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April 13, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - The Clean Air Act could be coming back to haunt businesses that were created before the 1971 air quality standards. Under legislation passed today 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. And businesses that don't volunteer for air quality permits under this bill could face harsher consequences from the next Legislature.

Lake Jackson Senator J.E. Buster Brown sponsored the Committee Substitute to Senate Bill (CSSB) 766. He says the bill gives business two years to catch up. "After 2001 these opportunities end and the legislature will decide in the next session what to do with those who are not getting the message and who do not listen to this legislature and choose not to be permitted well, then they will be dealt with by the next legislature."

But bill opponents claim the voluntary permits aren't tough enough. Corpus Christi Senator Carlos F. Truan says the bill is not in the public interest. "I understand that economic development, jobs and benefits go hand in hand but I submit to you we only have so much air we breathe every day. We don't manufacture that like we do other things and I submit to you that we need to protect it."

But Brown says this bill is a step in the right direction for modernizing pollution equipment. "We are light years, we're moving light years on some of these facilities from pre-1971 to 1989 technology."

In other action, grandparents who are raising their grandchildren will get more help from the state. CSSB1423 includes extra financial assistance and services to those grandparents with annual household incomes of less than $50,000. Bill sponsor Dallas Senator Royce West said, "Grandparents are raising their grandchildren and this is not basically a statistical footnote but it's a reality. These statistics are expected to increase and we need to address this issue now."

The Senate finally passed the bill banning eight-liner machines. Waco Senator David Sibley charges that eight-liners are being used as casino machines for gambling and that's illegal in Texas. CSSB 970 is designed to stop that from happening.

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

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