Senator Jane Nelson
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
Fax (512) 463-0923

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 31, 1997
Contact: Chris Ward
(512) 463-0112

NELSON GIVES WRAP-UP OF 75TH LEGISLATURE

AUSTIN - Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, noted success on a number of issues topping her legislative agenda as the 75th session of the Texas Legislature drew to a close.

"Working together with constituents, other legislators, and state leaders, we achieved many of our goals for Texas and Senate District 12," Nelson commented. "We have moved forward on vital issues like education, public safety, and transportation."

Throughout the session Senator Nelson, who is a former teacher and former State Board of Education member, pushed to have revenue from the state lottery dedicated to education. She passed a lottery-dedication bill through the Senate and the provision was included in the tax relief bill passed by the Legislature.

"Dedicating lottery funds to education is a victory for Texas voters," Nelson said. "When Texans were asked to create the lottery, they were told the funds would go to education. This Legislature has finally made good on that implied promise."

Senator Nelson noted that the Legislature passed several measures aimed at protecting Texas kids. "We are sending our young people a message that we care enough to be tough. We enacted Zero Tolerance for juvenile drunk driving and we are making it more difficult for minors to have access to tobacco. These measures will make Texas kids safer."

Senator Nelson is vice Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and served on a special committee which studied the need for reforms in regulations on Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and other managed health care plans.

"A major focus for me this session was enacting patient protections for Texans enrolled in managed care plans. All of us who were members of the Interim Committee on Managed Care and Consumer Protections spent hundreds of hours crafting a comprehensive package of reforms which will ensure that Texans continue to enjoy the highest quality health care in an era of controlled costs," Nelson said.

"We passed bills this session which will contribute to a better Texas. I have tried hard to represent my constituents and their conservative values. I brought those conservative principles to the table and I'm proud of what has been accomplished," Nelson concluded.

Following this page is a summary of highlights of Senator Nelson's accomplishments in the 75th Legislature

HIGHLIGHTS OF SENATOR JANE NELSON'S 75TH LEGISLATURE ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Nelson dedicates lottery funds to education
Nearly six years after the creation of the state lottery, Senator Nelson has ensured that revenues from the game will finally go to education. Although polls show that the vast majority of Texans believe lottery funds should be dedicated to education, the money has simply been dumped into the state's general fund since the lottery began in 1992. In the Senate, Nelson passed Senate Bill 105 directing profits from the lottery to the state's Foundation School Fund which is used only for public education. The provision was included in the tax relief plan approved by a joint conference committee. In the next fiscal year, the lottery is expected to generate nearly $1.3 billion which will now be earmarked for Texas schools.

Nelson enacts HMO patient protection reforms
Senator Nelson played an integral role in shaping new patient protections for Texans enrolled in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and other managed care insurance providers. Nelson, who is vice Chair of the Senate Health and Human Service Committee, served on a special interim committee which produced a comprehensive package of reforms. Highlights include: holding HMOs legally liable for coverage decisions which result in harm to patients, publication of an annual HMO Report Card, and prohibiting "gag clauses" which limit doctors' ability to make recommendations to patients.

Nelson managed care reforms include better emergency care access and coverage decisions
Senate Bill 384, authored by Senator Nelson, improves patient access to emergency care and ensures that health care coverage decisions are made only by qualified professionals. SB 384 adds a "prudent layperson" standard to the definition of emergency care meaning that an HMO cannot refuse to pay for emergency services if the average person would reasonably judge the situation to be a medical emergency. It also provides that only physicians, nurses, physician assistants, or mental health care professionals can make decisions regarding whether a particular service will be covered by an HMO.

Nelson cracks down on welfare fraud
As vice Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Senator Nelson was a joint author of Senate Bill 30, a comprehensive package of reforms to crack down on welfare fraud. These reforms include making use of new fraud detection technologies, increased enforcement, stepped-up monitoring of Medicaid service providers, and stiffer penalties for fraud. It is estimated that these reforms could save the state almost $11.5 million over the next two years.

Nelson gets tough on juvenile drunk driving
This year the Legislature enacted a Zero Tolerance policy toward juvenile drinking and driving. Senator Nelson urged this approach in the 1995 session and this year co-authored Senate Bill 35 which makes it an offense for a minor to drive with any measurable level of blood alcohol. Drunk driving is a major killer of Texas teenagers. Drunk drivers killed 1,782 people in 1995 in Texas, more than in any other state.

Nelson snuffs out teen smoking
Senate Bill 55, co-authored by Senator Nelson, gives Texas some of the toughest laws in the nation to prohibit juveniles from possessing cigarettes and other tobacco products. Kids under the age of 18 who possess or buy cigarettes can be fined up to $500 and may be subject to having their driver's licenses suspended. The bill implements stricter enforcement measures to stop sales of cigarettes to kids. It bans cigarette vending machines from places which are accessible to children and prohibits cigarette advertising within 1,000 feet of a church or school.

Nelson sends out-of-state prisoners home
Senator Nelson carried a bill which assures that out-of-state prisoners who are sent to Texas don't overstay their welcome. Texas, which has a surplus of prison beds, is paid by other states to house their overflow inmates. House Bill 485 requires that these criminals be returned to their home state before being released.

Nelson expands school choice
Senator Nelson co-authored legislation to increase the number of open-enrollment charter schools in Texas. The 1995 Legislature approved formation of 20 of these public schools which operate free of most state mandates. The number of quality charter school proposals has been so high that there is a clamor for the creation of more of these innovative schools. Additionally, Nelson passed a bill which guarantees campus charter schools, which are chartered by individual school districts, certain powers which encourage successful innovation.

Nelson bill raises drop-out age
Currently, a student may drop out of school at age 17 even if the student's parents do not give their consent. Senate Bill 247 requires students to stay in school until they reach their 18th birthday. Students who are enrolled in a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) program or who are home-schooled are exempted from the provision.

Nelson clarifies expelled student provisions
Senator Nelson sponsored legislation which empowers school districts to deal with expelled students who transfer from another district. If a student who was expelled or placed in a juvenile justice alternative education program (JJAEP) in one district moves, the new district can now continue the expulsion order or place the student in its JJAEP.

Nelson sponsors boat safety bill
House Bill 966 requires juveniles to complete a boating safety course and enhances training for water safety enforcement officers. It also includes stiffer penalties for boat safety violations, including a mandatory safety course. Texans who are not required to take a boating safety course can do so voluntarily for only $10.

Nelson sponsors stalking bill
Senate Bill 97 again made stalking a crime in Texas after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals struck down a 1993 law as unconstitutionally vague in September 1996. The new law more specifically describes the behavior which constitutes stalking. It was passed and signed into law less than two weeks into the session after being declared an emergency measure.

Nelson sponsors sex offender registration
Senator Nelson pushed for expansion of sex offender registration and co-sponsored Senate Bill 875 which broadens notification of a sex offender's whereabouts and requires lifetime registration for sexually violent offenses.

Nelson sponsors Internet porn bill
Senator Nelson co-sponsored Senate Bill 674 which allows enforcement of child pornography laws for pornography transmitted over the Internet.

Nelson puts prisoners to work
Senator Nelson co-sponsored a bill allowing prisoners to be put to work on highway projects. House Bill 2825 would authorize the Texas Transportation Commission to contract with a prison or sheriff's department operating for provision of inmate or probationer labor for a state highways system improvement project.

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