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May 23, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Senate Votes Passage of
Indoor Air Quality Improvement Bill

AUSTIN - A measure was passed by the Senate today aimed at improving air quality inside government buildings, but an amendment that would have required schools to more closely monitor classroom air quality was narrowly defeated.

House Bill (HB) 2008 would direct the Texas Board of Health to establish voluntary air-quality guidelines in all buildings owned or leased by a government agency.

"Currently, we have a problem with indoor pollutants," said Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief, the sponsor of HB 2008. "They include toxic forms of mold."

Moncrief is the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

El Paso Sen. Eliot Shapleigh offered an amendment that would have put more stringent air-quality monitoring requirements on school districts. Shapleigh said the amendment would require schools that have had a "major event," such as a fire or a flood, to perform an assessment of air quality and make the report available to the public. Shapleigh put the cost to the school for each assessment at $1,000 to $2,000.

Amarillo Sen. Teel Bivins, the chair of the Education Committee, spoke against the amendment, saying it was contrary to local control by school districts.

"Under this amendment, they would be subject to the mandates of bureaucrats in Austin, and I frankly think that this is help these school districts do not need," Bivins said.

Houston Sen. Mario Gallegos also voiced opposition to the amendment, saying that although it was a good idea, the cost would be a heavy burden for large school districts.

The bill was easily approved, although the Shapleigh amendment was defeated by a 14-14 vote. Adoption of an amendment requires a majority vote.

The Senate also gave approval today to the idea of exploring the idea of a portable migrant healthcare network.

HB 1537 "directs the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to conduct a study and, if feasible, implement a pilot program that will address the provision of healthcare services to migrant children when they are out of Texas," said Moncrief, the sponsor of the bill.

The study would look contracting with existing healthcare provider networks in Texas and other states to provide portable Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. The funding for the study and pilot program, approximately $450,000, would come out of the HHSC budget.

Moncrief said the idea makes financial sense, because the children often return to Texas with health problems that could have been prevented with better access to care.

Also in today's session, the Senate approved HB 2914, a bill based on recommendations from the Comptroller of Public Accounts' office intended to streamline the agency's handling of the state's fiscal business.

The bill, sponsored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan, addresses a variety of the agency's tasks, ranging from collection of delinquent taxes to financial reporting by other state agencies.

The Senate also took a step to address a teacher shortage in Texas by approving HB 1721. The bill would allow the State Board for Educator Certification to issue a teacher's certificate to teachers who hold certification from another state.

HB 1721 was sponsored by San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

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

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