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March 7, 2003     (512) 463-0300

Week in Review

Judicial Reform

Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock filed legislation on Monday that would allow the governor to appoint judges, who must then be confirmed by the Senate. At the end of the judge's term, Senate Bill (SB) 794 would allow the voters to reject or retain that judge in a retention election. Duncan said that his proposed legislation would create the most efficient system in which all judges can be challenged at the end of their term and have only their own record to run against. "Our position is, and this legislation reflects the position, that our Texas judges should be the most qualified persons for these positions...as opposed to those who can raise the most money, have the catchiest campaign slogans, and the funniest names," said the Senator.

Chief Justice Thomas Phillips outlined a series of ways to make our courts more economical, but more efficient and responsive as well, in his State of the Judiciary Address before a joint session of the Senate and the House on Tuesday. Phillips asked the Legislature to streamline the courts by reviewing and amending unclear and inconsistent language in statutes and to redistrict the state's district and appellate courts. He supported the idea of retention elections for judges at the end of their appointed terms, saying that they would give voters more control over their judges than they now enjoy in judicial elections.

Homeowners Insurance Regulation

Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, surrounded by seven Republican and Democratic Senators at a Capitol press conference on Tuesday, announced that they have reached a consensus on homeowners insurance regulation. Dewhurst said that he is optimistic that they will have a bill ready to recommend to their colleagues in the next several weeks that will drive homeowners insurance rates down, but be fair to the insurance companies. According to Senator Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, Chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee, a rate rollback of twelve to fifteen percent is appropriate. Senator Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio said she expects the bill to prohibit the unfair and discriminatory use of credit scoring and require the disclosure of credit scoring models.

Immunizing More Texas Children

Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini urged support for her proposed legislation package consisting of five bills aimed at increasing the number of children immunized in Texas. At a Capitol press conference on Monday, Zaffirini stated that her goal is to immunize Texas children to one hundred percent of the age-appropriate level. "Immunizations are where good public health policy and wise fiscal policy converge," said Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Texas Commissioner of Health, in support of Senator Zaffirini's proposed measures, "People have heard me say this before and I will say it again--vaccines work."

The Zaffirini immunization package includes the following:

Senate Bill (SB) 38 would direct the Texas Department of Health to explore methods to increase

"Mentoring Works"

Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst this week spoke in favor of spending more money on mentoring programs because he believes that they help keep children from dropping out of school. He said that there are federal funds available that can be redirected from other programs. Dewhurst said that he supports programs, such as Communities in Schools (CIS), that meet the Governor's mentoring standards and help youngsters both academically and emotionally. According to CIS, the nation's largest stay-in-school network, ninety five percent of the students involved in the program stay in school. The program currently has 57,000 students enrolled.

University Name Change

San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth filed legislation on Thursday to change the name of Southwest Texas State University to Texas State University at San Marcos at the request of the university's Associated Student Government. The ASG presented the Senator with a list of more that twenty reasons for the name change, including the fact that the university is not located in the southwest region of the state and that the double-directional name implies a small, regional school, although Southwest Texas State University is a doctoral granting institution of more than 25,000 students. Wentworth pointed out that there would be no cost to taxpayers because generous alumni have pledged $1.4 million to cover the cost of the name change.

Confirmation of Nominees

In Thursday's session, the Senate unanimously confirmed the nomination of sixty-six appointments from the Governor to a variety of boards and commissions (see list attached). Despite the opposition of Austin Senator Gonzalo Barrientos and five other Senators, Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, proposed as Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, was confirmed in one of the last votes of the day.

Bills Passed by the Senate this Week

Nominations Confirmed by the Senate on March 6, 2003

Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board:
Member, Patrick Cordero, Midland County

Secretary of State:
Gwyn Shea, Dallas County

Texas Department of Economic Development Governing Board:
Presiding Officer, Macedonio "Massey" Villarreal, Fort Bend County

Texas Department of Economic Development Governing Board:
Member, Hector Delgado, El Paso County
Member, Thomas L. "Tommy" Whaley, Sr., Harrison County

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality:
Member, Kathleen Hartnett White, Jeff Davis County

State Committee of Examiners in the Fitting and Dispensing of Hearing Instruments:
Member, Kenneth W. Earl, Orange County
Member, Jerome Kosoy, M.D., Harris County
Member, Cherri Ann Robbins, Bexar County

Board for Lease of Parks and Wildlife Department Lands:
Member, Bradford D. "Brad" McJunkin, Collin County

Texas Mutual Insurance Company Board of Directors:
Member, Martin H. Young, Jr., Montgomery County

Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners:
Member, Art Cuevas, Lubbock County
Member, John Hatchel, McLennan County
Member, Robert A. Tarver, Jefferson County

Polygraph Examiners Board:
Member, Elizabeth P. "Liz" Bellegarde, El Paso County
Member, Horacio Ortiz, Nueces County

Real Estate Research Advisory Committee:
Member, David E. Dalzell, Taylor County
Member, Tom H. Gann, Angelina County
Member, Joe Bob McCartt, Potter County
Member, DouglasiA. Schwartz, El Paso County

Office of State-Federal Relations:
Director, Antonio Edwardo "Ed" Pe'rez.

Commission on Uniform State Laws:
Member, Levi J. Benton, Harris County
Member, Peter K. Munson, Grayson County
Member, Marilyn E. Phelan, Hockley County
Member, Rodney W. Satterwhite, Midland County
Member, Karen Roberts Washington, Dallas County
Member, Earl L. "Lee" Yeakel III, Travis County

State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners:
Member, Guy Wayne Johnsen, D.V.M., El Paso County
Member, Robert L. Lastovica, D.V.M., Gillespie County
Member, Dawn Elise Reveley, Williamson County

Public Utility Commission of Texas:
Presiding Officer, Rebecca Anne Klein, Travis County

Public Utility Commission of Texas:
Commissioner, Julie Caruthers Parsley, Travis County

Office of Public Utility Counsel:
Counsellor, Suzi Ray McClellan, Travis County

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Board:
Presiding Officer, Michael Edwin Jones, Smith County

Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Board:
Member, Elizabeth M. "Beth" Anderson, Dallas County
Member, Shadrick Bogany, Fort Bend County
Member, Vidal Gonzalez, Val Verde County
Member, Norberto Salinas, Hidalgo County

Manufactured Housing Board:
Member, Jack L. Davis, Kaufman County
Member, Clement Pete Moreno, Travis County
Member, Joan C. Tavarez, Hidalgo County

Board of Protective and Regulatory Services:
Member, John R. Castle, Jr., Dallas County
Member, Anne Crichton Crews, Dallas County

Texas Workers' Compensation Commission:
Chair, Richard Allen Smith, Brazos County

Texas Workers' Compensation Commission:
Member, Mike Hachtman, Harris County
Member, Eddie Wilkerson, Harris County

Angelina and Neches River Authority Board of Directors:
Member, Alfred "Al" Chavira, Cherokee County
Member, Joe M. Deason, Angelina County
Member, James E. Raney, Nacogdoches County
Member, George S. Vorpahl, Angelina County

Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority Board of Directors:
Member, Zoe Milian Barinaga, Harris County

Lower Neches Valley Authority Board of Directors:
Member, Lonnie Arrington, Jefferson County
Member, Brian Babin, D.D.S., Tyler County
Member, William E. "Bill" Neild, Jefferson County
Member, Lila Long Pond, Jefferson County
Member, James Olan Webb, Hardin County

North Texas Tollway Authority Board of Directors:
Director, Marilyn Kay Walls, Johnson County

Rio Grande Compact Commissioner of Texas:
Joe G. Hanson, El Paso County

Sabine River Authority Board of Directors:
Member, Sammy Dean Dance, Shelby County
Member, J. D. Jacobs, Jr., Rockwall County
Member, Constance M. "Connie" Ware, Harrison County
Member, Clarence Earl Williams, Orange County

Sabine River Compact Administration:
Member, Gary Eugene Gagnon, Orange County

State Board of Examiners for Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology:
Member, Rosario Rodriguez Brusniak, M.A., Collin County
Member, Matthew Houston Lyon, El Paso County
Member, Minnette Son, M.D., Bexar County

Texas State Board of Education:
Chair, Geraldine Miller, Dallas County

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

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