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February 10, 1998     (512) 463-0300

Senate Nafta Committee Meets in Corpus Christi

CORPUS CHRISTI - The Senate Interim Committee on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) held a public hearing in Corpus Christi on Tuesday, February 10 at the Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Members of the committee include Senators Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi serving as chair, John Carona of Dallas, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, Steve Ogden of Bryan, and Mario Gallegos of Houston.

This is the fifth in the series of hearings held throughout the state to evaluate the impact of NAFTA on the Texas economy and how the different segments are affected; employment, including losses or gains and the effectiveness of the state's workforce programs; the impact on the state's infrastructure including transportation, education, housing, the environment, and health and human services; and to develop a statewide strategic response plan which would identify available and needed resources at the local, state, and federal level and provide a coordinated response.

The hearing began with testimony from the Honorable Armando Beteta, the Mexican Consul in Dallas, discussing current political and economic conditions in Mexico; and Mr. Armando F. Contreras, representative of the Tax Administration Service of Mexico in the NAFTA Center in Dallas, with a presentation about Mexican customs issues and general information on the implementation of NAFTA.

The development of Interstate Highway 69 (IH 69) as a key NAFTA transportation corridor was the subject of testimony. IH 69 would use the current U.S. Highway 59 route and continue along U.S. Highways 71 and 251.

Several panels testified on the impact of NAFTA on the Corpus Christi area. The Corpus Christi-Laredo Partnership, the Port of Corpus Christi, and the Laredo Development Foundation were the subject of panel discussions. Corpus Christi is the sixth largest port in the United States and Laredo is the largest inland port in the country. Other panels discussed the impact of NAFTA on Texas' deep water ports, and local perspectives including those of small businesses.

The committee will present its report in October with recommendations to the 76th Legislature, which convenes in January of 1999.

Senate Finance Subcommitte Meets at State Capitol

AUSTIN - Members of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Articles IV and V met at the state capitol on Tuesday, February 10, to discuss judiciary, public safety, and criminal justice issues. Serving on the committee are Senators Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio (chair), David Sibley of Waco, and Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville.

The committee is responsible for analyzing agencies' execution of useful and accurate performance measures. The members evaluate the agencies' budgets and review requested appropriations. The committee may also look into the agencies' caseloads, employment situations, responses to certain State Auditor reports, and settlement agreements as well as any pending legal claims.

Tuesday's public hearing consisted of background presentations by both the Legislative Budget Board and the State Auditor's Office. The committee also heard invited testimony from representatives of the Supreme Court of Texas, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Courts of Appeals (14), the Texas Judicial Council, the Office of the State Prosecuting Attorney, the State Law Library, the Court Reporters Certification Board, and the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

The subcommittee will report its findings to the Senate Finance Committee which will then make any necessary recommendations for legislative or state agency action to the 76th Legislature which convenes in January of next year.

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