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Thursday, April 23, 1998     (512) 463-0300
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CHILDREN GIVE STAMP OF APPROVAL ON SENATEKIDS

AUSTIN - Children of all ages and grade levels were the first to see Texas SenateKids, the Senate's educational website devoted to children. The page was officially launched to the Internet on Tuesday, April 21, and those children touring the Capitol were able to participate in hands-on demonstrations of the new website.

Among the favorite activities of the children on SenateKids were the online coloring book, the Senate "Madlib" game, and the QuickTime Virtual Tour of the Capitol and grounds. The children, as well as their teachers and parents, provided valuable feedback for SenateKids through surveys.

SenateKids is an interactive web site where kids of all ages can learn about the history, government processes, and legislative figures of Texas through games, photographs, animated characters, and informative reference sections.

Each of the 31 Texas senators will be sending out user materials to schools, libraries, and educational service centers in their districts.

TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE MEETS IN SAN ANTONIO

SAN ANTONIO - The Senate Interim Committee on Transportation met at the University of Texas at San Antonio on Thursday, April 23. Appearing before the committee were witnesses from the city of San Antonio and Bexar County governments, as well as San Antonio transit officials and representatives from other local agencies.

The committee is looking at whether current methods of funding projects are adequate and how the transportation system needs to respond to the rapidly increasing population of South and Central Texas. It is also studying the number of railroad accidents in Texas.

Attending the meeting were Senators Ken Armbrister of Victoria (chair), Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant, Drew Nixon of Carthage, and Mario Gallegos of Houston.

SENATORS DISCUSS CIVIL JUSTICE ISSUES AT STATE CAPITOL

AUSTIN - On Thursday, April 23, the Senate Chamber was filled with Texans concerned with insurance and liability issues. The Senate Interim Committee on Civil Justice met in a public hearing to hear these concerns in order to develop possible legislation to improve Texas' civil justice system.

Chairing the committee was Senator David Sibley of Waco and members include Senators Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, J.E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson, David Cain of Dallas, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, and Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso.

Testimony was given by two panels of invited witnesses. The first discussed enforcement issues and liability insurance to determine alternatives to Texas' current mandatory liability system. Those testifying included representatives from the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Transportation, the National Association of Independent Insurers, and the University of Virginia School of Law.

The second panel debated possible changes in the Tort System. Representatives from the Texas Association of Defense Counsels, the University of Virginia School of Law, Georgia's former Insurance Commissioner, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, State Farm Insurance, and an advocate for no-fault and no pay/no play options all provided valuable testimony. Public testimony followed.

The committee will report their findings and any recommendations for legislation to the 76th Legislature which convenes in January of next year.

Interim Water Committee meets in Brownsville

BROWNSVILLE - The Interim Committee on Water Resources Development and Management met at the University of Texas, Brownsville on Thursday, April 23 in the new Science and Engineering Building. The committee is traveling throughout the state, conducting hearings on the implementation of Senate Bill 1 (SB1) The Brown-Lewis Water Management Plan passed during the 75th Legislative Session. SB1 is a comprehensive water management plan that provides Texas with its first statewide drought management plan. Members of the committee include Senators J.E. "Buster" Brown (chair) of Lake Jackson, Ken Armbrister of Victoria, Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio. These are the same members of the Legislature that served on the conference committee on Senate Bill 1 (SB1) during the regular session.

Invited testimony began with Dr. Larry McKinney of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), who provided testimony that focused on bay and estuary systems. Bays and estuaries are dependent upon fresh water in-flows. Representatives' of the Port of Brownsville testimony focused on the Channelview-Weir Project. Participants believe that the Weir Project would benefit many other entities and would be preferable to an off-site reservoir which would only benefit Brownsville.

Dan Pearson, Executive Director of the Texas Natural Resource Conversation Commission (TNRCC), made his last appearance in that capacity before the committee. Pearson will be leaving state government after 20 years of public service; three and a half years at TNRCC.

The committee stands recessed subject to call of the chair.

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