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April 15, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - Better roads for the border and quick financing for NAFTA projects are the goals of Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry, border Senators Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, and members of the Texas Transportation Commission. In a press conference today, they announced a plan to speed up border transportation improvements.

Perry said the border of the future will look different, "If we do our job right and we get the border infrastructure right, Texas will be better, it'll be safer and it'll be more prosperous in places all over the state."

Lucio, Chair of the Border Affairs Committee said it is more than just roads and money, "Anytime you build an infrastructure, especially in transportation, you connect that community. In this case we're talking about not only connecting the community in terms of education, economic development, health care whatever the needs are but you're also connecting the entire state and the nation to an area of the state that's extremely important economically."

Shapleigh discussed the impact of the increased NAFTA traffic crossing the border and the strain on the current transportation system, but he said increased trade has positive results as well, "Texas is the true gateway to Mexico and Mexico is the driver of prosperity."

In floor action today, the Senate passed legislation to provide nutritional assistance for legal immigrants excluded in federal welfare laws. Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini sponsored Senate Bill (SB) 1095.

The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 785 would restrict some autopsy photos or x rays. San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth is sponsoring the legislation which would keep photos graphic in nature and that may cause distress to the families of the deceased out of the hands of the public. He said he is not worried about the press, but the Internet is another problem, "The problem is we now have an Internet that is loaded with unscrupulous people that have no sense of responsibility and if you open these photos and x-rays to press, you open them to the public." CSSB 785 is pending final passage.

Finally, an attempt to change the Texas clemency system failed on the floor today. Houston Senator Rodney Ellis sponsored a floor amendment to the Board of Pardons and Paroles Sunset Bill. The Sunset Commission reviews state agencies every ten years to insure the agency's necessity and procedures. The amendment would have required the board that makes clemency recommendations to the Governor to meet formally to perform their duties in capital punishment-related clemency cases. The Board has been criticized for conducting clemency hearings privately, via telephone or fax. Before debate could begin, Victoria Senator Ken Armbrister called a point of order stating the amendment had not been heard in the committee hearing. Ellis withdrew the amendment.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow, April 16, at 9:00 a.m.

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