The Texas State Senate - Rodney Ellis Press Releases
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis
For Immediate Release
Monday, June 18, 2001
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113
Senator Ellis' 77th Legislative Session a Major Success
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.
During the 77th Legislative Session, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) passed 50 bills -- including the 2002-03 budget -- to strengthen Texas colleges and public schools, create a stronger, more compassionate Texas criminal justice system, expand access to quality, affordable health care, and build a stronger foundation for Texas' future. Under Senator Ellis' leadership, the Senate Finance Committee crafted a $113.8 billion budget that meets the needs of a growing Texas, invests in key priorities such as teacher and school employee health insurance, health and human services, state employee pay and college scholarships, without raising taxes.
Foundation for Texas' Future
2002-2003 Texas 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 the 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.
- The budget includes the state's first teacher and school employee health insurance program, which will help provide teachers and all public school employees the quality, affordable health care they deserve and help stem the tide of the growing teacher shortage in Texas.
- The budget also increases funding for health and human services by $2.2 billion more in General Revenue and GR-Dedicated funds--five times the new money allocated by the last legislature. The new funds will bring the promise of quality health care to 600,000 children now eligible for Medicaid who are not currently being served. The budget simplifies Medicaid eligibility by eliminating unnecessary and burdensome face-to-face interviews and allow families to apply through the mail or over the telephone, as with other insurance programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- The budget also provides the largest state employee pay raise in 20 years, with additional increases for critical jobs in corrections, social work and highly-skilled technical positions. It includes a four percent or $100/month minimum increase for all state workers with at least one year of service and salary reclassifications to further aid the Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (MHMR), the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS), the Texas Youth Commission (TYC), Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), the Department of Agriculture (TDA), the Railroad Commission (TRC), and Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC).
- Senator Ellis led the effort to open the doors to college to more Texas families. The budget triples funding for the TEXAS Grant Program, which will expand eligibility to families earning $40,000 a year and provide nearly 65,000 students the opportunity to go to college.
- The budget also includes more than $1 billion in new funds for transportation, including $961 million increase through federal formulas. The total budget for the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) is more than $10 billion--a ten percent increase over the current biennium.
Investing in Texas Schools
Texas Excellence Fund (HB 1839 by Junell/Sp. Ellis)
- Provides $67.547 million to fund research at Texas universities outside the traditional funding stream to help more Texas schools achieve top tier status.
TEXAS Grants and Teach for Texas Improvements (SB 1057 by Ellis)
- Provides an additional $11 million in cost of living incentives to college students who are enrolled in teacher certification plans and agree to teach in an underserved or teacher shortage area. Senate Bill 1057 is a first step in reducing the 44,000 teacher shortage facing Texas.
Public and Higher Education Funding (SB 1 by Ellis)
- For Public Education, the budget added $510.2 million in GR and $2.04 billion in All Funds.
- The budget also earmarked $2.515 billion in public education resources to allow the Education Conference Committee to fund teachers and school employee health insurance and other vital education needs.
- Higher education received an increase of approximately $1.1 billion in general revenue and almost $1.4 billion in all funds for the 2002-03 biennium.
The budget also recommended:
- $50 million to keep our U.S. Office of Civil Rights commitments to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
- $88.4 in increased funding for community college enrollment growth. This funding will help 18,200 new students get the college education they need to succeed.
- $51 million in additional funds to increase contact hour funding for community colleges. Another $10 million will be made available contingent upon certification of sufficient revenue by the Comptroller.
- $10 million in additional resources for a new TEXAS Grant II program targeted toward students attending community colleges. An additional $10 million will be made available for the program contingent upon certification of sufficient revenue by the Comptroller.
Tuition Revenue Bonds for Higher Education Facilities (HB 658 by Junell/Sp. Ellis)
- Provides $1.08 billion in tuition revenue bonds to Texas colleges and universities improve their infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. The bonds will help Texas higher education institutions construct new buildings, renovate existing facilities and make improvements to campus infrastructure.
Technology Training and Education (SB 353 by Ellis & HB 1475 by Kitchen/Sp. Ellis)
- Senate Bill 353 establishes the Texas Engineering and Technical Consortium, a public-private partnership to provide $20 million in grants to eligible institutions to promote the engineering and computer science fields.
- House Bill 1475 creates the Master Technology Teacher Grant Program to provide $500,000 for training and incentives for Texas educators to learn about integrating computers into their classroom instruction.
Healthier Texas Families
- The 2002-03 budget provided $122.6 million to simplify access to Medicaid services for eligible clients.
- To ensure health care providers can keep open their doors, the budget allocates $197 million to increase reimbursement rates for doctors, dentists and hospitals.
- The budget provides $63 million to maintain current services at MHMR state schools, hospitals and community centers and for non-Medicaid elder care services at the Department of Human Services (DHS);
- To ensure Texas children have access to quality, affordable health insurance, the budget provides $1.025 billion in All Funds for CHIP. The program will provide health insurance to over 490,000 Texas children.
- $33 million to address critical nursing home and community care services
- $104 million to provide services in the community to 6,320 clients currently residing in state schools, ICF-MRs or nursing homes.
Repairing Texas' Criminal Justice System
Hate Crimes (HB 587 by Thompson/Sp. Ellis)
- Enhances punishment for certain criminal offenses if they are committed with prejudice based on race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender, or sexual preference.
Texas Fair Defense Act (SB 7 by Ellis)
- Establishes a new process for granting legal representation to indigent defendants in criminal cases. Sets statewide minimum standards for attorneys in death penalty cases and creates an Indigent Defense Task Force with nearly $20 million to help counties provide services.
Compensation for Persons Wrongfully Convicted (SB 536 by Ellis)
- Increases the maximum compensation for persons wrongfully incarcerated from $50,000 to $500,000.
Post Conviction DNA Testing (SB 3 by Duncan/Ellis)
- Gives convicted inmates the right to request DNA testing at state expense on evidence preserved from crime scenes to prove their innocence.
Execution of the Mentally Retarded (HB 236 by Hinojosa/Sp. Ellis)
- Prohibits the execution of capital murderers who are found by a jury or a judge to be legally mentally retarded.
Crime Doesn't Pay (SB 795 by Ellis)
- Forces the forfeiture of funds received from the sale of crime memorabilia. Ensure criminals cannot profit from their crimes by closing an existing loophole that allows convicted felons and third parties to make profits on the sale of certain memorabilia.
Protecting Texas Consumers
Life Insurance Discrimination Study (HB 2415 by Giddings/Sp. Ellis)
- House Bill 2415 requires the commissioner of insurance to conduct a marketplace study of life insurance policies issued with a small face amount, evaluate pricing and determine whether statutory changes are needed.
Remove Limitations on Insurance Discrimination Investigation (HB 3254 by Giddings/Sp. Ellis)
- House Bill 3254 prevents the statute of limitations on investigations of a violation from applying to discrimination on the basis of race or color.
Protections Against Sweepstakes Scams (HB 2530 by Junell/Sp. Ellis)
- House Bill 2530 creates a civil penalty, establishes guidelines and prohibits deceptive acts by sweepstakes companies that tie purchases to prizes.
Reforming Texas Elections
Streamline Motor Voter Registration (HB 2691 by Madden/Sp. Ellis)
- House Bill 2691 requires the Department Public Safety (DPS) to have voter registration information digitally captured and then transferred in electronic form to the county voter administration office.
Investing in Ballot System Modernization (HB 2336 by Danburg/Sp. Ellis)
- Many of the Texas counties using outdated punch card ballot systems have a large number of minority voters. House Bill 2336 provides for the distribution of federal funds to replace antiquated punch card systems.
Wiring Texas for the 21st Century
Establishment of the Southeast Texas Biotechnology Park (HB 3309 by Hochberg/Sp. Ellis)
- Allows the General Land Office to invest $20 million in southeast Houston for the acquisition and development of property to create the Southeast Texas Biotechnology Park. The Park will help Texas attract and retain more entrepreneurial talent, leading scientists, and established biotechnology enterprises.
Creation of the Greater Southeast Management District (HB 3692 by Coleman/Sp. Ellis)
- The Greater Southeast Management District will provide further bond authority to enhance urban infrastructure and encourage economic development in Houston.
Funding for Construction and Repair of State Property (HJR 97/HB 3064 by Junell/Sp. Ellis)
- If approved by voters, the legislation will provide as much as $850 million in bond authority to repair and construct facilities and infrastructure for 13 state agencies, including the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, MHMR, DPS and Texas Department of Health.
- Bonds will also provide funding to acquire and rehabilitate the Levi Jordan plantation and African American historical site in Brazoria County.