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March 18, 2003    (512) 463-0300

Dewhurst Committed to Protecting Texans Against Terrorist Attacks

Austin - With a US-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein looming and the threat of terrorist attacks growing, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, along with Addison Senator Florence Shapiro, offered the reassurance that the state will continue to provide for the safety and security of its citizens. "The heightened awareness that exists today is one that I know every Texan is concerned about and we will work diligently...to make sure that our local citizens are protected," said Shapiro.

Following today's session, the Lieutenant Governor reported that the state has committed to providing additional resources to assist the federal government in protecting the border and that additional security measures have been implemented in the Capitol, such as metal detectors, bag checks, and the closure of the east and west driveways.

Shapiro spoke on Senate Bill (SB) 11, a homeland security omnibus bill, that has strong support from the governor. Although there is currently a security system in place, it is not in statute and SB 11 addresses that problem by specifying who is in control of what and what the strategic plan will be, said Shapiro.

Shapiro reported on the status of the forty-four recommendations made by the Homeland Security Task Force during the interim. According to Shapiro, eighty percent of the recommendations have been completed and some of the rest are waiting for federal legislation or are currently in the legislative process.

The Senate passed several bills in today's session, including Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini's SB 57 concerning the Amber Alert Network, which was created by an executive order of Governor Rick Perry last August. This legislation would require the Texas Department of Public Safety to appoint a director to be the statewide coordinator of the Amber Alert Network and grants the director rule-making authority to ensure proper implementation of the system.

"Senate Bill 57 is a positive step toward ensuring the safety of Texas children," said Senator Zaffirini. According to the bill's author, the Amber Alert Network broadcasts information about missing children almost immediately, increasing the likelihood of a child's safe return.

Amber is an acrostic for "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response" and was created to prevent incidents such as the 1996 kidnapping and subsequent murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman from Arlington.

Another bill by Zaffirini, SB 35, was also approved by the Senate today. The legislation would allow the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Texas School for the Deaf to be reimbursed for performing assessments of students attending public and charter schools.

The Senate took some time out of today's session to pay tribute to State Representative Irma Rangel, who died early this morning. Several Senators who had the opportunity to work with Rangel in the House spoke in honor of the first Mexican-American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. Rangel, who had fought cancer twice before, could not overcome the brain cancer that eventually beat her.

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 19, 2003, at 11:00 a.m.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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