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April 19, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - The Legislature's primary task, the state budget, is moving through the legislative process. The Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed today the Committee Substitute for House Bill (CSHB) 1. Committee Chair Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant plans to bring the bill to the Senate floor Friday morning, and senators who may be on the conference committee should be prepared to begin meeting Sunday evening.

Lt. Governor Rick Perry praises the priorities of the budget which mirror his own: education and tax cuts. "The Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed a blueprint for Texas priorities as we enter the 21st century, meeting basic needs starting with education and tax cuts for families and small businesses," said Perry. Education will receive the biggest increase in funding from the last budget. The appropriations bill also includes a state employee pay raise including non-faculty college employees.

A controversial bill addressing the assignment of fault in lawsuits failed to gain enough votes to be heard on the Senate floor, but not before a heated debate between the bill sponsor and opponents of the measure. Waco Senator David Sibley sponsors Senate Bill (SB) 614, which would change the law so that a criminal who escapes, could be held responsible in civil court for the consequences of a crime.

Austin Senator Gonzalo Barrientos opposes the bill. "The victim is not going to be served well by this legislation. The victim is going to be worse off than anyone else in this legal system that you have," said Barrientos. For example, if someone is attacked in a bar, under this bill both the bar and the criminal could be held liable. That is not the case under current law. Trial lawyers are against the bill. They say juries will put all the blame on the criminals; and the bar, which may not have provided adequate security, could get off easy.

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

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