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March 14, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Criminal Justice Committee Hears Racial Profiling Bill

AUSTIN - Dallas Sen. Royce West outlined his proposal before the Criminal Justice Committee today to end racial profiling by police.

The bill, Senate Bill (SB) 1074, also calls for police departments to implement policies and training programs aimed at curbing the practice. Police would also be required to collect ethnicity statistics in traffic stops and officers' interactions with suspects.

West said that although most law enforcement officers do not engage in racial profiling, making police accountable for their actions is the most critical component of the bill.

"The question is, what is the best approach to prevent racial profiling in this state, and, needless to say, in this country? I do not believe that we can simply adopt a bill that prohibits racial profiling and then pat ourselves on the back," West said.

The Criminal Justice Committee was also scheduled to hear testimony on SB 7, a proposal authored by Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis to improve criminal defense for the indigent.

In session, the Senate passed the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 6, a bill intended to strengthen Texas' campaign financing laws by increasing the level and details of disclosure requirements.

"I believe money in campaigns should always be visible," said Plano Sen. Florence Shapiro, the bill's author.

CSSB 6 was quickly passed by a voice vote, but a pair of other bills taken up today sparked considerable and lengthy debate.

CSSB 577, authored by Amarillo Sen. Teel Bivins, would create a phased-in driver's license system that would restrict the time of day that teenagers can legally drive for the first six months they have their license.

Under the bill, new drivers would not be allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. A pair of amendments sponsored by Houston Sen. John Whitmire were added to CSSB 577 would allow an exemption for students returning home from school activities and would change the hours to midnight to 5 a.m.

SB 524, sponsored by Victoria Sen. Ken Armbrister, would allow private schools to compete against public schools in University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities as members of the UIL district under UIL rules.

West and Houston Sen. Mario Gallegos led the opposition to the bill, causing Armbrister to stop short of moving for a vote for final passage.

Earlier in the day, El Paso Sen. Eliot Shapleigh announced in a press conference that he will oppose any legislation that would hold the Longhorn Pipeline to stricter standards than other pipelines. Gallegos was quoted in a press release that he would join Shapleigh in opposing such legislation.

The Longhorn Pipeline is an old crude oil pipeline between the Gulf Coast and West Texas. There are plans to begin transporting gasoline through the pipeline. Opponents of the plan say the line crosses too many environmental and residential areas to safely carry gasoline.

"We will oppose any effort to apply a separate standard," Shapleigh said. "We will oppose any effort to delay the project once all federal regulations are met."

The Senate stands adjourned until 11 a.m. Thursday.

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