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May 4, 2005     (512) 463-0300
Senators Jeff Wentworth (left), Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (center), and Senator Jon Lindsay, all three veterans, say the pledge of allegiance before today's session.  The Senate honored all Vietnam Veterans on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the
Senators Jeff Wentworth (left), Lt. Governor David Dewhurst (center), and Senator Jon Lindsay, all three veterans, say the pledge of allegiance before today's session. The Senate honored all Vietnam Veterans on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam Era. The Senate also passed a resolution authorizing the construction of a Vietnam War memorial on the north grounds of the State Capitol.

SENATE BILLS WOULD EXPAND RADIOACTIVE WASTE FEES, UPDATE INSANITY PLEA PROCEDURES

Certain kinds of radioactive waste would be taxed under a measure passed by the Senate today. This legislation comes in response to a bill passed by Congress reclassifying tons of waste located in Ohio as eligible for disposal in certain low-radiation waste disposal sites across the nation, including one located in Andrews County in West Texas. The material, called 11-E2 waste, is a byproduct of the mining and refining of uranium used in nuclear weapons.

Senate Bill 1667, by Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan, would charge 10 percent of the contract fee paid to a company to dispose of 11-E2 waste in Texas. Under an amendment added by Amarillo Senator Kel Seliger, 80 percent of that fee would go to the state's general revenue fund, with the remaining 20 percent going to Andrews County.

The bill transfers management of the storage and disposal of radioactive waste in Texas from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Duncan said that TCEQ is better equipped to handle the management of radioactive waste. "This bill would update our laws with regard to the processing and disposal of that waste in Texas by moving jurisdiction out of DSHS to TCEQ, which is the proper agency to deal with disposal in Texas, and I think is an agency that does a very good job in handling these types of things," said Duncan.

Also today, the Senate passed a bill that would increase post-acquittal care and oversight of someone found not guilty by reason of insanity. SB 837, by Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, would give the state jurisdiction over someone acquitted, if his acquittal was based on an insanity plea in certain circumstances. If someone is acquitted of a crime based on insanity, the judge would have to rule whether the crime committed by that individual involved dangerous conduct. If so, then the court would be responsible for overseeing that person's treatment and supervision for at least as long as the person would have been sentenced under a guilty verdict.

Wentworth said the motivation for changing the statute was to prevent a violent offender from having the opportunity to do more harm. He cited a case in Houston where a man was acquitted of murder due to insanity and then went on medication, which caused his behavior to be normal. Later, the man stopped taking the medicine, lapsed back into insanity, and killed a small child. Wentworth wants to make sure something like that never happens again.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Steve Ogden cancelled a scheduled meeting of his committee today, where senators were to consider amendments to the tax reform bill, the Committee Substitute to House Bill 3. The reason for the cancellation was the number and content of the amendments to the bill received. Ogden said he wanted the committee to have plenty of time to review the proposed changes. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said the Senate is still on track to pass CSHB 3 and its companion, CSHB 2, which changes the school funding system, this week, saying the Senate will take up the bills on Friday or Saturday.

The Senate will reconvene Thursday, May 5, at 8 a.m. to consider local and uncontested bills, and will convene in regular session at 9:30 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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