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May 26, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - Today was the last day for the Senate to pass bills. The midnight deadline allowed some senators to take out frustration about the death of some of their legislation on other bills on the Senate floor. The Senate will now focus on bills passed out of both the House and the Senate that have gone to conference committees made up of five members from each chamber.

Tax credits were rolling out of the Senate today. Small businesses would be exempt from the franchise tax under House Bill (HB) 551. The $120 million proposal would apply to businesses that earn less than $250,000 annually. Horseshoe Bay Senator Troy Fraser sponsored the bill. "This bill recognizes that small businesses provide the framework and the engine of the Texas economy because they create jobs," said Fraser.

Other businesses could get a break under research and development tax credits which were added on to that bill. The amendment gives tax credits to businesses that create jobs or invest in areas with high unemployment and low income, or create agricultural processing jobs in counties with fewer than 250,000 residents. The research and development tax credits apply in all Texas counties.

The Senate passed HB 2372 which exempts over-the-counter medicine from sales tax. Houston Senator Rodney Ellis sponsored bill which was expanded to include other sales tax cuts. The Senate adopted an amendment to create a sales tax holiday for 16 days before the school year begins; clothing and shoes costing less than $100 could be purchased tax free.

El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh questioned whether the Legislature has all this money to spend cutting taxes. Finance Committee Chair Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant says they have $500 million set aside for various tax cuts including those passed today. He says they will probably work out the numbers later in the process.

Plano Senator Florence Shapiro sponsored HB 4, a campaign finance proposal that barely made deadline during the committee process. The legislation was brought up on the floor just two hours before tonights midnight deadline. Senators claimed they did not have time to properly consider the complicated proposal. Waco Senator David Sibley and Houston Senator John Whitmire agreed that a bill regulating campaign contributions and procedures is too important to be brought up at the last minute. Sibley held the floor until 12 midnight to prevent passage of the legislation in the hurried late night debate.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow, May 27, at 1:00 p.m.

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