to my clients."
Moss, chairman of the general laws committee which handled all the legislation mentioned in the star article, spent most of his speech critizing the story for implying there was a connection between the savings and loan bills he sponsored and his law practice.
Moss said the only time he has represented a savings and loan institution was last year. At that time, Virginia Beach Federal Savings and Loan institution retained him to protest the branch application of a Richmond sayings and loan before State Corporation Commission. He said he was only one of four lawyers (the other were representing other institutions also protesting the branch application) in a local dispute among S&-Ls.
Moss said he sponsored four S&L bills this year because he was asked to do so by the Virginia Savings and Loan League. According to league president Mark W. Saurs, the group sought out Moss because the Norfolk delegate had proposed legislation similar to two of the measures four years ago, and because "he's the best man to put in a bill for you. He studies the legislation, he's well liked and he's trusted."
In defense of his independence as a legislator, Moss said he voted against a bill (defeated in the House) that would have permitted S&Ls to raise add-on interest from 7 to 8 per cent, as commercial banks are now permitted to do.
Del. Josept P. Crouch (R. Lynchburg) offered a bill this session that would have prohibited legislators from representing clients before state agencies. The bill, which was defeated in the Courts of Justice Committee 19 to 0, would force Moss, along with a number of other legislators, to give up some clients.