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April 12, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - Texas students could be taking the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) test more often under the Committee Substitute to Senate Bill (CSSB) 103 passed today. Currently, students must pass the TAAS test to graduate from high school. The test is supposed to measure whether students are academically prepared for the future.

"This is the test that we initially created to show Texans that a high school degree means something. Well really under current law all it means is that you can work at a minimum tenth grade skills level. By moving this test to the 11th grade we're going to improve credibility and accountability in public education in Texas", said bill sponsor Teel Bivins of Amarillo.

Bivins hopes the 10th grade test will now help students prepare for the 11th grade TAAS. The tests will also be broader, including questions on science and social studies. The tests would change in the 2002- 2003 school year.

The bill banning the use or possession of eight liner machines passed to engrossment today. Texas law allows amusement machines, but the line between amusement and gambling is unclear. Waco Senator David Sibley sponsors CSSB 970, and says eight liners are now being operated as casino machines and have crossed the line. "If you want to play the machine for a quarter, push a button and play that's fine. Its when you start redeeming stuff and winning prizes that's illegal. And that's the practice that they presently have."

Businesses who don't have emissions permits under the Clean Air Act could get voluntary permits under legislation debated in the Senate. Businesses in operation before the stricter regulations were passed in 1971 were grand fathered, meaning they don't have to abide by the new, tougher standards. Under this bill, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission would have the authority to give those companies who have not yet complied with the new standards a voluntary emissions reduction permit. Lake Jackson Senator J.E. Buster Brown sponsored CSSB 766 and said "Our goal in passing this legislation is to get all grand fathered facilities permitted but more importantly to get significant emissions reductions as soon as possible."

But some Senators, including Houston Senator Rodney Ellis, argued that they've already had enough time to comply. "Essentially what you're doing under this bill is giving people who had 28 years to do this on their own a little more time", said Ellis. But Brown worried that if these companies are required to comply, some will just shut down. The bill passed to engrossment.

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

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