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May 27, 1999     (512) 463-0300

AUSTIN - Today, the Senate agreed to the budget plan worked out in the appropriations conference committee. House Bill 1, the $98.1 billion budget, will fund state government for the next two years. Education will get the biggest piece of the budget pie, sixty percent of all new money. Senate Finance Committee Chair Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant says a healthy economy made it easier to satisfy more of Texas' needs. "I don't feel we left anything undone but we didn't do as much with it as we would've liked to," said Ratliff.

Austin Senator Gonzalo Barrientos gave the only 'no' vote on the budget plan. He argued that Texas teachers and children deserved more than they are receiving. The budget is the only item lined out in the Texas Constitution that the Legislature must pass each session.

Upon passage of the appropriations bill, San Angelo Representative Rob Junell presented Ratliff with a 'Jedi Light Saber' similar to one used by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars movies. Ratliff is often referred to as 'Obi-Wan' by his colleagues due of his patience, knowledge, and experience in state government. Junell serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and Co Chair of the budget conference committee.

Texas consumers would be able to choose their own electric providers in the new millennium. The Senate agreed with House changes to a bill opening the electric utility market to competition. Supporters of the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 7 believe Texas consumers will benefit from lower prices in a competitive market. Waco Senator David Sibley sponsored the legislation, which is the product of an interim study chaired by Sibley during the 75th Legislative Session.

The Senate will reconvene tomorrow, May 28, at 10:00a.m.

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