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Thursday, February 25, 1999     (512) 463-0300

The Texas State Senate News

AUSTIN - In today's session, the Senate voted in favor of giving small businesses in Texas a tax break. Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 148 exempts small businesses who have earnings up to $100,000 annually from the state's franchise tax. Those businesses would also be exempt from the reporting requirement. Currently businesses are required to fill out paperwork even if they do not make enough income to pay the tax. Senator Mario Gallegos Jr. of Galena Park sponsored a floor amendment requiring the Comptroller of Public Accounts to watch and report on the progress of the tax break and whether the money is returned to the State of Texas in the form of economic prosperity and job growth.

Bill sponsor Senator Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay says he expects 28,000 businesses to benefit at a price tag to the state of $57 million for the next biennium. In a press conference held upon adjournment of the Senate today, Fraser said, "The State of Texas, the foundation is built on small business. Anything we can do to relieve the pressure on these small businesses and allow them to grow is good for the state and good for the people of the state."

Lt. Governor Rick Perry says he expects the House to consider similar legislation next week.

Senator Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin supported the bill but questioned the priorities of the lLegislature this session. He would like to direct attention to other issues like child care. Barrientos held a press conference today to announce legislation providing a franchise tax credit to companies that provide child care for their employees. Barrientos stated, "I think we're moving a step closer to helping working families and single moms cope with the critical shortage of affordable, affordable child care."

In other business today, the Senate passed legislation protecting health care workers who are accidently exposed to a patient's blood or bodily fluids by allowing hospitals to test for hepatitis B or hepatitis C without the patient's consent. Dallas Senator John Carona, the sponsor of CSSB 99, said they already test for the AIDS virus in these situations and no additional blood would need to be drawn. The hospital would pay for the tests. Also passed was Senate Bill (SB) 397 which requires public or private health and human services organizations that receive state funds to provide information about their services to the Texas Information and Referral Network. The Senate quickly passed SB 85 revising the Texas Business and Commerce Code concerning letters of credit. Finally, the Senate passed CSSB 46, creating a criminal offense for the fraudulent use or possession of identifying information.

The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 1, at 1:30 p.m.