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Tuesday, March 2, 1999     (512) 463-0300

The Texas State Senate News

AUSTIN - The Texas Senate passed legislation today that could eliminate telephone solicitation. The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 86 has provisions protecting consumers from unfair and fraudulent business practices in the telecommunications and electric industries. The biggest change laid out today directs the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to establish a database of customers who do not want telephone solicitations. Customers would be charged a one-time fee of less than five dollars for inclusion in the database. The Senate heard eight floor amendments to the bill, sponsored by Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound. Nelson says most of the amendments clarify the legislation without making any major changes. Nelson says there could be a conflict between two of the amendments proposed today. The Senate will take up the legislation on third reading tomorrow.

Texas cotton growers could be getting more help from the government in the fight against boll weevils in a bill sponsored by Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan. Senate Bill 448 authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture to spend funds appropriated by the Legislature for the eradication of the boll weevil in a cost-sharing program.

Mount Pleasant Senator Bill Ratliff introduced a new constitution for Texas in the State Affairs Committee. Ratliff says this Legislature has a chance to leave a legacy of a better structured government. The new constitution, written by Ratliff and Representative Rob Junell of San Angelo, would replace the one Texas has used for the past 120 years. Ratliff says the new constitution does not touch Article 1, which includes the Bill of Rights. Other changes could affect school funding, state taxes, and the salaries and term-limits of state and elected officials.

In remarks before the committee today, Ratliff said, "I'm not here to tell you that we have a constitutional crisis. As a matter of fact I think all of you know better and I hope that you can help me dispel the notion that this institution can't act in the absence of crisis. But I do believe that we need, we badly need a new constitution in Texas."

Professor Lynn Baker from the University of Texas School of Law noted that the governor would be a very busy and powerful person under the new constitution. His new powers would allow him to intervene in any lawsuit having to do with the State of Texas, appoint judges and make state agencies more accountable to the governor.

The Health Services Committee passed the CSSB 44 by Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano. If the bill becomes law, parents who check their minor children into drug treatment facilities would have to approve of their release. The committee also passed the CSSB 93 by Senator Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth, relating to the regulation of assisted living facilities.

Governor George W. Bush announced an exploratory committee to consider a Presidential run. Lt. Governor Rick Perry says that will not change things in the Texas Legislature, "The most important thing I think all of us have to keep in mind is that we have a legislative session in front of us. And I can assure you, George Bush, Rick Perry, the Texas Senate, the Texas House, and Speaker Laney are all focused on the next 90 days in the Texas Legislature."

The Senate reconvenes at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, March 3, 1999.

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