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Wednesday, March 3, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - The Senate finally passed legislation protecting consumers from abuses in a deregulated market for telecommunications and electric service, cracking down on slamming and cramming. Slamming is the unauthorized switching of service providers, and cramming is the practice of charging consumers for services they did not authorize. Bill sponsor Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound says she wants to have consumer protections in place if legislation passes this session opening the electric utility market to competition. Other provisions in the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 86 allow consumers to avoid telephone solicitations by joining a no-call list.

During debate in the Senate, Nelson stated, "With this legislation we're going to send a very clear message that if you want to compete in Texas you better do it fairly and if you don't we're going to pull the plug on you."

The Senate moved a step closer to deterring school related violence today. Public schools would be able to keep students who assault school employees or volunteers off campus if legislation passed today makes it to the governor's desk. Senate Bill (SB) 260, sponsored by Amarillo Senator Teel Bivins, does not require schools to expel, but gives them the option. A floor amendment to the bill allows schools to expel a student who takes retaliatory action against a school volunteer or employee, even if the retaliation occurred off campus.

Lt. Governor Rick Perry congratulated Senator Bivins on the bill's passage, "Senate Bill 260 gives local school districts the ability to implement a strict, zero tolerance policy for classroom violence. This bill protects our classroom teachers and sends a strong message to students that classroom violence in Texas will not be tolerated and will be punished in Texas."

In committee action today, the Senate Education Committee passed legislation authorizing school districts to offer drug testing programs. CSSB 42, sponsored by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, does not mandate school drug testing but allows parents to request a drug test. The Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony on other bills included in Shapiro's anti-drug package. SB 41 enhances the penalties for the sale of drugs which cause death or serious bodily injury to the user. Another bill, CSSB 43, allows the state to track drug usage patterns by requiring physicians to report overdoses of controlled substances to the Department of Health, without including personal information about the patient.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

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