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January 23, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Senators Discuss 2001
Legislative Priorities

AUSTIN - Members of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus presented their agenda for the 2001 Legislative Session at a Capitol press conference on Tuesday, January 23, 2001.

Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, the group's chair, said he and his fellow Democrats expect the bipartisan tradition of the Texas Senate to continue.

"We're optimistic about this session," Barrientos said. "We are confident we'll have a good working relationship with (Lt.) Governor (Bill) Ratliff and our other Republican colleagues. Whether Democrats or Republicans, we all want what's best for Texas."

The press conference comes one day before Gov. Rick Perry is to give his first State of the State address before the Texas Legislature.

"We'll no doubt agree with many proposals Gov. Perry will outline in his speech," Barrientos said, "and we look forward to working with him to make them happen."

The Democratic Caucus' agenda focuses on education, health care, criminal justice, and border issues as well as state employee pay raises and environmental issues.

"It looks like a lot of good ideas," said Waco Sen. David Sibley, the chair of the Senate Republican Caucus. But Sibley questioned where the money to fund many of the initiatives would come from.

Gov. Perry will deliver his State of the State address at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, January 24, in the House Chamber.

In other Capitol news, Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo announced his filing of Senate Bill (SB) 344, relating to the oil and gas severance tax and other issues. Bivins said the intent of SB 344 is designed to provide a sliding scale for collecting severance taxes for oil and gas, with the goal of preventing Texas' oil and gas producers from facing a crisis similar to the one of the late 1990s, when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 290, an emergency measure that temporarily exempted producers from paying severance taxes while oil and gas prices were critically low.

The Texas Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. Wednesday, January 24, 2001.

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