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March 7, 2001     (512) 463-0300
Dallas Sen. David Cain (right) played host to the Rev. Wesley Pierce and Pierce's wife, Annett, during Wednesday's session. Pierce, the pastor of Greenville's Pilgrim Tabernacle Church in Hunt County, was in the chamber to give the opening invocation.
Dallas Sen. David Cain (right) played host to the Rev. Wesley Pierce and Pierce's wife, Annett, during Wednesday's session. Pierce, the pastor of Greenville's Pilgrim Tabernacle Church in Hunt County, was in the chamber to give the opening invocation. The Senate also approved a resolution designating Wednesday, March 7, 2001, as Hunt County Day at the Capitol. The Senate invites different members of the clergy to serve as Chaplain of the Day and deliver the invocation.

Natural Resources Committee Chair
Files Texas Emissions Reduction Plan

AUSTIN - Lake Jackson Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown today announced that he has filed Senate Bill (SB) 5, dubbed the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan.

"I think after we talk about it you'll see that every Texan will love half of it, and probably every Texan will hate half of it," Brown said. "And that is because everyone will love the incentive part of the bill, and most everybody will probably not like the contribution part of the bill."

The bill proposes a system of incentive programs intended to reduce emissions across the state by focusing on reducing diesel emissions, creating incentives for leasing or buying low-emissions vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles, energy-efficient appliances and buildings and a technology research and development program.

Businesses and consumers would share in the cost of funding the programs. For example, it would cost more to renew driver's licenses and vehicle inspection stickers. The cost increases would vary depending on the area of the state.

In cities such as Houston and Dallas, which are in more danger of exceeding federal emissions guidelines and triggering federally mandated emission reduction action, the cost increase would be greater than in other areas of the state.

Thirty-seven counties in Texas are potential "non-attainment areas," meaning they are in danger of mandatory federal action if emissions are not reduced. Brown said SB 5 is designed to improve air quality statewide and avoid federal intervention while still encouraging economic growth.

Brown, the chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, was flanked by regulatory and business representatives and a spokesman for Public Citizen, a health and safety advocacy group, when he announced the bill. La Porte Sen. Mike Jackson, a co-sponsor of the bill, and Senators Jon Lindsay of Houston and Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth also joined Brown when he announced the bill.

Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) Commissioner R.B. "Ralph" Marquez called SB 5 "the most comprehensive" emissions reduction plan in the country. Marquez's re-appointment to the TNRCC was confirmed by the Senate in February with a warning from some senators that the TNRCC must do a better job of improving Texas' air quality.

Gregg Cooke, with the Environmental Protection Agency, said he supported the bill, which he said was better than plans implemented in other states facing rapid growth.

Brown said the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan is intended to supplement the federal Clean Air Act of 1990, not replace the federal legislation.

"I believe through cooperation, education and creativity we will be successful in meeting the standards while still allowing Texas' economy to thrive," Brown said.

In session, the Senate voted to pass 13 bills, including a proposal sponsored by Wichita Falls Sen. Tom Haywood, the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 331, that was approved after a lengthy debate.

CSSB 331 would lay the foundation for a comprehensive agriculture policy. But several senators voiced concerns about what happens when agricultural interests collide with public health and safety factors.

Senators Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Mario Gallegos of Houston, David Sibley of Waco and Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi voted against the bill.

In other Senate news, the Criminal Justice Committee voted to send to the full Senate a substitute to SB 795. The bill, sponsored by Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis, would make convicted criminals forfeit any profit derived from the sale of memorabilia associated with violent crimes.

Among the witnesses who testified in support of the bill was a woman whose 15-month-old daughter was killed by a nurse. The woman testified she later found letters the nurse had written from prison offered for sale on an Internet site.

The Senate stands in recess until 8 a.m. Thursday, when it will take up the Local and Uncontested Calendar. After that, the Senate will be adjourned until session at 11 a.m.

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