SENATE PASSES COURT REALIGNMENT PLAN
| Sen. Robert Duncan of Lubbock lays out his plan to realign the state court system to improve efficiency. |
(AUSTIN) -- The Senate approved a bill Wednesday intended to streamline the Texas court system by changing most county courts-of-law to district courts. Senate Bill 1204, by Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan, would convert 45 county courts to district courts, and would give them jurisdiction over civil matters ranging from $100,000 to $250,000. Duncan said the state needs more conformity when it comes to court jurisdiction across Texas.
The bill also provides more money for courts when dealing with complex cases, allowing these courts access to funds to hire personnel and equipment when dealing with intricate matters. It would direct funds to reduce the backlog of Child Protective Service cases. All in all, Duncan says this is an overdue upgrade to the state's justice system.
"I think this bill will improve our judiciary and efficiency in our court system," he said.
Parents of chronically truant students would have an extra incentive to make sure their kids go to school under a bill also approved Wednesday. Senate Bill 217, by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, would increase penalties for parents that refuse to address constant truancy by charging them with a class-B misdemeanor. Shapiro said that some parents aren't fazed by the current class-C misdemeanor fines, and an additional level of punishment is needed. Parents wouldn't have to worry that one or two incidents would land them in court: judges would be free to consider extenuating circumstances. Also, the class-B penalties only kick in after two prior class-C citations at the maximum fine level.
| Retailers would be able to use fingerprints to verify age when selling things like tobacco and alcohol under a bill passed today by Waco Sen. Kip Averitt. |
Also passed Wednesday is a bill aimed at using new technology to help retailers keep minors from buying age-restricted products like alcohol and tobacco. A bill by Senator Kip Averitt of Waco would allow retailers to require fingerprint identification to verify age for the purchase of age-restricted products. The bill statutorily prevents the dissemination of fingerprint information in order to prevent marketers or other companies from buying access to fingerprint databases.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, May 3, at 8 a.m. to consider the Local and Uncontested Calendar, and will convene in regular session at 11 a.m.
Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.