Press Release from State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
May 29, 2001
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis' 77th Legislative Session a Major Success
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Leadership on budget, criminal justice reforms top list of Ellis accomplishments

(Austin)// Senate Finance Chairman Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today called the 77th legislative session a tremendous success, with key accomplishments in health and human services, state employee pay, education, and criminal justice.

"I am extremely pleased by all that we achieved this session," said Ellis. "Under the tightest budget constraints in a decade, we provided record investments in health and human services and financial aid programs, and gave hard-working state employees the biggest pay raise in history. We also laid the foundation for a sound teachers health insurance program, which will help reduce the teacher shortage and improve the education of our children. This budget makes a major downpayment on Texas' future." Senator Ellis has led the effort to reform Texas' criminal justice system, and praised the passage of several key initiatives, including Ellis proposals to ban the execution of the mentally retarded, increase compensation for innocent Texans who are wrongfully imprisoned, overhaul Texas' indigent criminal defense system, ensure criminals cannot use their notoriety to profit from their crimes, and to strengthen Texas' hate crimes law.

"The spotlight on Texas forced us to take a long look at ourselves, and many of us did not like what we saw," said Ellis. "This session, we made significant progress to prove that we can be tough on crime and still have compassionate justice. We took a stand and said Texas should reserve the ultimate punishment for those who truly comprehend the consequences of their actions; we righted a wrong and raised the level of compensation for someone who has been wrongfully imprisoned; we passed a sweeping overhaul of Texas' indigent criminal defense system to ensure poor Texans are not sentenced to a poor defense; we passed significant legislation to ensure criminals cannot profit from their crime. Under this new law, if you do the crime, you do the time -- and you don't see a dime; and we stood up to hate, and finally passed the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act. These reforms will help create a Texas criminal justice that is both tough and fair."

Ellis praised the leadership of Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff, who successfully presided over a legislative session while confronting tight budget constraints and contentious issues such as redistricting, hate crimes and nursing home reform.

"Governor Ratliff deserves a tremendous amount of credit for his strong, steady leadership in guiding the Senate's business," said Ellis. "Governor Ratliff presided over an evenly divided Senate and some issues that could have caused gridlock and division. But, on issue after issue, his leadership enabled legislators to work together to find consensus and make progress on the issues that matter to Texas families."


Highlights of the 77th Legislative Session

Budget (SB 1 by Ellis)

The Legislature passed $113.8 billion budget to meet Texas' growing needs without raising taxes. The population of this state has grown 25 percent in last ten years and the pressure of that continued growth is reflected in a responsible budget that raises funding $11.8 billion, or 11.6 percent over the current biennium, and sets a record for drawing federal funds to Texas with an increase of nearly 19 percent.

Health and Human Services

Criminal Justice

Hate Crimes (HB 587 by Thompson/Sp. Ellis)

Texas Fair Defense Act (SB 7 by Ellis)

Post Conviction DNA Testing (SB 3 by Duncan/Ellis)

Execution of the Mentally Retarded (HB 236 by Hinojosa/Sp. Ellis)

Crime Doesn't Pay (SB 795 by Ellis)

Education

Texas Excellence Fund (HB 1839 by Junell/Sp. Ellis)

TEXAS Grants and Teach for Texas Improvements (SB 1057 by Ellis)

Public and Higher Education Funding (SB 1 by Ellis)

The budget includes a $859.3 million increase in GR and GR-Dedicated funds over the initial base bill.

The budget also recommended:

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