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March 19, 1998     (512) 463-0300

SENATE INTERIM COMMITTEE ON HOUSING MEETS IN HOUSTON

HOUSTON - In an effort to provide affordable housing for all Texans, members of the Senate Interim Committee on Housing met at at the University of Houston Hilton on Thursday, March 19. The committee has toured the state with meetings in Austin, Brownsville, San Antonio, and Dallas collecting valuable information on the needs of housing in each region. In Houston, legislators focused on housing deficiencies and overcrowding.

Chairing the committee is Senator Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and members include Senators Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, Rodney Ellis of Houston, and Florence Shapiro of Dallas. The members were welcomed by Houston City Councilman, the Honorable Carroll G. Robinson.

The committee heard testimony from representatives of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Houston's Housing and Community Development Department, Houston Housing Finance Corporation, and the Texas Commission on Human Rights. Public testimony followed.

LEGISLATORS DISCUSS OPEN RECORD ISSUES IN HOUSTON

HOUSTON - Members of the Senate Interim Committee on Public Information met in Houston on Thursday, March 19, to discuss the issue of open record policies in Texas. The committee is responsible for studying problems existing with the Public Information Act such as harassment, commercial enterprise, delays in production of information, access and availability, and costs of public resources. Members will also look into the Act's privacy interests and what effects technology will have.

The committee is chaired by Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio and members include Senators Ken Armbrister of Victoria, John Whitmire of Houston, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and John Carona of Dallas.

The meeting consisted of public and invited testimony regarding public access to accident reports, restricted access to information contained in the motor vehicle records and issues plaguing judicial records. The committee also discussed public disclosure of certain law enforcement records.

LEGISLATORS DISCUSS MUNICIPAL FRANCHISE AGREEMENTS

HOUSTON - On Thursday, March 19, members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Municipal Franchise Agreements for Telecommunications Utilities met in Houston to discuss committee charges. The committee is co-chaired by Senator Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Representative Bill Carter of Fort Worth. Members include Senators David Sibley of Waco and Florence Shapiro of Plano and Representatives Fred Hill of Richardson and Steve Wolens of Dallas. Welcoming the members to Houston was its mayor, the Honorable Lee Brown.

Held across the state, the committee members focus meetings on the need for consistency in terms and conditions of franchise agreements. Houston participants contributed information regarding the conditions of their franchise agreements, fees and ordinances.

Those testifying also addressed the regulation of foreseeable technology such as fixed wireless service, entry into internet services, and telecommunications resellers that use other company's facilities to provide services. These industry newcomers have added a snag in determining a fee structure for use of city rights-of-way by telecommunications companies.

Thursday's meeting consisted of invited testimony from representatives of the Texas Municipal League, the Texas Coalition of Cities on Franchise Utilities Issues, the City of Houston, the City of Dallas, Westel, and the Government & Regulatory Affairs of ACSI from Louisiana. Public testimony followed.

TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE MEETS IN ABILENE

ABILENE - The Senate's Interim Committee on Transportation held a public hearing Thursday, March 19, in Abilene. The committee was appointed by Lt. Governor Bob Bullock to research trends in transportation issues facing Texas relating to rapid growth in population and ways to ease crowding on state and local roads; methods used in financing transportation projects and whether current plans are adequate to meet demands and relieve traffic congestion; evaluate state efforts in promoting alternate methods of transportation; and studying the funding of metropolitan transit authorities to determine whether their services are being provided efficiently.

Members of the committee include SenatorsKen Armbrister of Victoria serving as chair, David Cain of Dallas, TroyFraser of Horseshoe Bay, Mario Gallegos of Houston, Drew Nixon ofCarthage, Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, and Bill Ratliff of MountPleasant.

Members were welcomed to Abilene by its mayor, the Honorable W. Lee Byrd, and Taylor County Judge Lee Hamilton.

All Interim committees will gather their findings and make any necessary recommendations to the 76th Legislature which convenes in January of next year.

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