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May 6, 2004     (512) 463-0300

Senate Receives Education Finance Reform Bill

AUSTIN - House Bill One, the education finance reform bill, arrived in the Senate today, May 6, and was referred to a Committee of the Whole Senate. The bill arrived after having many provisions stripped from it by the House of Representatives. The task now before the Senate is to craft a bill that will lower property taxes and at the same time increase funding to state education. The Senate could take up the bill in a Committee of the Whole as early as Monday.

The Senate Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony today from the Attorney General regarding a change in state laws regulating the release of mentally ill violent offenders. Attorney General Greg Abbot testified that he is in favor of changes to the laws to make sure that offenders are deemed to be sane before they are released. He said that the current system often frees insane criminals before they are fully rehabilitated. Abbott suggested a system where mentally ill offenders are monitored following their acquittal until the state is satisfied that the offender is no longer suffering from the mental malady that caused the criminal behavior in the first place. Moreover, Abbott wants more stringent regulations on who can testify as to the sanity of insane offenders. He said that too often, psychologists with insufficient backgrounds in criminal justice will sign off on an inmate, saying that he or she is sane, when the sanity is still in question. Conclusive proof, not just a preponderance of the evidence, is needed to assure the state that an insane offender will not relapse, says Abbott. He added that in cases where an offender maintains sanity through medication, the state must have a system in place to ensure that the offender continues medication. The Jurisprudence Committee is Chaired by Senator Jeff Wentworth and Vice-chaired by Senator Mario Gallegos. Other members of the committee are Senators Robert Duncan, Eddie Lucio, Kip Averitt, Chris Harris, and Royce West.

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

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