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April 17, 2001     (512) 463-0300
Photo: Senator J.E. 'Buster' Brown debating the merits of the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 5 in the Senate Chamber
Lake Jackson Senator J.E. 'Buster' Brown debating the merits of the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 5 in the Senate Chamber. CSSB 5, the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, intends to improve air quality by reducing emissions by creating a system of incentive programs. Thirty-seven Texas counties are in danger of mandatory federal action if emissions are not reduced.

Senate Votes to Pass
Texas Emissions Reduction Plan

AUSTIN - Lake Jackson Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown, the chair of the Natural Resources Committee, won passage of the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 5 in the Senate today.

The bill, dubbed the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, would create a system of incentive programs intended to improve air quality 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, businesses would receive incentives for installing emission-reducing equipment, while consumers would pay 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.

Following a lengthy floor debate, CSSB 5 was easily passed by a vote of 29 for, 1 against and one present but not voting.

The Senate also passed a bill that would increase the level of compensation for persons wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Under CSSB 536, authored by Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis, an individual could receive $25,000 for each year spent in prison. The bill would also provide compensation for lost wages, counseling and medical expenses and court expenses.

Current state law places a $50,000 total cap on compensation, which was established by the Legislature in 1965.

"Sometimes it's not enough just to say 'I'm sorry,'" Ellis said. "When such a life-altering mistake has been made, the state clearly has a moral obligation to help wrongfully imprisoned Texans the opportunity to rebuild their lives."

CSSB 536 would allow compensation if an individual receives a full pardon or the conviction is vacated, dismissed or reversed based on innocence.

Anthony Johnson, a Houston man who served nine years for a rape conviction before being freed on DNA evidence, was in the Senate gallery when the bill was passed.

"Compassion is not a sign of weakness. It is a hallmark of justice," Ellis said. "This common sense reform sends a signal that Texas will stand up to right a wrong."

The Senate also passed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's (TPWD) Sunset legislation. The Sunset process is a regular assessment of state agencies conducted by the Sunset Advisory Commission to determine the continuing need and activities of a particular agency.

The bill, CSSB 305, was authored by Arlington Sen. Chris Harris. It was passed without opposition.

In other news, Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff announced today that the Senate will also convene on Fridays beginning this week.

The Senate stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

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