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February 22, 2001     (512) 463-0300
Senator Chris Harris listening to his birthday resolution in the Senate Chamber
Arlington Senator Chris Harris listening to his birthday resolution in the Senate Chamber. Senate Resolution 336 was sponsored by the four women Senators, Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, Florence Shapiro of Plano, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.

Ratliff Addresses
Medicaid Contractor Probe

AUSTIN - Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff spoke with reporters Thursday about the Travis County district attorney's investigation of a contractor for the state Medicaid program.

Investigators on Wednesday seized records from the Austin and Plano offices of National Heritage Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Dallas-based Electronic Data Systems that has processed Medicaid claims under a state contract.

Ratliff said he did not think the inquiry would hinder efforts this session to simplify the Medicaid enrollment process.

"I can't imagine anybody that would resist doing something to help particularly the children on Medicaid because of problems in the administration of it," Ratliff said. "Surely those are two separate questions. I can't imagine anybody that would oppose any changes like that simply because we've got problems with the contractor."

Ratliff also addressed the "Border Marshall Plan," a proposal that legislators have talked about this session to fund large-scale infrastructure improvements in the Texas-Mexico Border region.

"I think that I, along with many others, are sympathetic to the needs," Ratliff said. "As they know, and I'm sure they said, this is a difficult session to address many of the money needs, but I'm certainly willing to try to work with them to do what we can."

In session, the Senate passed 11 bills today, including a measure to make it against state law for someone under a protective order to possess a firearm. Dallas Sen. Royce West sponsored the bill, the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 199.

A floor amendment by Lake Jackson Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown was added to CSSB 199 before it was passed. Brown's amendment would exempt local and state law enforcement officers.

Federal law already prohibits an individual under a protective order to have a firearm in their possession.

Earlier in today's session, the Senate "narrowly" adopted Senate Resolution (SR) 336.

SR 336 was offered by the four female members of the Senate to honor the birthday of Arlington Sen. Chris Harris, sometimes jokingly referred to as "Mr. Congeniality" by his colleagues.

While introducing the resolution, the sponsors noted that Harris sits on the south side of the chamber while the four of them are on the north side. Plano Sen. Florence Shapiro offered to "trade" Houston Sen. John Whitmire for the day so Harris could join the women on the north side of the chamber.

"Mr. Congeniality" learned that his fellow senators have a few other nicknames for him.

"Dollface ... sweetness and light," said Laredo Sen. Judith Zaffirini.

"... honey, teddy bear, mister charm, lovey," Shapiro added.

The other SR 336 sponsors were Senators Jane Nelson of Flower Mound and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio.

"The only response I have is that the traits that I have learned are due to Lady Z (Zaffirini)," Harris said. "When she was giving all the other members English-Spanish dictionaries, she gave me one on the battle tactics of Attila the Hun. And I read it, Lady Z, I've taken it to heart, and I hope I've performed admirably under the direction of the book that you gave me."

With tongue firmly in cheek, the Senate passed the resolution by a 16-15 margin.

The Senate is adjourned until 1 p.m. Monday, February 26.

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