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February 7, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Criminal Justice Committee Hears
Testimony of Slain Officer's Family

Austin - Emotional and sometimes confrontational testimony from the family of Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins topped a busy day in the Senate on Wednesday, February 7.

The members of the Hawkins family appeared before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee as part of the committee's ongoing overview of the Texas criminal justice system. Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff also met with the family Wednesday morning.

Lori Hawkins, the wife of the police officer allegedly killed on December 24 by one of the seven inmates who escaped from the Connally Unit in Kenedy on December 13, read from a prepared statement in which she said she blamed the state for the events leading up to the shooting death of her husband.

Jayne Hawkins, the mother of the Irving police officer, also called for changes in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in her testimony, which was highly critical of the agency and, in particular, its leadership.

Jayne Hawkins' testimony was often caustic and pointed, at times accusing the members of the Criminal Justice Committee of complacency. Victoria Sen. Ken Armbrister, the chair of the committee, to attempt to assure her that the committee shared her goal of ensuring that any mistakes that led to the escape are corrected.

The committee also voted to favorably report Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis' Senate Bill (SB) 87, dealing with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. A similar piece of legislation was one of the most contentious issues in the 1999 session. It was never reported out of committee. A favorable committee report opens the door for the full Senate to consider the measure.

In other Senate news, Amarillo Sen. Teel Bivins announced the introduction of SB 573, calling for a marketing campaign to increase higher education enrollment. Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief announced SB 572, proposing to boost enrollment in Texas nursing schools, and Dallas Sen. Royce West announced SB 576, dealing with increasing enrollment at the University of North Texas' South Dallas campus.

In session, the Senate had its busiest day so far in 2001, with final passage of five bills, SB 83, dealing with the regulation of facilities for the mentally handicapped; SB 144, dealing with chiropractic licensing qualifications; SB 145, dealing with chiropractic facility licenses; SB 170, relating to the Open Meetings Law's application to a quorum of directors of a state agency appearing a legislative meeting; and Committee Substitute Senate Bill (CSSB) 139 relating to prosecution and punishment of harassment. The bills will now go to the House of Representatives.

The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. Thursday, February 8.

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