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April 13, 2004     (512) 463-0300

Special Session Highlights Day at the Capitol

Governor Rick Perry today made the long awaited announcement that he will indeed call the Texas Legislature back into session this month. At a morning press conference, Perry said the Legislature would return on Tuesday, April 20, to consider any measures relating to property tax relief and excellence in Texas schools. The Governor said there was enough consensus on those two matters to have legislators come back to Austin. The session will run for a maximum of 30 days at which time the Governor could choose to call both Houses back again to complete any unfinished business. Should all business be completed before the end of the 30-day period, the Legislature could immediately adjourn.

Committee work at the Capitol continued today with four Senate committees working on interim charges. The Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Infrastructure Development and Security Committee held a rare joint session to consider funding for homeland security. The committees are to monitor and report on the amount and uses of federal homeland security dollars in Texas that have been appropriated through the Governor's office directly to local governments.

Today the two committees were to hear from a number of state agencies regarding the way those funds were being spent. Officials from the Health Department described how prepared the state was in case of emergency. Jim Ray from the Texas Council of Governments and Betty Voights from the Capital Area Planning Council spoke about how local governments are planning for emergencies.

During the interim the Infrastructure Development and Security Committee is studying, among other issues, how first responders to an emergency site are able to communicate with each other. They are also studying the Consular Identification Cards. After the joint meeting with Finance, the committee reconvened to hear testimony from various law enforcement agencies and local governments about those two charges.

The Health and Human Services Committee met in the Chamber during the afternoon. The members questioned the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services about how improvements in its operations ordered by the Legislature last year were progressing. Commissioner Thomas Chapmond described several changes in agency policy, including one that allows foster families to formally adopt children placed in their care. Chapmond said that while the program has been successful, it has led to a slight shortage in foster families currently available to take in children from abused homes.

All committees recessed subject to call of the chair, with the Health and Human Services Committee scheduling its next meeting for 9:00 A.M. on April 20, the first day of the Fourth Called Special Session of the 78th Legislature.

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