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May 17, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - The Senate passed legislation today to assist counties in restoring their historic courthouses. Senator Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay sponsored the Committee Substitute for House Bill 1341. The $50 million will be sent to counties via the Texas Historical Commission. Counties will be required to spend 15% of their own money on the projects. Fraser says smaller counties cannot afford the total costs on their own. "A lot of them would like to restore these courthouses but you get a county the size of Menard that only has two or three thousand people in the county, there's not a tax base there to support this. And I think there's a feeling within the people of the State of Texas that this is an important project to make sure that we preserve this part of history," said Fraser.

There was concern expressed during floor debate by Beaumont Senator David Bernsen. Bernsen claims the Legislature is putting courthouses in front of kids. "My concern is the priorities, that we still have needs in public education, even though we've made great strides. We have tremendous more needs in higher education even though we've made strides, and to me it seems we could better spend 50 million dollars on those areas than courthouses," said Bernsen.

In other action today, twenty new groundwater districts were approved by the Senate. They will have limited duties; including regulating how many new wells can be drilled. Each district will be controlled by a board of directors appointed by the local commissioners courts. Under Senate Bill 1911, the districts will be prohibited from permitting or restricting the out-of-district transfer of ground water. The bill's sponsor, Lake Jackson Senator J.E. "Buster" Brown, says an interim study on groundwater will help the next Legislature decide whether to continue the districts. Unless the Legislature acts during the next session, in 2001, the districts will dissolve.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow, May 18, at 10:00 a.m.

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