From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
June 18, 1999
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senator Rodney Ellis
List of Accomplishments for 76th Legislative Session

1) HOPE Scholarships -- Senator Ellis was the Senate sponsor of legislation creating the Toward EXcellence, Access & Success (TEXAS) Grant program. TEXAS grants provide scholarships to Texas high school graduates who took the recommended or advanced course work. Provides $100 million for scholarships beginning in the fall of 1999.

2) Sales Tax Relief -- Passed Senate as SB 441, providing $251 million in sales tax relief for working families by exempting sales taxes over-the-medicine and creates a 3-day sales tax holiday in August for back-to-school clothing purchases and R&D and small business tax cuts. Significantly changed in House. Three separate bills now cut $440 million in sales taxes, but does not include the sales tax holiday. SB 441, on the major state calendar in the House, has become a Christmas tree for business sales tax relief and may be too costly to pass.

3) Ban on Execution of the Mentally Retarded -- Passed Texas Senate, but died in House. Would have exempted the mentally retarded from the death penalty, as 12 other states currently do.

4) Standing up to hate -- HB 938, the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act became the defining issue of the 76th Legislature, garnering national news coverage and enough Senate support to stage a dramatic stand off on the final day Senate committees could hear bills.

5) Judicial Reforms -- Omnibus Court Creation plan creating 22 new district courts across Texas, including 2 in Fort Bend County.

6) School Safety -- SB 1724 to give parents more information and input on violence prevention efforts in Texas schools.

7) Homeowner Association Reform -- Worked with Senator John Carona to pass compromise homeowner association reforms. Legislation died in the House in the closing days of the session.

8) Child Care -- Worked in a bipartisan fashion to craft initiatives that will address the critical shortage of qualified child care professionals in Texas. Worked with Senator Haywood on SB 58 (which included our SB 426) to provide franchise tax relief to businesses that build or expand child care facilities and other options for their workers. Passed HB 1689 to provide college loan forgiveness for child care professionals, which will help keep qualified, trained child care workers.

9) Responsible Gun Safety Initiatives -- Filed SB 316, which would require gun dealers to offer for purchase child protection locks when selling a firearm. Never heard by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. Attempted to amend the proposal to SB 717, Senator Lindsay's bill to give gun manufacturers immunity from lawsuits like those that helped reign in the tobacco industry. Fight over SB 717, led by Ellis, was first major battle of the session and hung up the legislation for two weeks. The debate eventually led to an amendment, offered by Senator Duncan, to allow the Attorney General to initiate a lawsuit against the gun manufacturers.

10) Indigent Criminal Defense -- The Legislature unanimously passed SB 247 to strengthen the quality and integrity of Texas' criminal justice system. Provides minimal quality and monitoring standards to fulfill Texas' constitutional obligations under the Sixth Amendment and gives counties local control over designing and implementing the best possible system. One of only 29 bills vetoed by Governor George Bush.

11) Insurance Reforms -- Senator Ellis added an amendment to SB 899 would rollback homeowners and auto insurance rates and ensure consumers benefit from 1995 tort reform measures. Under current law, the rollback would have expired on January 1, 2001, but the Ellis amendment extends the rate rollback through 2003. Consumers have saved $2.3 billion under this provision thus far. The amendment was stripped off in the House.

12) Environment -- Stood against the proposal to allow grandfathered industrial plants to voluntarily reform and adhere to Texas Clean Air laws. The proposal has been widely criticized as too lenient on those plants that have had nearly 30 years to clean up there act but have yet to significantly reduce emissions. In addition, a federal hammer remains over the head of Texas because the EPA, though recently restricted by the courts, may still have the authority to declare major Texas cities in non-compliance with federal clean air laws. Current version of SB 7, the electric deregulation proposal, imposes much stricter emissions requirements

Initial Count: 90 Ellis Bills Pass the Legislature