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May 24, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - The Senate agreed with the House today on legislation offering health insurance for children of the working poor. The Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, could provide coverage for half of a million Texas children. The compromise legislation ironed out by a conference committee of Senate and House members is on its way to the governor's desk.

Bill sponsor Senator Mike Moncrief says Senate Bill (SB) 445 is a carefully crafted compromise. "Among all the bills that we pass this session, few will have the lasting impact on the children, indeed the future of this state," said Moncrief.

Time is running out to get a school finance proposal passed by the Legislature. The House passed its version of the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 4 over the weekend. Even with a large number of amendments added onto the original bill, Senate sponsor Teel Bivins of Amarillo says he thinks they can make it work. "With 3.8 billion dollars there's a lot that we can do to make a lot of groups happy. I still anticipate that when the dust settles on this compromise that every party will be left with a lot of what they wanted but not 100% of what they wanted," said Bivins. A conference committee has until Sunday to work out a deal.

Daytime driving could be a little faster on state highways. The Senate passed a bill allowing the Texas Department of Transportation to raise the maximum speed limit from 70 to 75 miles per hour on state-maintained highways. House Bill (HB) 3328 also allows a speed limit of 80 miles per hour on east-west interstate highways in Texas counties with populations of less than 25,000. San Antonio Senator Frank Madla sponsored the bill.

The Border Patrol would have more authority to detain suspected drunk drivers under HB 1907, which also passed the Senate today. These officials could stop possible drunk drivers at an established border patrol checkpoint in addition to the ports of entry they already patrol. Brownsville Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. sponsored the bill.

Legislation to clean up the constitution passed out of the Senate today. Plano Senator Florence Shapiro sponsored the measure which makes no major changes but updates the 123-year-old document, replacing obsolete terms such as 'elector' with the more modern 'voter'. "It's been widely reported and certainly agreed upon that the Texas Constitution is not only outmoded and outdated, but in need of revision," said Shapiro. An effort to approve a new constitution failed this session. House Joint Resolution 62 needs voter approval before the changes are made.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow, May 25, at 10:00 a.m.

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