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April 25, 2000     (512) 463-0300

The State Affairs Committee Examines State Purchasing Policies

AUSTIN - The Senate State Affairs Committee met Tuesday, April 25th, with the House Committee on General Investigating, for a joint public hearing. The Senate committee is listening to public testimony on charges issued by Lt. Governor Rick Perry for study during the interim.

Today's meeting focused on the Senate Committee's charge. The committee is reviewing Texas' State Use Program and the benefits provided to persons with disabilities. The committee is examinining the powers and duties of the Council on Purchasing from People with Disabilities (the Council), the funding methods for the Council staff and activities, the Council's oversight of the central non-profit and community rehabilitation program work centers, the utilization by and satisfaction of customers with goods and services provided under the program, the nature of disabilities required for participating in the program, and the adequacy of rules governing the State Use Program, including whether standards of eligibility for work center products and services should be added to the statutes. The committee is also ensuring the appropriate nature and amount of involvement by people with disabilities in the production of goods and provision of services.

Invited testimony was provided by representatives of the Texas Council on Purchasing from People with Disabilities, the General Services Commission, the Texas Commission for the Blind and the Texas Rehabilitation Commission. Many members of the public, including representatives from agencies and programs for people with disabilities, also testified.

Witnesses said people with disabilities are a vast, underutilized labor force that could and should participate in today's labor-starved economy. Seventy- five percent of this population is unemployed, and those who have jobs usually earn minimum wages or less. Agencies like Goodwill Temporary Services train and look for state and private jobs for people with disabilities. Many witnesses said more funds are needed to expand this type of programs. Senator Lucio asked a representative from El Paso to prepare a report about the needs in the border areas regarding people with disabilities.

Plano Senator Florence Shapiro chairs the committee. Other members include Senators Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso serving as vice-chair, 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 House Committee on General Investigating includes Representatives Pete Gallego of Alpine serving as chair, D. R. "Tom" Uher of Bay City as vice chair, and Joe Crabb of Kingwood, Craig Eiland of Dickinson and Terry Keel of Austin.

The committees stand recessed subject to the call of the chairs. The members will submit a report to be used in the drafting of legislation for the 77th Legislature, which convenes in January of 2001.

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