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January 31, 2007 (512) 463-0300

ELLIS FILES BILL TO BAN SMOKING IN ALL INDOOR PUBLIC AREAS

(AUSTIN) -- Smoking would be forbidden in all public indoor areas, including restaurants and bars, if a bill filed by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis is passed. Ellis said that exposure to second-hand smoke by non smokers is responsible for a multitude of diseases and health problems, and it's time the legislature stepped in. "This is one of the top public health issues facing our state today, and its time for Texas to take action," said Ellis.

Dr. Mark Clanton, Chief Medical Officer for the regional American Cancer Society, said that there is no level of safe exposure to second hand smoke. He added that more than one million cases of childhood diseases, such as pneumonia, asthma and ear infections, are caused or exacerbated by second-hand smoke, and that exposure to second-hand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

There are several cities with smoking restrictions in place, but many allow certain exemptions for bars or other venues. Ellis said his bill is direct and to the point: no smoking in indoor public areas. "State wide ban, no grandmothering, no grandfathering. A strong bill, straightforward and simple: stop it," he said.

El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh was joined by colleagues Senator Rodney Ellis and Austin Senator Kirk Watson in calling for more money to be spent on health-care and education initiatives in Texas. Shapleigh said that Texas ranks at or near the bottom with respect to other states in several key categories, including SAT scores, high school graduation rates, percentage of uninsured children, and income disparity. The solution, he said, is not to spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest Texans, but to begin by restoring funding to the state's Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and increasing funds to educational financial aid, such as the state's Texas GRANTS program.

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Austin Senator Kirk Watson describes the economic benefits of restoring funding to CHIP and Medicaid at a press conference held by El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh (left).

Watson said that the state health insurance programs contribute greatly to the Texas economy by providing more jobs in the health care sector as well as increased productivity among those who get insured. He also cited the fact that for every dollar the state spends on CHIP or Medicaid, the federal government contributes $2.60 in matching funds. Texans should see the economic advantages to a comprehensive state health insurance plan, said Watson. "One dollar from the state draws about $2.60 from the feds. And that $3.60 investment creates seven dollars worth of economic activity," said Watson. "Thatís not charity. This is one of the best economic development tools out there, and frankly, I think it's foolish not to take advantage of it."

Also today, Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio filed a bill that would allow someone to use any manner of force, including deadly force, against someone who illegally enters a home, occupied vehicle, or workplace. Wentworth said that he, like many Texans, thought that the right to use deadly force against intruders was already in law, but he was surprised to learn that in 1974, the Legislature changed the law to require a person to retreat from an attacker. Wentworth says his bill, Senate Bill 378, would give Texans the attitude to defend themselves, their families and their property against an intruder without worrying about later legal or civil ramifications. "I believe Texans who are attacked in their homes, their businesses, their vehicles or anywhere else they have a right to be should have the right to defend themselves from attack without fear of being prosecuted criminally, and if unsuccessfully sued in civil court by the attacker, all costs of the court will be paid by the attacker," he said.

The Senate will reconvene Monday, February 5, 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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