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Thursday, December 11, 1997     (512) 463-0300

The Texas State Senate News

Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock Forms a New Committee

AUSTIN - A special Senate Interim Committee recently formed by Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock has been called on to study the effects of affirmative action in areas of public employment, college admissions and state contracting. The formation of this committee is largely due to the controversial Hopwood decision that prohibited racial consideration in Texas colleges and universities.

"As far as we have come as a society, the consideration of race in government programs remains a volatile subject that must be addressed," Bullock said.

Bullock appointed Houston Mayor Bob Lanier to chair the special committee that is panelled by Senators Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, Rodney Ellis of Houston, Frank Madla of San Antonio, Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, and Robert Duncan of Lubbock.

The committee is expected to review current legislation, court orders and regulations regarding access to higher education and state employment. The members will also look into current programs, policies and practices that have been affected by the Hopwood decision. After debating the issues, Bullock hopes the committee's recommendations will achieve fair and equal access to higher education and state employment.

"There are no easy answers, but there is much at risk by failing to make a good faith effort to seek a solution," Bullock said.

The Senate Interim Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice meets in Houston

HOUSTON - The Senate Interim Committee on Gangs and Juvenile Justice met Thursday, December 11, at the University of Houston to discuss ways to get gang members off the streets and into productive lives. The committee is chaired by Senator Royce West of Dallas and includes Senators Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Chris Harris of Arlington, Jon Lindsay of Houston, and Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth.

Gang-related violence has continued to be a problem in Texas and is steadily increasing. Chair West reported a record number of young offenders who have recently been committed to the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). In October of this year, 343 minors were sent to TYC facilities, a number higher than any recorded in a single month.

Those testifying at the hearing included various law enforcement officials who asked for additional tools to help identify gang members. However, representatives of social service agencies presented new problems of gang members trying to break away from gangs but are harassed by police.

Judge Kent Ellis, a Harris County Juvenile Court judge, reported successes in Harris County. Ellis reported local homicide rates reaching a peak in 1993 with 75 juvenile murder cases in comparison with 1997, in which only 15 juveniles have been charged with murder. Judge Ellis attributes this success to stricter enforcement of the law and probation rulings.

The committee's next meeting is tentatively set for January 29, 1998, in Lubbock, Texas.

The Senate Interim Committee on NAFTA Meets

DALLAS-The Senate Interim Committee on the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) met Wednesday, December 10, at North Lake College in Irving, Texas. The committee focused on the impact of NAFTA on small business. With 80% of overland traffic flowing through Texas, NAFTA has significantly impacted the Texas economy. Texas' exports to Mexico have risen 106% since 1990 to a total of $27.38 billion in 1996. In addition, trade between Texas and Canada has increased 175% since 1989 to a total of $7.4 billion.

"Although NAFTA has had many positive effects on the Texas economy, testimony at the hearings have indicated that there are also negative effects; the strain on the state's transportation system, and unemployment in the border areas are two of the problems," said Chair Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi. "Small businesses play an important role in job creation The biggest growth areas in Texas are in businesses with 20 employees or less, with most new jobs generated by small businesses. The problems with transportation hurt small business causing problems with the shipment of goods."

Among those testifying before the committee were Denton County Judge Jeff Moseley, Dr. Bernard Weinstein, Director of the University of North Texas Center for Economic Development and Research, Ms. Celine Fittes, Canadian Consul and Trade Commissioner and Consul General of Mexico in Dallas, Ramon Xilotl.

Other committee members include Senators John Carona of Dallas, Steve Ogden of Bryan, Mario Gallegos of Houston, and Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso.

The committee will prepare its final report in September of 1998, with recommendations to the 76th Legislature which will convene in January of 1999.

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