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February 12, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Shapiro Calls for More
Uniform Election Dates

AUSTIN - Plano Sen. Florence Shapiro on Monday, February 12, called for more uniform election dates from the local to the state level.

Shapiro said her proposal, Senate Bill (SB) 79, is intended to combat low voter turnout resulting from what she called "voter fatigue" from having as many as 10 elections during a year.

"We want to do anything that we can to initiate voter-friendly programs," Shapiro said. "We want to encourage citizen participation. We want to enhance the elections process in any way that we can, because the citizens deserve that."

Texas currently has four uniform dates but 10 exceptions, Shapiro said.

"Prime example: Collin County, where I live. The voters went to the polls a total of nine times in 2000," Shapiro said. "Several of those elections had less than five percent voter turnout."

Shapiro said SB 79 would create exceptions for runoff, court-ordered and emergency elections as well as elections made necessary by legislative vacancies.

In other Senate news, Amarillo Sen. Teel Bivins announced that he would file legislation dealing with increasing the accuracy of dropout reporting by school districts. Bivins, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, said the measure, SB 646, incorporates the committee's recommendations made following an interim study.

"We, as a state, can't address the problem of dropouts until we know who we are talking about," Bivins said, "and that means we need to make changes to ensure completeness, consistency and quality control in the collection of accurate, reliable data."

SB 646 proposes to add completion rates of high school students to the measures used in the state's accountability system. Completion rates measure how many ninth-grade students complete their high school within 4 years. The bill would also require school districts to have their dropout records examined by a third-party auditor. SB 646 would also do away with the current requirement that the Texas Education Agency project estimated dropout rates for the next five years, which Bivins said is of little value, especially for the resources that have to be dedicated to the undertaking.

In session, the Senate voted for final passage of three bills, SB 171, Committee Substitute to Senate Bill (CSSB) 173 and CSSB 327. SB 171 and CSSB 173 were amended during floor debate.

SB 171 makes it easier to renew a chiropractic license that has been expired for 1 to 3 years. CSSB 173 allows court costs and fines to be deducted from the cash refund of a bail bond. Both measures were authored by Dallas Sen. John Carona.

CSSB 327 allows the servicing of portable fire extinguishers that are missing a label of approval. Under current state law, portable fire extinguishers without the label cannot be leased, sold, rented, serviced or installed. La Porte Sen. Mike Jackson sponsored the legislation.

The measures now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. Tuesday, February 13, 2001.

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