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April 30, 2001     (512) 463-0300

DNA Bill Targets
Prevention of Repeat Offenses

AUSTIN - The Senate today passed a measure its author, Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, called "probably the most important bill" of this session.

The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 638 would require the collection of a DNA specimen from anyone arrested, convicted or charged with a sexual offense or aggravated kidnaping.

Advances in DNA testing technology, Barrientos said, allow a usable sample to be gathered easily and matched with 99 percent certainty.

Barrientos said Department of Justice statistics show that a sex offender will commit an average of 8 to 12 assaults. He added the bill would allow law enforcement to quickly identify repeat offenders.

"This legislation has the potential to prevent rapes and sexual assaults from ever being committed," Barrientos said. "The data we have now reveals that sex offenders commit multiple sexual assaults despite their arrest and incarceration history. DNA, the genetic fingerprint, is by far the most sophisticated identification technique available today."

The Senate also voted passage of CSSB 1825, a measure authored by Waco Sen. David Sibley that would create the Texas Energy Policy Council, which would be responsible for the formulation of a statewide energy policy.

"A statewide energy policy plan will allow the state to develop efficient, balanced use of its resources for the assurance of reliable, economic energy," said Sibley, one of the principal architects of legislation passed last session that will deregulate the electric utility industry in Texas.

Under the bill, the council would be composed of nine members: the chairs of the Public Utility Commission, Railroad Commission and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, the director of the State Energy Conservation Office, two members each from the Senate and House of Representatives and a member from the academic community appointed by the governor.

"The plan will take into consideration energy production, energy efficiency, environmental protection, resource exploration, new technology and the health and welfare of the citizens of the state," Sibley said.

Also in today's session, the Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 512, a measure authored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan that would transfer the management and investment authority of the Permanent School Fund from the State Board of Education to the Texas Education Agency.

Because the State Board of Education has the authority under the Texas Constitution, the transfer would require a constitutional amendment. A separate piece of legislation authored by Duncan, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 20, would place the proposed amendment on the ballot in the November general election. SJR 20 has not yet come up for debate in the Senate.

The Senate also today approved a bill that would allow the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to sell water to San Antonio. Current law prohibits the LCRA from selling water outside its water service area. The bill, the Committee Substitute for House Bill (CSHB) 1629, is authored by Eagle Lake Rep. Robert "Robby" Cook and sponsored in the Senate by Ken Armbrister of Victoria.

In other Senate news, the State Affairs Committee heard testimony on SB 238, a measure authored by San Antonio Sen. Jeff Wentworth that would place restrictions on bicyclists riding on rural roads. The committee was also scheduled to hear SB 488. The bill, authored by Arlington Sen. Chris Harris, would prohibit the State of Texas from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions.

The Jurisprudence Committee was scheduled to hear House Bill (HB) 591. The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Harris, would increase the liability of a parent who fails to provide health insurance after being ordered to do so.

The Senate is in recess until 8 a.m. tomorrow when bills on the Local and Uncontested Calendar will be taken up. The Senate will then reconvene at 10 a.m.

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