from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nick Almanza
(512)463-0121
November 13, 2006

Senator Zaffirini Pre-Files 20 Bills to Strengthen Texas Families

Legislation Prioritizes Higher Education, Pre-School, Health, Safety

AUSTIN -- Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed 20 bills on Monday (Nov. 13), the first day of pre-filing legislation for the 80th Legislative Session that convenes on Jan. 9. Her priority bills focus on P-16+ education, health and human services, public safety and family issues.

The first bill pre-filed by Zaffirini is SB 49, which provides financial relief to college students by allowing them to purchase textbooks tax-free during the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. As chair of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee, Senator Zaffirini is committed to improving higher education accessibility and affordability.

"I am grateful that Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst named me chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education, and I look forward to introducing effective solutions that enhance and support higher education, which has been always one of my greatest passions and highest legislative priorities," Senator Zaffirini said. "Higher education costs are becoming increasingly burdensome for students, while diversity and access are yielding to classroom space. We must work to ease the financial burden of higher education so more students can work toward timely graduation with fewer obstacles."

Senator Zaffirini also introduced Senate Bill 50 that builds on the success of the early childhood education integration model established by her SB 76 (2003) and SB 23 (2005). SB 50 expands Texas Early Education Model (TEEM) sites throughout Texas while increasing quality; raising reimbursement rates for child care providers; and improving the recruitment, retention, and quality of early childhood education professionals, while establishing the field as a multi-level career path.

A member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee since her first term in 1987 and its former chair, Senator Zaffirini pre-filed SB 53, which modifies the liability provisions for mental health institutions to prevent sexual exploitation by providers; SB 54, which ensures the inclusion of prosthetic and orthotic devices in certain health insurance plans; SB 55, which provides for common-sense regulations of discount health plans, including registration with the Texas Department of Insurance and establishing guidelines for advertising; and SB 98, which requires the Office of Senate Research and the House Research Organization to include a Child Impact Statement for all legislation.

A long time champion of Texas colonias, Senator Zaffirini also pre-filed SB 99 that modifies the semi-annual colonias classification report by increasing the number of state agencies required to submit data about projects that serve colonias and increasing accountability of the logistical and financial reportings made by agencies, state and local governments regarding colonia improvements. Senator Zaffirini also pre-filed SB 63 that helps rural communities provide more efficient county services that prevent the proliferation of colonias.

"Colonia issues, from infrastructural improvements to financial relief, are of great importance and priority." said Senator Zaffirini. "As the state senator of one of the largest, most diverse districts in Texas that runs along the U.S./Mexico border, I have seen repeatedly the daily struggles of families who live in colonias. I am proud to champion legislation that would improve their quality of life and look forward to passing legislation that increases state involvement toward improving colonias."

Senator Zaffirini pre-filed legislation aimed at increasing and improving public safety. SBs 58-61 improve the collection and analysis of information relating to sexual offenses through the use of an expanded Family Violence Report; strengthen current child passenger safety protections; authorize law enforcement agencies to establish sobriety checkpoints; and authorize counties to adopt internal plans for disaster mitigation.

Electricity bills for Texas would be reduced significantly by Senator Zaffirini's SB 65, which would modify and protect the System Benefit Fund (SBF) to ensure that low-income customers receive the benefits of rate discount and weatherization programs. What's more, SB 62 would help persons with low-incomes build modest savings accounts and develop personal budgeting plans through the creation of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs).

SB 56 by Zaffirini would prohibit institutions of higher learning from cloning human beings since opponents and advocates of stem cell research agree that human reproduction through cloning is scientifically problematic and morally objectionable. SB 64 closes a loophole in the Election Code by requiring PACs to disclose contributions of more than $1,000 during the last nine days of a campaign. SB 52 by Zaffirini lowers the compulsory school attendance age from six to five and provides parents with more flexibility to decide where their children may attend kindergarten.

"I look forward to working with Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and my colleagues in the legislature to enact these and other bills that will benefit the families and communities of Senate District 21 and Texas," Senator Zaffirini said.

ATTACHMENT: List of 20 bills pre-filed by Senator Judith Zaffirini on Monday, Nov. 13. (PDF, 84 KB)

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