The Texas State Senate: John Carona Press Release
EMAIL UPDATESeptember 11, 2009
WHAT'S NEW . . .
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) initiated an emergency rule that extends the time parents have to get their children in compliance with vaccination requirements until October 1. The extension applies to three vaccines: chicken pox, whooping cough and meningitis.
I would also like to note that DSHS believes that a vaccine for the H1N1 virus is expected to be available by mid-October. Due to the expected high demand for this particular vaccine, when it becomes available, DSHS will follow the Center for Disease Control's protocol for distributing this vaccination. In the meantime, DSHS has developed a website, www.TexasFlu.org, to help answer any questions you may have about the H1N1 Virus that is regularly updated with news and developments. I encourage you to look at this website for more information.
The DSHS is also encouraging citizens to get their seasonal flu vaccination now. Then, be prepared get the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine later. They are two different vaccines. People wanting the seasonal flu vaccine should call their health care provider, local public health department, 2-1-1 or check online at www.211Texas.org for availability.
Two "riders" (additional instructions) to the 2010-11 state budget require that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) make certain information available to the public. Rider 55 requires TxDOT to list all projects that are planned to go to contract in fiscal year 2010. Rider 56 lists the top 100 congested roadways in the state system. This information is available for you to view at http://www.txdot.gov/project_information/default.htm.
The Texas Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, which I chair, met recently to discuss critical issues and get updates on state agency activities. A member of the Texas Public Safety Commission testified and gave encouraging news about improvements at the Texas Department of Public Safety that will result in better service and address long waits at driverís license offices. We also heard compelling testimony regarding the dangers of under-maintained high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, and state and local officials promised to step up maintenance and enforcement immediately, with possible long-term solutions also discussed. Other topics that were discussed included border security, current threats from wildfires and drought, disaster-related expenditures and reimbursements and plans for high speed trains.
FOCUS . . .
When the Texas Legislature concluded its 81st Session on June 1, 2009, many bills passed that went into effect September 1, 2009. Following are some of the bills that affect transportation, public safety and criminal laws. This is not a comprehensive list, but if you would like more information, you can visit the Legislative Reference Library's website for a list of bills from the 81st session by effective dates.
- HB 55 makes it illegal to talk on a cell phone in an active school zone where signs are posted unless the vehicle is stopped or a hands-free device is being used.
- HB 537 makes it an offense to carry a passenger on a motorcycle who is under the age of five. A violation would be considered a Class C misdemeanor and would carry a $100-$200 fine.
- HB 558 allows a minor to be charged with public intoxication.
- HB 2730 is an omnibus public safety bill that changed a number of provisions involving public safety including:
- Increases the penalties for driving while intoxicated with a child by adding an automatic driver's license suspension period for first-time offenders and an increased suspension period for repeat offenders.
- Eliminates student loan defaults as a disqualifier for a Concealed Handgun License.
- Extends the time for a new Texas resident to operate a vehicle without a Texas driver's license from 30 days to 90 days.
- Requires all applicants for a driver's license under the age of 18 take a driving skills test.
- Removes the requirement that a provisional license must be renewed annually. It also states that a provisional license must expire on the person's 18th birthday.
- SB 129 authorizes Neighborhood Electric Vehicles to be operated on roads that have posted speed limits of 45 miles per hour or less.
- SB 328 gives DPS the power to suspend a minor's driver's license if he or she fails a breath or blood alcohol test while operating a watercraft.
- SB 554 increases the penalties for dog-fighting and makes it illegal to possess or own dog-fighting equipment.
- To reflect federal law, SB 1188 allows a Texas resident to purchase a firearm in any other state, not just those states neighboring with Texas.
- SB 1967 requires that a person applying for a Class M motorcycle license or a Class A, B or C license with authorization to operate a motorcycle complete an approved motorcycle operator training course.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Once known as the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit can be claimed for tuition and certain higher education fees during the 2009-10 school year. The maximum amount of the credit has increased to $2,500 per student and now can be claimed for the first four years of post-secondary education. You can learn more about the American Opportunity Tax Credit on the IRS website.
Attorney General Greg Abbott has partnered with the Internet Safety Coalition and the Texas Cable Association to produce an online Cyber Safety Video aimed at educating children and parents on the dangers facing children on the Internet.
You have recycling options for your old TVs and other household electronics. Visit TexasTakeBack.org for information and links on TV recycling programs. If your television is old or obsolete, there are many programs that will responsibly recycle your TV for a nominal fee. For instance, Best Buy charges $10.00 to recycle your TV, but it will give you a $10.00 Best Buy gift card in return.
You can now follow the news for various state agencies on Facebook and Twitter such as:
- Texas Department of Transportation - http://twitter.com/TxDOT. TxDOT is also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Austin-TX/Texas-Department-of-Transportation/44520755873
- Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board - http://twitter.com/College4AllTX
- Texas Comptroller's Office - http://twitter.com/txcomptroller
- Texas Department of Public Safety - http://twitter.com/TexasDPS_PIO
STUDENT OPPORTUNITIES . . .
It is time again to apply for NASA's High School Aerospace Scholars (HAS) program. This is an interactive on-line learning experience for high school juniors, highlighted by a six-day internship to encourage students to study math, science, engineering or computer science by interacting with engineers at the NASA Johnson Space Center. The deadline to apply is November 13, 2009. Visit the HAS website for more information and the application process.
There was a new scholarship program funded by the 81st Legislature for students interested in training for high-demand fields such as health professionals, mechanical technologies, engineering technologies and information services. This program, the Every Chance Career and Technical Scholarship Fund, will award $5 million in grants in 2010 and 2011 to students in public community colleges and technical schools. Visit http://www.everychanceeverytexan.org/funds/ for more information on these scholarships and other grants awarded by the Every Chance Fund.
IN CLOSING . . .
With students back in school now, we have Friday night football and the anticipation of (slightly) cooler weather and the Texas State Fair. And while these are typical fall rituals for us in Texas, let us pause and remember the victims and first responders that we lost eight years ago in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
As always, if you have questions about any of the information included in this update or if I can be of service to you, please let me know.
State Senator - District 16
|P.O. Box 12068|
Austin, TX 78711
|8080 N. Central Expy.
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
|5401 N. Central Expy.
Dallas, TX 75205