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January 24, 2007 (512) 463-0300

SENATORS FILE LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS AT-RISK MOTHERS IN TEXAS; COMBAT GENOCIDE IN THE SUDAN

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Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston lays out his plan to put economic pressure on the Sudanese government to end the genocide in Darfur. He is joined (L to R) by Representative Helen Giddings, Railroad Commissioner Mike Williams, Representative Ruth McClendon and Senator Florence Shapiro.

AUSTIN -- Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston announced today, January 24, that he has filed legislation that would prevent state pension funds from investing in companies that conduct business with the government of the Sudan. Ellis said he hopes this bill will put pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the genocide that has killed an estimated 400,000 or more people in the Darfur region of that country.

Senate Bill 247, titled the "Stop Darfur Genocide Act", would require the Teacher Retirement System and the Employee Retirement System to divest money from companies that do business with the Sudanese regime, do not offer significant benefits to the people of Sudan, and have not taken a stance against the genocide in the Darfur region. Ellis said that companies which have a positive impact on Sudanese citizens, such as those in the medical or agricultural fields, would be exempted from this requirement.

This bill would enact a law already passed by six different states, and under consideration by legislatures in 20 others. Ellis pointed to similar measures which helped end apartheid in South Africa as a successful example of how economic sanctions can be an effective tool for changing domestic policy in other countries. He added that the Texas bill would only punish the most egregious offenders and would not harm the people of Sudan. "This targeted disinvestment approach will maximize the impact to the Sudanese government, while minimizing harms to the Sudanese citizens and investment returns," said Ellis.

In a later press conference, Plano Senator Florence Shapiro said today that she has filed a bill to expand a successful Nurse/Family Partnership initiative (NFP) from a pilot program in Dallas to service the entire state. Senate Bill 156 would create a grant program to allow other areas in the state to start their own NFP programs to service low-income, high-risk, single mothers in their first pregnancy. NFP teams nurses with these mothers to teach them about proper pre-and post-natal care, as well as helping mothers establish and achieve their own life goals. Mothers are eligible for NFP for up to two years following the birth of their child.

House sponsor Representative Jerry Madden, who chairs the House Corrections Committee, sees this program as a powerful tool to reduce crime in Texas by giving children a better start on life. He added that this program, which began in the United States in 1977, has shown convincing evidence that it significantly reduces crime rates among those individuals who grew up under this program. "The Nurse/Family Partnership has demonstrated consistent, quantifiable outcomes that are verifiable through multiple randomized tests with the first populations [in NFP]. It works everywhere," said Madden.

In addition to reducing crime and giving children a better start on life, Shapiro said this program is among the most cost effective of any prevention program. She cited a Rand Corporation study finding showing that for every dollar invested in NFP, the government gets a return of $5.70 in terms of corrections and health care savings. Shapiro said investing in NFP is good both for children, and for the state budget. "I have always believed in evidence based prevention programs," she said, "I believe in the long term effects of a long-term initiative that will truly save dollars, not just talk about it, and we've seen the evidence that goes along with it."

The Senate will reconvene Monday, January 29, at 1:30 p.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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