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April 20, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Education Committee Chair Introduces
School Employee Insurance Legislation

AUSTIN - Amarillo Sen. Teel Bivins today announced the filing of legislation to provide a state funded health insurance program for public school teachers and employees.

School districts, Regional Education Service Centers and Open Enrollment Charter Schools would be able to participate in the optional plan. Active teachers and employees as well as retirees would be eligible for coverage.

Bivins said the Senate Education Committee has done extensive work on school employee health insurance, hearing testimony from numerous groups to come up with a proposal.

"What I've tried to do today is get the cumulative work of the last two months reflected in a bill, Senate Bill 10, that four Republicans and four Democrats on the committee have co-sponsored. said Bivins, the chair of the committee. "I'm pleased with the bi-partisan support. I think that it reflects a bi-partisan commitment on the part of the Senate to begin the process of funding a public school district employee health insurance plan."

Senate Bill (SB) 10 would include at least five tiers of coverage. Teachers and employees would have the option of selecting their plan or could waive coverage altogether.

The State of Texas would contribute approximately $1 billion a year to the plan, Bivins said. If the state's portion is not enough to fund at least the basic coverage level, the school district must make up the difference.

"We don't get all the way home," Bivins said. "On the other hand, we've gotten a long way down the road if we were to adopt this plan. As I've said many times before, I think this plan represents a Chevrolet, not a Cadillac."

Bivins said the Education Committee will hear the bill Monday.

In today's session, the Senate passed a variety of bills, including a measure authored by Laredo Sen. Judith Zaffirini intended to address a shortage of licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) in the long-term care field.

"Basically, what this bill (SB 40) would do is provide tuition assistance for LVN students who agree to practice in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities," Zaffirini said. "It would require the (Texas Higher Education) Coordinating Board to establish and administer the tuition assistance program and to establish a program that best promotes the needs of long-term care clients."

The Senate also passed the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 704, authored by Dallas Sen. Royce West. The bill would allow a school district to discipline an educationally disadvantaged student for a dress code violation only if the district provides a way for the student to get clothing, without charge, that complies with the dress code.

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

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