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May 28, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Senate of the 77th Regular Session
Stands Adjourned 'Sine Die'

AUSTIN - At 3:35 p.m. Monday, the Senate of the 77th Regular Session adjourned "sine die."

"Sine die" is a Latin term meaning "without another day."

On the final day of the session, Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief was unanimously elected president pro tempore of the Senate for the 77th Interim by his colleagues.

"It is with humility and with a deep sense of honor that I stand here before you as president pro tempore of the Texas Senate," Moncrief told his colleagues after he was sworn in by Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff. "Each time that I enter this chamber, it is with reverence for the history in its walls and columns, and a sense of responsibility to discharge with grace and dignity the duties and obligations we owe to those who allow us to serve."

As president pro tempore, Moncrief will assume the duties of the governor when the governor and lieutenant governor are out of the state.

Also in today's session, the Senate recognized its staff, including Willis Littlefield, the first administrative recipient of the Betty King Public Service Award. Vatra Solomon, Ratliff's executive assistant, was named the first legislative recipient of the award.

The award is named for the longtime Secretary of the Texas Senate, who is retiring after more than 50 years of service in the Legislature.

Ratliff and members of the Senate Democratic Caucus held separate press conferences after adjournment. Both Ratliff and the Democratic Caucus members said the Senate had a productive session, particularly with the passage of legislation establishing a statewide school teacher and employee health insurance plan, a package of Medicaid reform bills, and a budget that includes a pay raise for state employees.

"I feel very good about the session," Ratliff said. "I don't think I could feel much better about it."

Although the Senate adjourned "sine die," the legislative task of redistricting may still be tackled this summer.

The Senate Redistricting Committee held an organizational meeting this afternoon and is expected begin holding hearings next week to continue the work on the redrawing of U.S. Congressional and State Board of Education district lines.

Governor Rick Perry has contacted leaders in both chambers of the legislature, asking them continue redistricting work. If the legislative committees are able to agree on a plan, Perry may call a special session this summer for redistricting.

Ratliff named two additional members to the Senate Redistricting Committee for post-session work. Senators Mario Gallegos of Houston and Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay will join Senators Ken Armbrister of Victoria, David Cain of Dallas, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Rodney Ellis of Houston, Florence Shapiro of Plano and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo on the committee, which is chaired by San Antonio Sen. Jeff Wentworth. La Porte Sen. Mike Jackson is the vice-chair of the committee.

In other Senate news, Ellis was joined by Moncrief and McAllen State Rep. Juan Hinojosa in calling on Governor Rick Perry to sign into law the bill that would ban the execution of mentally retarded killers.

"The Texas Legislature showed tremendous leadership by finding consensus on this very difficult and emotional issue," Ellis said. "It is time for Texas -- the world leader in executions -- to take a stand and do what's right. I urge Governor Perry to join us, and the overwhelming majority of Texans, and support the effort to ban the execution of the mentally retarded."

The Senate stands adjourned until January, 2003, or the beginning of a special session this summer, should Perry should decide to call one.

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