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Monday, November 17, 1997     (512) 463-0300

The Texas State Senate News

SAN ANTONIO - The Texas Senate Interim Committee on Natural Resources met in San Antonio's City Council Chambers on Tuesday November 17, 1997. Mayor Howard W. Peak welcomed the committee to the renovated City Council Chambers that once had been Frost Bank. Senator J.E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson chairs the committee which includes Senators Teel Bivins of Amarillo, Tom Haywood of Wichita Falls, Jon Lindsay of Houston, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, Steve Ogden of Bryan and Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi.

Invited and public testimony was taken on the implementation of the federal American Heritage Rivers Initiative. At the first of next year, President Clinton will designate 10 rivers as American Heritage Rivers. The Rio Grande river is the only Texas river being considered. Congressman Henry Bonilla of the 23rd district of Texas testified against the initiative because of constituents' concerns with private property rights along the banks of the river. Congressman Silvestre Reyes of the 16th district of Texas believes the initiative to be an opportunity for state and federal agencies to clean up the water quality of the Rio Grande, improving health and economic conditions for people who live along the river. Congressman Lamar S. Smith of the 21st district of Texas was unable to attend the hearing, but sent written testimony in opposition to the American Heritage Rivers Initiative. Public testimony expressed pros and cons of the Rio Grande river's designation. Other interim charges to be discussed at the hearing are the siting of solid waste facilities, implementation of SB 1876 and SB 1591, operation of the Superfund and Voluntary Cleanup Programs at the TNRCC, implementation of HB 3019 and the granting of general licensing authority to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

AUSTIN-On Monday, November 17, 1997 the Senate Interim Committee on Criminal Justice met at the State Capitol in Austin. The Committee has been charged by Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock to review the medical and mental health treatment of inmates while incarcerated in Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities. Specifically, public and invited testimony was heard regarding the competency and sanity of criminal defendants before they receive a capital punishment sentence. State agencies that testified included the Texas Council on Offenders with Mental Impairments, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, Texas Commission on Jail Standards, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The committee is chaired by Senator John Whitmire of Houston and includes Senators Florence Shapiro of Plano, Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, and Royce West of Dallas.

Also on Monday, Senator Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin (chair) presided over the Senate Interim Finance Subcommittee on Articles 1, 6 and 7 Agencies in the Capitol's Senate Finance Room. Senator Barrientos along with committee members Teel Bivins of Amarillo and Ken Armbrister of Victoria heard public testimony from various Article 1 agencies such as the Human Rights Commission, the Aircraft Pooling Board, and the Employees Retirement System. Article 1 deals with general government, natural resources, and business & economic development agencies. The subcommittee charges include evaluating the usefulness of the agencies' performance measures, analyzing accuracy in reporting on these performance measures, and monitoring responses to the State Auditor. The committee will listen to more invited testimony on Tuesday November 18, 1997.

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