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March 27, 2001     (512) 463-0300
Photo: Governor Rick Perry visiting with Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff on the rostrum during today's session.
Governor Rick Perry visiting with Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff on the rostrum during today's session.

On Second Day, Senate Passes Bill
Addressing School Start Date

AUSTIN - In session today the Senate passed a bill sponsored by Brownsville Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., that would establish a more uniform starting date for public schools.

Under the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 108, school districts would be prohibited from starting classes earlier than the week in which August 21 falls.

The bill first came up on the Senate floor Monday, but Lucio left the bill pending without moving for final passage after unexpected opposition arose to his motion to debate the bill.

Opposition continued today, with Senators Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, David Bernsen of Beaumont, Steve Ogden of Bryan, Florence Shapiro of Plano and Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi voting against bringing the bill up for debate. CSSB 108 was finally passed on a voice vote.

Lucio said the bill is intended to allow time for children of migrant families to get back home before the beginning of the school year. Many migrant families travel out of state to work during summer months.

CSSB 108 will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. If the bill becomes law, it would be effective on September 1, but would not apply to school districts until the 2002-2003 school year.

Among the other bills passed by the Senate today were CSSB 624, authored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan, and CSSB 1164 authored by Truan.

CSSB 624 would void liability waivers signed by employees of companies that do not participate in the workers compensation system. Currently, employer participation in the workers compensation system is voluntary in Texas. In describing the bill, Duncan warned that without the bill's waiver provision Texas might be forced to make participation mandatory.

CSSB 1164 is intended to prepare for upcoming federal decisions about military base closures. The bill would have Texas military bases prepare reports concerning strategies to keep the bases open. The reports would include information regarding private-sector investment in the installations and surrounding communities.

In other Senate news, Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief spoke at a press conference announcing a $50,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to support enrollment activities in the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

"When families have insurance, kids have improved health," Moncrief said, "and parents have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if their child is hurt or sick, medical help will not break the family financially."

Moncrief, the chair of the Health and Human Services Committee, said more than 285,000 children have been enrolled in CHIP.

Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, along with State Representatives Patricia Gray and Kip Averitt, joined Moncrief at the press conference.

According to Texas Department of Health figures, more than 1.2 million children in Texas do not have health insurance. CHIP provides coverage for children up to 18 years of age whose family income is between 101 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

"I have always believed that if we were to be successful in improving access to health insurance for our children, it could not happen through legislative action alone," Nelson said. "It is going to take a partnership between the state, the private sector and community leaders."

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

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