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June 1, 2003     (512) 463-0300

LATE NIGHT EDITION

Ethics and Transportation Legislation Passed, Session Ends with Filibuster

Austin -- An ethics bill previously thought to be dead was revived and passed unanimously by the Senate. Houston Senator Rodney Ellis said that the conference committee's version of HB 1606 is stronger than the version the Senate approved on Thursday.

Among the provisions added by the Senate-House conference committee is the mandatory disclosure of legal referral fees by state officers and employees based by dollar amount ranges. Another provision would require certain municipal officers, school district trustees, and trustees of all port and sports authorities to disclose personal financial statements annually.

Additionally, anyone filing for state political offices would have to report all cash on hand under HB 1606. The conference committee on HB 1606 agreed that candidates for office should have to disclose the names of all contributors who donate more than $500 to their political campaigns, that's down from the current limit of $1000.

The Senate also approved transportation legislation presented by Bryan Senator Steve Ogden, which would create the Trans-Texas Corridor. The 4,000 mile transportation corridor would consist of toll and non-toll roads, passenger and freight lines and public utilities designed to reduce road congestion.

Today's fifteen hour session ended with a filibuster by Dallas Senator Royce West.

A filibuster is a delay tactic enabling a Senator is able to speak endlessly on a bill without yielding the floor. Senate rules dictate that a member must stand upright at his/her own desk and remain on topic while speaking.

West spoke on SB 86 for the last two and a half hours because he did not agree with amendments the House added to the bill by San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth.

The original version of Wentworth's SB 86 required students in the top ten percent of their graduating class to take a recommended high school curriculum to be eligible for automatic admission to a state university. An amendment to the bill would have allowed universities to deny admission to any of those students once sixty percent of the spaces allotted for incoming resident freshmen were filled.

Several of West's colleagues assisted in suffocating the legislation, including Senators Eliot Shapleigh, Rodney Ellis, Leticia Van de Putte and Juan Hinojosa. The bill died at 12:01 a.m.

The Senate will reconvene Monday, June 2, 2003 at 10:00 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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