Texas Senate News
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March 29, 2005     (512) 463-0300
Senator Kevin Eltife and Senator John Carona
Senator John Carona and Senator Kevin Eltife share a light moment before Carona passes Senate Bill 446. SB 446 would prohibit merchants from levying maintenance fees on a gift card for 12 months following purchase.

SENATE APPROVES WINE DISTRIBUTION BY MAIL; REFORMS GIFT CARD FEES.
Senator Frank Madla explains Senate Bill 877
Senator Frank Madla explains Senate Bill 877, which would permit wineries to deliver wine to the homes of Texas consumers.

The Senate approved a measure today that would allow wineries to ship wine directly to consumers. Senate Bill 877, by San Antonio Senator Frank Madla, requires that the person ordering the wine to prove that they are over 21, and limits consumers to no more than three gallons of wine received by direct-order per year. SB 877 would also prevent Texas wineries from shipping more than 3,500 gallons of wine via direct-order in any given year. Senator Madla has worked on similar legislation for each of the previous 5 sessions. In 2003, he passed a bill through the Senate but failed to get the House's approval.

Consumers angry about gift cards that lose value over time due to monthly maintenance fees would be helped by Senate Bill 446, passed today by Dallas Senator John Carona. The sale of gift cards has become a $55 billion industry in the past few years, and many companies levy a monthly maintenance fee, which slowly whittles away the available balance. SB 446 would require merchants to explicitly advertise what charges a consumer who purchases a card could face. The legislation permits merchants to levy a reasonable maintenance fee, as determined by the state Attorney General, but would prohibit merchants from charging these fees for 12 months after a card is purchased. The bill would also allow the state to claim any unused balance on a gift card after three years of inactivity. An amendment by Austin Senator Gonzalo Barrientos would require that 5 percent of those funds go toward scholarships and educational grants.

The Senate Education committee began focusing on public school finance reform today by taking invited testimony on House Bill 2, which is the House's plan to reform the state's public school system. Committee Chair Senator Florence Shapiro announced that the committee will hear public testimony on the bill beginning Thursday. Shapiro added that she plans to lay out the committee substitute to HB 2, the Senate plan for education reform, next Tuesday.

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 30, at 11 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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