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Wednesday, February 10, 1999     (512) 463-0300

The Texas State Senate News

AUSTIN - During today's session, Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio explained his decision to vote yesterday against the suspension of a constitutional rule which speeds up the legislative process. The Texas Constitution states that "no bill shall have the force of a law, until it has been read on three several days in each House, and free discussion allowed thereon" but four fifths of the membership present may choose to suspend the rule in cases of public necessity. Wentworth voted against the rule yesterday during the passage of Senate Bill 290, the emergency legislation which provides a temporary exemption from the severance tax for small oil producers.

Wentworth disagrees with the Senate's practice of suspending the rules specifically laid out in the Texas Constitution as a matter of routine, although he's voted in favor of the suspension in the past, "Whatever minor inconvenience to the Senate this adherence to the constitution might entail is, I believe, far outweighed by the public interest of allowing our bosses, the people of Texas to know what we're in the process of doing."

The Texas House of Representatives rarely suspends the constitutional rules.

In committee action today, the Senate Education Committee began hearing testimony on one of the Governor's priorities-- Senate Bill (SB) 1, the bill ending social promotion in public schools. Social promotion is the practice of promoting or advancing students to the next grade level even though they have not shown proficiency in their current grade level. Education Committee Chair and bill sponsor Teel Bivins of Amarillo stated, "I believe this bill will accelerate closing that gap through early intervention and state funded remediation to get at the children who are now in my mind falling through the cracks."

Dallas Senator Royce West, a co-sponsor of the legislation, expressed concerns that SB 1 would specifically hurt minority students if not fully funded continously. West wants to insure that SB 1 is a funding priority both now and in the future, pointing out that the Legislature has created mandates in the past without continuing to fund them in the future.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m.

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