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

AUSTIN--Money for college could be on the way to Texans who meet requirements for academic achievement and financial need. The Hope Grant Program, formerly called the Hope Scholarship Program, will award at least 100 million dollars to about 20,000 students who qualify. The program is created by the Committee Substitute to Senate Bill(CSSB) 37. Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston sponsored the bill and had support from Senators of both parties in its passage. He attributed its bipartisan success to Lt. Governor Rick Perry. Perry says the program will expand the opportunities of students throughout the state, saying "The one hundred million dollar scholarship program says to our young people that the Texas dream is available to you. Whether you live in the barrios on the border or in the suburbs a college degree is more important than ever in today's competitive global economy".

Ellis hopes the Legislature will find even more money for the grant program later in the session.

Annexation reform legislation also passed the Senate. CSSB 87 is intended to give affected residents a voice in the process and to encourage responsible annexation. People in an area up for annexation gain the ability to negotiate for services. San Antonio Senator Frank Madla says hard work over the interim and open minds helped get the bill passed. "I think it demonstrated that it doesn't matter how divergent the views can be, individuals who are willing to solve problems in Texas can do so regardless of political philosophies."

A bill allowing oral confessions to police officers to be admissible in court never made it to the floor. There were not enough votes to suspend the rules to consider Senate Bill(SB) 460. Opponents claim the current law doesn't include that provision for a reason--to protect against potential abuses by police officers who would have nothing but their own word to offer as proof of the confession. But the Lt. Governor says it's a matter of trust. "I think the message is one to our law enforcement officers in state of Texas that we do trust you and that's my main concern is that we send a clear message to law enforcement." Perry expects the bill to return next week with changes.

The school voucher bill barely passed out of the Education Committee last night on a straight party line vote--five Republicans for the bill and four Democrats against. Perry supports the bill and said he's not frustrated by the lack of bipartisan support. "I never get discouraged in this process. I am the eternal optimist and this will be an ongoing process and a work in progress."

The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 29 at 1:30 p.m.

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