NEWS RELEASE
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
June 4, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

Senator Rodney Ellis
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75th Legislative Session/Major Accomplishments

During the 75th Legislative Session, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) passed 86 bills and dozens of amendments to expand opportunity for families, create safer neighborhoods, increase investment in Texas communities and create a more efficient, effective and accountable state government. Under Senator Ellis' leadership, the Senate Jurisprudence Committee passed 286 bills -- 73 percent of the legislation referred to the committee.

Expand Educational Opportunity.

College Scholarships (Rider to SB 1898). Provides $10 million in funding for the Texas Tuition Assistance Program which provides free college tuition and fees to B-average high school graduates.

Hopwood Report (HB 2146 by Maxey/Ellis). Requires the state to monitor minority admissions, scholarships and graduation at state colleges and universities in the wake of the Hopwood federal court ruling prohibiting affirmative action programs in Texas.

Graduate Tuition Plan (SB 1299 and SB 1470 by Ellis; amendment to HB 9). Allows participants in the Texas Tomorrow Fund to use their prepaid tuition balances for a fifth year of undergraduate studies or graduate work.

Improve Adult Literacy Programs (HB 1640 by Raymond/Ellis). Maximizes adult literacy funds by evaluating and streamlining adult literacy services in Texas. Requires standardized, statewide assessment of adult education participants who need literacy instruction or adult basic education.

Texas Southern University (SB 1467, HBs 2923, 2411, 2933 by Ellis/Coleman). Allows TSU to use student fees to build a new recreational facility, improve medical services and upgrade the student center. Allows TSU to issue $18 million in bonds to begin construction on a new science center and renovate existing facilities.

Protect Communities and Sacred Houses of Worship.

Make Church Arson a First Degree Felony (SB 78 by Ellis/McClendon). Increase the penalty for burning a church or place of worship to a first degree felony. Church arsonists will face 5 to 99 years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine.

Prohibit Insurance Redlining of Churches Victimized by Arson (SB 79 by Ellis/McClendon). Prohibits insurance companies from canceling or not renewing church insurance policies because of a proven case of arson.

Lori's Law (SB 81 by Ellis/Hochberg). Closes a loophole in the law that allowed the 16-year-old driver responsible for the hit-and-run death of 12-year-old Lori Ann Braden to go unprosecuted.

Expand Drug-Free Zones to Include Day-Care Facilities (SB 119 by Ellis/Dukes; amendment to SB 1539). Expands school drug-free zones to include day-care centers. Enhances the maximum sentence for a drug-related crime committed near a day-care facility from ten years to 20 years in prison with a $10,000 fine.

Protect Elderly Texans (SB 1007 by Ellis/Hirschi). Increases the penalty for extortion crimes against the elderly to $10,000 per violation not to exceed $100,000.

Juvenile Justice Center at Prairie View A&M (SB 1185 by Ellis; amendments to SB 1550, HB 2272). Provides $600,000 per year to fund a juvenile justice center to conduct research on juvenile crime and delinquency and develop programs to address youth crime and related social problems.

Reducing Recidivism (HB 819 by Cuellar/Ellis). Establishes a performance review of the effectiveness of Texas' recidivism programs. Requires coordination of rehabilitation, reintegration, job training and job placement services for inmates and parolees.

Increase Access to Affordable, Quality Child Care.

Child Care Consumer Guide (SB 1112 by Ellis/Raymond; amendment to SB 211). Creates a child care consumer guide on the internet with information about child care services, early childhood development, career opportunities in the child care field and other information to assist parents in making informed child care choices.

Maximize Federal Child Care Funds (SB 211 by Ellis/Naishtat). Creates the Texas Child Care Fund to pool state, local nonprofit and private dollars to obtain up to $499 million in federal matching funds for child care services in Texas.

Child Care Training Centers for Welfare Recipients (SB 213 by Ellis/Coleman). Establishes a "child care training" pilot program to offer child care training and certification to recipients of public assistance.

Loans for Quality Child Care (SB 265 by Ellis/Giddings; SB 266 by Ellis/Oliveira). Provides incentives for banks to make loans to child care providers and expands the state's $2.5 million Small Business Linked Deposit Program to include child care providers.

School Child Care Services Program (SB 503 by Ellis/Olivo). Authorizes $400,000 in grants to accredited school districts to develop, expand or improve child care services before and after the school day for a district's school-aged children.

Child Care Expertise on Local Workforce Development Boards. (SB 459 by Ellis/G. Lewis) Requires that local workforce boards have at least one member with expertise in child care and early childhood education. (SB 1490 by Ellis/Coleman) Requires that members of local workforce boards receive training in child care management and encourages members to be advocates for the improvement of child care quality.

Help Families Make the Transition from Welfare to Work.

Self-Sufficiency Fund (SB 1491, SCR 114 by Ellis/Coleman; rider to HB 1). Establishes a $12 million Self-Sufficiency Fund for use by public community colleges, technical colleges and community-based organizations to develop customized job-training programs for certain recipients of public assistance. The programs must be specifically designed to enable the recipients to train, locate and apply for existing jobs.

Texans Work Program (SB 781 by Ellis/Raymond). Creates a Texans Work on-the-job training program to offer direct work experience and skills training for recipients of public assistance.

Wheels for Work Pilot Program (SB 1114 by Ellis/Coleman). Establishes a "Wheels for Work" pilot program designed to make donated cars available at low cost to recipients of public assistance whose most significant barrier to work and self-sufficiency is transportation.

Earned Income Tax Credit Information and Assistance (SB 1263 by Ellis/Naishtat). Provides participants in state workforce programs with information and assistance regarding the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal tax refund for working families who meet certain income guidelines.

Ensure Success of Wage-Supplementation Programs (HB 3116 by Greenberg/Ellis). Prohibits employers from displacing existing workers simply to take advantage of a state-offered wage subsidies. Provides participants in workfare programs with the same basic protections as other employees.

Provide Job Retention Assistance (SB 1262 by Ellis/Naishtat). Authorizes job retention and re-employment services to ensure the long-term success of recipients of public assistance.

State Tax Refund for Hiring Welfare Recipients (SB 1113 by Ellis/Raymond). Improves the state tax refund for hiring welfare recipients by providing additional insurance options to employers who participate in the program.

Promote Healthy Families.

Protect Victims of Domestic Violence (SB 1253 by Ellis/Naishtat). Ensures that victims of domestic violence are not charged fees for protective orders, strengthens requirements that offenders complete intervention and prevention programs and provides additional protections for children in the determination of parental conservatorship under law.

Insurance Coverage for Serious Mental Illnesses (HB 1173 by Coleman/Ellis). Requires group health plans and HMOs to provide insurance coverage for 60 outpatient and 45 inpatient visits for Texans with serious mental illnesses such as depression, bi­polar disorder and schizophrenia.

Prostate Cancer Screenings (SB 258 by Ellis/McCall). Requires health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and managed care entities to test for prostate cancer annually for men over 50 and those over 40 who are at risk of contracting the disease.

Protecting Children Through Immunizations. (SB 1413 by Ellis; passed in House Bill 3054) Requires private providers of immunizations to provide information to the Texas Department of Health to ensure that state resources are targeted to communities with low rates of immunizations.

Increase Investment in Affordable Housing.

Housing Trust Fund (SB 1502 by Ellis/Hill; adopted in HB 2577). Provides $1.5 million in loans and grants to local governments, public housing authorities, nonprofit organizations and income­eligible Texans to increase access to affordable housing.

Homebuyer Education Program (SB 1527 by Ellis/Maxey; passed as amendment to HB 2577). Establishes a homebuyer education program through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to provide counseling and information to help families secure affordable housing.

Increase Public Investment in Affordable Housing (SCR 58 by Ellis; rider to HB 1). Establishes a Task Force on Housing Investment to examine and report on potential pension fund investments in affordable housing. (HB 1410 by Hill/Ellis) Authorizes community development corporations to provide affordable housing.

Expand Economic Opportunity for Small Businesses, Families.

Capital Access Program (SB 266 by Ellis/Oliveira). Creates a $7 million Capital Access Fund to generate as much as $140 million in private lending to small businesses and non-profit organizations.

Increase Public Access to State Contracting (SB 1380 by Ellis/Hernandez). Improves bidding opportunities for small business owners by posting state contracting opportunities over $25,000 on the Internet.

Increase Access to Financial Services (Ellis amendment to HJR 31). Monitors lending practices and the availability of credit services for consumers, small businesses and farmers in Texas.

Increase Investment in Texas Communities.

Redevelop Texas Brownfields (SB 1596 by Ellis/Berlanga). Allows local governments to offer property tax incentives to clean up and redevelop contaminated brownfields -- or polluted, often abandoned, industrial sites.

Increasing Private Capital for Community Development (HB 1414 by Ellis/Van de Putte). Creates a public-private Community Reinvestment Work Group to develop investment strategies for housing and economic development in Texas while assisting banks in meeting CRA requirements.

Insurance Company Investment in Communities (SB 1037 by Ellis; amendment to HB 909). Requires the Texas Department of Insurance to report insurance company community investments to encourage investment in affordable housing and job creation in low-income communities.

Create A More Efficient, Effective and Accountable State Government.

Use Electronic Funds Transfer to Pay State Vendors (HB 1209 by Ellis/Maxey). Save $12 million through 2002 by requiring the Comptroller to pay all vendors with state contracts via Electronic Funds Transfer. EFT is safer, more reliable, and less expensive to operate than the use of paper warrants.

State Agency Efficiency (HB 2018 by Ellis/Maxey). Saves as much as $750,000 per year by conserving office space used by state agencies. Colocating offices provides benefits for state agencies because it reduces costs associated with leases and provides reduced rates for shared service providers.

Public Funds Investment Protections (HB 2799 by Marchant/Ellis). Continues to safeguard public funds by improving reporting and investment requirements on entities and persons who invest public funds and who sell investments.

Maximize Federal Funds for State Services (SB 1519 by Ellis/Oliveira). Allows the TWC to accept donations to expand state services. Local communities across the state are working to raise donations -- including corporate donations -- for programs such as child care to maximize federal matching funds. Previously, the TWC could only accept donations from 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations.

Judicial Efficiency (SB 1417 by Ellis/Gallego.) Creates a system for collecting delinquent criminal fines, computerizes the state and local court system, establishes efficiency measures for the courts, and requires courts to report demographic statistics relating to their legal staff.

Increase Ethical Standards in Government. (SB 1412 by Ellis/Danburg) Includes electronic methods of communication such as e-mail and faxes used to influence legislators under the lobbying statute.

Uniform Elections (HB 298 by Madden/Ellis). Encourages uniform election dates to reduce taxpayer expense and to increase voter participation.

For information on the Internet regarding Senator Rodney Ellis' 1997 Legislative Package: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/members.htm

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