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Monday, February 15, 1999     (512) 463-0300

The Texas State Senate News

AUSTIN - Several nominations were confirmed by the Senate today, including Elton Bomer of Anderson County as Secretary of State, and Michael L. Williams of Tarrant County to fill the unexpired term of Carole Rylander on the Railroad Commission.

In a press conference held at the State Capitol today, Harris County Senators Rodney Ellis, Jon Lindsay, John Whitmire, David Bernsen and Mario Gallegos, announced a request for a performance review audit of the Harris County Hospital District. The district provides health care for uninsured Houston residents who are not eligible for medicaid or medicare. The senators expressed that they are trying to work with local officials not against them.

Ellis discussed that Texas, and Harris County in particular, have many uninsured residents, "I think the press coverage the hospital district's gotten has certainly put a spotlight on them. I think a performance review would go a long way toward sorting out in an objective fashion what things are working right and what things are not working right." Ellis said a bill carrying the proposal is being drafted.

In the Senate Finance Committee hearing today the Texas Education Agency (TEA) discussed problems with school districts manipulating accountability ratings by not including some students in the ratings and placing other students in categories where they are exempt from the Texas Assessment Academic Skills (TAAS) test. TEA representatives said a disproportionate number of minorities are exempted from the TAAS test. They recommended monitoring exemptions more carefully, monitoring the ethnic distribution of exemptions and providing guidelines as to who should be exempted.

The Senate's Electric Utility Restructuring Committee passed the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 86 by Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound. She drafted the bill to prevent consumer problems plaguing the telecommunication industry since it opened to competition. If it passes the full Senate, it would create a ten-point consumer bill of rights; outlaw cramming (hidden charges on your bills) and strengthens current slamming laws; empower the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to provide dispute resolution and provide consumer protection measures; requires the PUC to provide an annual report on service providers.

Education Committee Chair Teel Bivins announced today that Senate Bill (SB) 1, the bill ending social promotion, will likely reach the Senate floor on Thursday.

The Senate will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, February 16.