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March 27, 2000     (512) 463-0300

Senate State Affairs Committee Met at Texas Tech University Today

LUBBOCK - The Senate State Affairs Committee met at Texas Tech University today, Wednesday, March 27, 2000. The committee is chaired by Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano. Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso serves as vice chair. Members include Senators David Bernsen of Beaumont, J.E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson, David Cain of Dallas, Tom Haywood of Wichita Falls, Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville, Drew Nixon of Carthage, and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio.

The committee was joined by Representative Delwin Jones of Lubbock.

After welcoming remarks by Texas Tech Chancellor John Montford and Lubbock Mayor Pro Tem Max Ince, Randy Neugebauer, chairman of the Ports to Plains Corridor Coalition, led off the invited testimony. He was addressing Committee Charge #1. His group is trying to establish new a new trade corridor to Mexico, in addition to the existing one along Interstate Highway 35. His proposed corridor would extend from Lubbock through Midland-Odessa to the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Dr. Lou Chiodo of the Texas Tech Institute for Environmental Health then told the committee that a new statewide transportation corridor does have implications for the health of those living along it. He warned that as traffic from Mexico increases, Texas will have to address air quality as well as transportation issues.

The committee then examined devolution, the process where the federal government is supposed to return powers that have migrated to federal control back to the states. Diane Rath, Chair and Commissioner of the Texas Workforce Commission, reported that the federal government is simply not returning the authority and flexibility of action that the state needs.

Ruth Cedillo, Deputy Executive Director For the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, told the committee that she too, has seen the federal government not make good on promises to return certain funding and programs to the states.

Jacqueline Johnson, Deputy Commissioner at the Department of Human Services testified that if the federal government is going to turn over programs to the state, will it have expectations of the same results from those programs despite lower funding levels. Robert W. Halfman, Chief Financial Officer for the agency, says the federal government is indeed turning programs over to the states, but isn't sending the funding along with the responsibility. The federal government is telling the states to pick up the cost.

Mary Sapp, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Aging, said her agency is partnering with communities and emphasizing volunteerism to best determine how to serve their clients. Unique problems faced by her agency include the influx of Winter Texans who use state services in the Rio Grande Valley, but for funding purposes, are counted as residents of other states.

Margaret Hoffman, from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, told the commission that certain federal environmental programs are also being sent to the states. Generally, these programs have to do with air and water pollution, as well as waste disposal. She said the federal funding her agency has received is more flexible that it originally was, but that most of their programs were funded by user fees anyway. The committee recessed subject to the call of the chair. It's next meeting is April 12 in Houston.

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