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January 8, 1998     (512) 463-0300

FUNDING ISSUES IN EDUCATION

AUSTIN - The Senate Interim Committee on Funding Issues met at the State Capitol on Thursday, January 8, to discuss education issues in Texas. Co-Chairs Teel Bivins of Amarillo and Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant lead the committee that includes Senators Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Gregory Luna of San Antonio, David Sibley of Waco, Royce West of Dallas, and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.

The committee is responsible for ensuring that all Texans have access to affordable quality educations through the development of performance and budget recommendations. The members will also use the Interim to examine funding issues in higher education and public schools. Thursday's meeting included invited witness testimony, a question-and-answer session, and distribution of materials regarding public education finance.

Those providing testimony regarding the role of public education curriculum in higher education achievements included representatives from both the ACT and SAT scholastic achievement tests, St. Edward's University, and the San Angelo Independent School District. Representatives of Seton Healthcare Network, Eastman Chemical Company, and the Intel Corporation provided a group presentation on the role of public and higher education curriculum in preparing students for employment. The impact of institutional culture on student graduation rates was explained by representatives of Austin College, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas at Austin. Finally, Mike Moses, Commissioner of Education, and Don Brown, Commissioner of Higher Education, answered the members' questions regarding the committee's charges.

SENATE INTERIM COMMITTEE ON SEX OFFENDERS

DALLAS - The Senate Interim Committee on Sex Offenders met Thursday, January 8, in the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Committee members include Senators Florence Shapiro of Plano serving as chair, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and John Whitmire of Houston. The purpose of the heavily attended hearing was to examine whether Texas should implement a "civil commitment" statute for sexually violent predators.

A civil commitment law would allow the state to institutionalize sexually violent predators for treatment purposes, even after their prison terms have been completed. Upon a showing of "mental abnormality" and that the person poses a danger to themselves or others, the state could commit a person for an indefinite period until the predator is proven to no longer be a threat to society. The states of Washington, California, and Kansas have implemented similar laws, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Kansas law.

Invited testimony included representatives from the Washington State Attorney General office; the Texas Department of Public Safety's Special Crimes Division, the Governor's Office, constitutional law expert Judge Pat McDowell, Administrative Law Judge for the First Region of Texas, and Kansas parent activists Gene and Peggy Schmidt. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for February 11 in Austin.

Both committees will report their findings to the 76th Legislature when it convenes in January of next year.

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