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March 29, 2007 (512) 463-0300

SENATE APPROVES KIMBROUGH AS TYC CONSERVATOR

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Jay Kimbrough answers Senator's questions during his confirmation hearing for conservator of the Texas Youth Commission.

(AUSTIN) -- The Senate voted Thursday to approve the elevation of Texas Youth Commission Special Master Jay Kimbrough to the conservatorship of the state agency charged with dealing with youth criminal defenders. Kimbrough was nominated Wednesday by Governor Perry to the position that grants him more statutory authority to make changes and remove and replace personnel within the TYC. Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, who is sponsoring a bill to codify reforms at the TYC, said Kimbrough is the right man for the job. "He's a take-charge, no-nonsense kind of guy," said Hinojosa. "He's accessible, focused, and he's aggressive."

The Senate originally requested that the TYC be placed under conservatorship on March 1 with the passage of a resolution, but Governor Perry chose to appoint Kimbrough as special master. Senate leadership had continued to call for a conservator, a position that has more authority and can act more quickly and with fewer bureaucratic obstacles. Perry agreed to submit Kimbrough's nomination as conservator late Wednesday afternoon, and the Senate met as a Committee of the Whole Thursday to confirm his nomination.

Kimbrough said he is prepared to move quickly on reforms at the TYC. "I clearly have the statutory authority now to make all moves myself individually without checking with anyone in the bureaucracy in state government," he said. When asked how that will help his efforts, Kimbrough said it will allow him to "march faster." "Speed is a factor," he said, referring to implementing new reforms.

Some of those new reforms include dismissing more than 100 TYC employees with felony convictions in their history, and requiring all superintendents and assistant superintendents to re-apply for their current jobs within seven days.

Finance Committee Chair Senator Steve Ogden said the Finance Committee has increased the TYC's budget by $50 million in order to prepare for additional money the agency might need to implement reforms. He added that any resources the conservator needs to fix the TYC will be made available.

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Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst sits at Senator John Whitmire's desk while Whitmire presides over the Committee of Whole Senate.

At a Tuesday meeting of the joint committee charged with fixing the TYC, Senate Chair John Whitmire of Houston expressed impatience with the speed of some of the reforms at TYC. After Acting Director Ed Owens said his management team was studying many of the proposed reforms, Whitmire said the agency needed action. "We're not seeing the radical changes that we expected in terms of reform, protection of the youth, and the good employees," he said. "We're studying this to death." Whitmire said Thursday that the agency was now "in good hands" with Jay Kimbrough.

Also this week, the Senate approved a bill that seeks to prepare the state for increasing water demand in the future. Senate Bill 3, approved Tuesday, would implement increased environmental regulations on rivers and streams that impact ecologically fragile bays and estuaries along the Texas coast. It would also give those that live downstream more input on what happens with water resources upstream, and would direct utilities to increase conservation efforts. One provision of the bill that designates 19 potential reservoir sites, controversial because some lawmakers believe the designation could hurt property rights, was tempered with an amendment that creates a study commission to look at methods for increasing water supply in some areas of the state without building new reservoirs. Bill author Senator Kip Averitt of Waco said this bill approaches water supply from many directions. "We stress conservation, we provide for future sources of water, and we're maintaining the ecological balances in our state," he said.

The Senate will reconvene Monday, April 2, 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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