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September 9, 1998     (512) 463-0300

SENATE TITLE INSURANCE COMMITTEE HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING AT STATE CAPITOL

AUSTIN - The Senate Interim Committee on Title Insurance held a public hearing on Wednesday, September 9, at the Texas State Capitol. Members of the committee include Senators Chris Harris of Arlington serving as chair, J.E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson, and Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin. The committee was appointed by Lt. Governor Bob Bullock to review and recommend any necessary changes concerning the current system of setting title insurance premium rates. Areas of study include the comparison of Texas title rates to the rates in comparable states, title insurance cost-drivers, expenses that should be included or excluded in calculating the rate base, and whether title insurance should be regulated. The committee is also studying the issue of controlled business arrangements in the title insurance industry and the effects of such practices on prices and competition.

The committee heard testimony from Robert Carter, Deputy Commissioner of the Title Division of the Texas Department of Insurance; Merritt Hopson, Title Insurance of the Texas Department of Insurance Commission; and Stephen A. Hester, Attorney, Chicago Title, Dallas.

The committee will submit its final report and recommendations to the 76th Legislature which convenes January 12, 1999.

SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE COMPLETES INTERIM TASKS

AUSTIN - The Senate Finance Committee met today in the Capitol Extension to receive interim reports from the four appointed interim subcommittees, and to discuss proposed changes to Article 9. Members of the committee include Senators Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant serving as chair, Ken Armbrister of Victoria, J.E. ‘Buster” Brown of Lake Jackson, Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Teel Bivins of Amarillo, Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth, Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, David Sibley of Waco, Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, Royce West of Dallas, and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.

The subcommittees were appointed by Lt. Governor Bob Bullock for the Interim of the 75th Legislature to report their findings to the 76th Legislature. The charge for each subcommittee included evaluating the usefulness and analyzing the accuracy of the agencies' performance measures; evaluate agencies' budgets and identify reasons for differences in budget requests and appropriated amounts; examining the history of agencies' unexpended balances and the causes for those balances; evaluating agencies' caseload, population, or enrollment forecast methods; monitor agencies' response to State Auditor reports; analyzing agencies' line-item strategies and determine if they are essential and reflective of the agencies' missions; review increases and decreases in the number of full or part time employees and use of consultants and/or contract individuals; and to evaluate all judgements, settlement agreements, and pending legal claims which may impact agencies' Fiscal Year 98-2001 budget periods. Subcommittee 4 also was charged with evaluating whether state agencies timely receive and appropriately consider information on advances in technology; identify any barriers, financial or otherwise, that impede the exchange of information and make suggestions to eliminate them; and make recommendations to increase innovative use of technology in state government to better serve Texas. The full committee was asked to review the use of riders in the Appropriations Bill and recommend guidelines to evaluate proposed riders for appropriations and legality.

Subcommittee 1, chaired by Senator Wentworth, studied Articles 4 and 5 which manages the Judiciary, Public Safety, and Criminal Justice agencies. Other members of the subcommittee include Senators Lucio and Sibley. Subcommittee 2, chaired by Senator Moncrief, studied Article 3, the Education agency. Other members of the subcommittee include Senators Brown and Zaffirini. Subcommittee 3, chaired by Senator Nelson, studied Articles 2 and 8, the Health and Human Services and Regulatory agencies. Other members of the subcommittee include Senators Truan and West. Subcommittee 4, chaired by Senator Barrientos, studied Articles 1, 6, and 7, the General Government, Natural Resources, Business and Economic Development agencies. Other members of the subcommittee include Senators Armbrister and Bivins.

All reports were forwarded to the Lt. Governor as recommendations by the individual subcommittees rather than by the full committee. Discussion of Article 9, which includes riders to the appropriations bill, included the recommendation that current riders be moved to statute if they are unconstitutional, and in the future the committee will use certain criteria for whether riders are included in the bill.

The committee stands recessed subject to the call of the chair.

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