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April 18, 2007 (512) 463-0300

HOMELAND SECURITY OMNIBUS BILL APPROVED

(AUSTIN) -- The Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that seeks to aid state and local law enforcement in preventing terrorism, fighting organized crime, and dealing with natural disasters and emergencies. Senate Bill 11, by Senator John Carona of Dallas, expands wiretapping measures, increases co-operation between law enforcement agencies, and updates statutes with respect to emergency and preparedness standards.

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Senator John Carona of Dallas discusses his omnibus bill to enhance homeland security and emergency response in Texas.

Under this bill, the type of suspected offenses for which police could seek a wiretap order is expanded to include kidnapping, money laundering and human trafficking. The bill would also permit wiretaps to follow the individual, changing the current statute which restricts a tap to a single location or phone line.

With the proliferation of new technologies such as the Internet and disposable cell phones, Carona says law enforcement needs additional tools to stay up-to-date. "All this bill does is allow us to catch up with current technology," he said. "We still have to go through the same judicial process to tap or follow the activity of anyone, this just keeps us current with the technology." The bill would also limit to five the number of prepaid, disposable cell phones that an individual could purchase. Service providers would also be required to keep information related to who purchases these phones.

The bill was amended to allow college administrators and staff to have better access to state school emergency plans and procedures, by allowing colleges and universities to use the resources at the Texas School Safety Center in San Marcos. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst says he wants to look at ways to help colleges prepare and respond to emergency situations. "All I want to do with this amendment is make sure we're doing every thing we can with all of our universities to think through what they would do in a crisis, how do they respond, how do they classify it," he said. "I want to use all the resources we have in state government to help our state schools."

Other provisions in the bill would facilitate aid between law enforcement and emergency response personnel from different cities, require training for local officials on how to use the Emergency Alert System, and permits private meetings when a state or local entity discusses security or emergency procedures.

The Senate will reconvene Thursday, April 19, at 10 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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