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March 26, 2003    (512) 463-0300

Senate Finance Committee Starts Budget Mark-Up

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst presides over debate of Senate Bill 204.

Austin - The Senate Finance Committee started mark-up today, the second part of the appropriations process. Amarillo Senator Teel Bivins, Finance chair, said that the committee will concentrate on cutting costs and delivering services more efficiently to the people of Texas. On the committee's agenda for today are agencies classified under general government, judiciary, and natural resources. For most of the agencies, the Finance Committee adopted the recommendations from workgroups that met following the first building block of the process.

Seven bills were passed out of the Senate in session today and are headed to the House for its consideration. The Senate also debated two bills dealing with insurance forms and the reconstitution of low performing schools, which the authors agreed to hold until Monday.

Senator Jeff Wentworth
Senator Jeff Wentworth argues a point for Senate Bill 204, which he sponsored.

San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth presented legislation on third reading requiring drivers to turn on their headlights when unfavorable conditions result in substantially reduced visibility and the use of windshield wipers. Wentworth believes that Senate Bill (SB) 204 will reduce deaths, personal injuries, and property damage and said that he has strong support from many of his constituents. His measure passed with the approval of twenty-four Senators, following some debate. Houston Senator John Whitmire was the most vocal opponent of the bill and said that it will be hard to enforce.

Legislation aimed at shortening the amount of time it takes to settle smaller claims against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was also passed today. SB 724, by The Woodlands Senator Tommy Williams, authorizes TxDOT to settle claims under $10,000 without the prior approval from the governor that is currently necessary. Williams said that his bill has support from the governor's office and should result in claims being settled up to twelve weeks faster.

Other bills passed in today's session include:

The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 31, 2003, at 1:30 p.m.

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