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April 7, 2003  (512) 463-0300

Senate Approves Shapiro Legislation Combating Dropouts

Austin - The Senate approved two measures today authored by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro that she said will aggressively and actively work to prevent Texas students from dropping out. "Texas needs to focus on academic achievement in high schools," said Shapiro, "By combating the dropout rate, providing individualized attention and creating incentives, our high schools will serve as a path to educational success, economic prosperity and a renewed sense of accomplishment for all Texas students."

According to Shapiro, Senate Bill (SB) 976 would provide innovative learning opportunities by establishing a Middle College Education Pilot Program for students at-risk of dropping out. The program combines high school course work with college level work and allows students to receive a high school diploma and associate degree upon completion of the program. The bill would also provide at-risk students with services such as flexible scheduling and mentor programs and allow the Commissioner of Education to impose sanctions on districts that have been rated as academically unacceptable due to high dropout rates.

Shapiro's other bill, SB 1108, focuses on increasing academic achievement in Texas high schools. The proposal would provide personal graduation plans for struggling high school students and requires the development of an on-line diagnostic assistance program to help students prepare for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills 11th grade exit-level test. SB 1108 would also permit students who have performed poorly on statewide assessments to receive credit for additional core courses in lieu of an elective enrichment course.

The Senate also passed legislation today that would expand the list of people about whom criminal background information may be obtained by the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. SB 602, sponsored by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis, would add to the list a person who is an employee, volunteer, or an applicant volunteer of a children's advocacy center.

College Station Senator Steve Ogden sponsored legislation today that he said will decrease carnage on highways and increase traffic enforcement. The Committee Substitute to Senate Bill (CSSB) 663 would add an additional $2.50 to the consolidated court costs to help fund the Center for Transportation Safety, which studies accident factors and develops ways to reduce deaths on Texas highways, and to help fund increased traffic enforcement where needed. CSSB 663 passed by a 27-4 vote of the Chamber.

Also passed was CSSB 533, by Dallas Senator John Carona, intended to clarify the regulation of debt collectors. Since credit bureaus are already regulated in the Business and Commerce Code, the bill would delete all references to them from the Finance Code and would require debt collectors to make written records of disputes. CSSB 533 would also require third-party debt collectors to cease collection efforts until disputed items are determined to be accurate. Debt collectors would also be required under the bill to tell a consumer during an initial conversation that information obtained will be used to collect a debt and to state that the communication is from a debt collector in subsequent communications.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 8, 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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