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January 12, 2011 (512) 463-0300

SUNSET COMMISSION APPROVES AGENCY CHANGES

(AUSTIN) — The Sunset Commission approved a number of changes to major state agencies Wednesday, sending the recommendations for consideration to the full House and Senate. Each state agency must go through the Sunset process every 12 years, so members of both chambers review agency operations and functions and make modifications. Sunset recommendations approved included the Juvenile Probation Commission, the Texas Department of Transportation, Public Utilities Commission and the Railroad Commission.

Perhaps the most significant change approved was the abolishment of the Juvenile Probation Commission and the Texas Youth Commission. The Sunset Commission recommended that these agencies be combined into one agency, called the Juvenile Justice Commission, which would be reviewed again by the Commission in 2016. Members of Sunset also approved changes to the Texas Department of Transportation, voting 7 to 5 to move from five commissioners to one, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The commission also voted to require quarterly reports from TxDOT to the Legislature and would dedicate fees collected from outdoor advertisers to a fund to beautify Texas roads and highways.

The Commission approved a recommendation to change the name of the Texas Railroad Commission to the Texas Oil and Gas Commission, and change from three elected commissioners to one. Members also approved a recommendation to prevent seated commissioners from accepting political donations for another campaign until the final year of their term as commissioner. This is aimed at preventing conflicts of interests where commissioners would receive contributions from parties under their regulatory authority.

All of the recommendations approved Wednesday by the Sunset Commission must first be voted on by both chambers of the Legislature and signed by the Governor before they could go into effect.

Senator Florence Shapiro holds a press at the Capitol
Plano Senator Florence Shapiro called Wednesday for a state ban on chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana.

Also Wednesday, Plano Senator Florence Shapiro announced the filing of a bill that would criminalize the possession, sale and use of "synthetic marijuana." There is currently no state law that prevents the sale and use of chemicals that mimic THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Shapiro said these chemicals are actually more harmful than marijuana and should be made illegal. "I am very concerned about where we are going if we do not ban this product," she said. "It is very clear to all of us that a statewide ban remains necessary, as well as the best solution to this growing problem." Her bill, SB 331, would penalize the possession and sale of these chemicals the same as amphetamines, Ecstacy and other drugs, making the penalties actually more severe than possession of just marijuana. Sixteen states and more than 50 Texas cities have criminalized synthetic marijuana.

The Senate will reconvene Thursday, January 13 at 10 a.m in joint session with the House for the purpose of canvassing the votes from the 2010 general election for the Governor and Lt. Governor.


Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.

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