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January 29, 2007 (512) 463-0300

DEWHURST WELCOMES ACTIVISTS TO STATE TO PROMOTE CHILD SAFETY INITIATIVE

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Child safety advocate and America's Most Wanted host John Walsh discusses the importance Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's Texas First! child safety initiative. He is joined by Dewhurst (left) and fellow advocate Julie Clark.

(AUSTIN) -- Lt. Governor David Dewhurst was joined by America's Most Wanted host and child-safety advocate John Walsh at a press conference today, January 29, to announce a donation of child-safety curriculum to school districts in Texas. The donation is part of Dewhurst's Texas First! children's safety and health initiative that would also stiffen penalties against sex offenses against children and seeks to require stronger sex offender data compliance and coverage. "Well-educated, healthy, secure children learn and they make this state a better place to live, raise a family and grow a business" said Dewhurst, "The bottom line is that safe children will make our future stronger here in Texas."

The safety program consists of a series of 20 minute DVDs, lesson plans, and workbooks aimed at teaching children from kindergarten to second grade the dangers posed by strangers and acquaintances when it comes to kidnapping or other crimes against children. The program was developed in conjunction with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and today's announced donation will supply about 20 percent of Texas elementary schools with the safety materials.

John Walsh was recently in Washington D.C., for the signing of Adam's Law, a federal sex offender registry bill named after Walsh's own son, who was kidnapped and murdered 25 years ago. Adam's Law requires all states to keep and maintain a sex offender registry, makes non-compliance with the registry a felony for sex offenders, and mandates DNA collection from all sex offenders. Walsh said today that the federal law is a powerful tool in preventing crimes against children, but it is only effective when combined with strong state legislation.

"The Texas First! program is going to be, I think, the model in the nation. I think Americans realize that we need something proactive," said Walsh. "We need something to talk about, as parents, with our children. Knowledge is power, and that our children need to know that there are things they can do to prevent these horrible crimes."

Dewhurst said the sex offender monitoring system in the state is in need of strengthening. He said very few of the 700,000 employees at Texas public schools have had background checks, and that initial estimates say that 30 percent of the addresses submitted to the Texas sex offender registry are false. Dewhurst added that he is committed to working with Walsh and other stakeholders in the child-safety arena to craft a strong, yet workable Jessica's Law for Texas.

Also today, the Senate Finance Committee opened hearings on Senate Bill 1, the state base budget bill filed last week. Committee Chair Senator Steve Ogden said the base budget would appropriate $147.6 billion for state services and other government costs for the next biennium. Senators will hear testimony from state agencies over the coming weeks, as they decide how to tweak the base budget. Ogden said last week that he plans to have the bill out of committee sometime in March.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, January 30, at eleven 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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