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April 24, 2001     (512) 463-0300
Photo: Sen. David Cain pets Loco, a mixed-breed puppy whose eyes were gouged out earlier this year
Dallas Sen. David Cain pets Loco, a mixed-breed puppy whose eyes were gouged out earlier this year. Cain announced at a press conference this morning Senate Bill (SB) 1724, which would make cruelty to domestic animals a felony offense. Cain said the bill was prompted in part by the incident which caused the dog's injuries. Loco is being held by his owner, Greg Autry of Dallas.

Medicaid-Restructuring Bill
Wins Senate Approval

AUSTIN - A broad proposal to overhaul the state's Medicaid program was passed by the Senate in today's session.

The bill, the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 1156, was authored by Laredo Sen. Judith Zaffirini.

"This is the omnibus Medicaid bill that restructures the Medicaid program by moving the administration of Medicaid from the different agencies to the Health and Human Services Commission," Zaffirini said.

Other key provisions of the bill include:

Seven agencies are currently responsible for Medicaid administration. Zaffirini said CSSB 1156 is intended to improve efficiency and accountability.

"We face significant cost increases as fewer Texans receive adequate health care," Zaffirini said. "We drafted (the bill) to improve the health status of Texans while increasing administrative efficiency, introducing an effective system of checks and balances and improving cost savings."

The Senate also passed Senate Bill (SB) 1045, a measure focusing on consumer safety and the enforcement of safety laws.

"In 1972 the Legislature enacted the Texas Hazardous Substances Act to protect consumers from unsafe consumer products, particularly children's toys," said Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief, the author of SB 1045. "That act has not been updated to conform with revised federal law. The bill updates the substance act and makes it consistent with federal consumer product safety laws."

SB 1045 would require manufacturers to register with the state and increases the enforcement authority of the Texas Department of Health (TDH). Under current law, TDH is required to refer complaints to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Moncrief chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Other legislation considered by the Senate today included the Committee Substitute for Senate Joint Resolution (CSSJR) 35, authored by San Antonio Sen. Jeff Wentworth, the chair of the Redistricting Committee.

CSSJR 35 proposes a constitutional amendment that would require that redistricting be handled in a special session. Redistricting is done every 10 years, following the U.S. Census.

Wentworth did not make a motion for final passage of CSSJR 35. The measure could come up for final passage in the Senate as early as Wednesday. If approved by both chambers of the Legislature and signed by the governor, the proposed amendment to the constitution would be on the ballot in the November general election.

The Senate also considered SB 70, a proposal authored by Wichita Falls Sen. Tom Haywood that would authorize the creation of covenant marriages. A covenant marriage would involve more stringent premarital requirements and obligations, with the intention of discouraging divorce. Entry into a covenant marriage would be optional.

Haywood did not make a motion for final passage, meaning SB 70 could come up for consideration again as soon as Wednesday.

In other Senate news, Dallas Sen. David Cain announced SB 1274, a proposal that would increase penalties for cruelty to domestic animals.

"The abuse or torture of domestic animals has no place in our society, and those who do so should be punished accordingly," Cain said. "Research shows a link between animal abuse and domestic abuse. Studies also show that those who torture animals as children are at higher risk for criminal behavior later in life."

SB 1274 would make animal cruelty a felony offense. The bill does not apply to hunting, fishing or trapping. Under SB 1274, minors who are convicted of animal cruelty would be required to undergo psychological counseling.

Cain said the Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hear the bill tomorrow.

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

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