PRESS RELEASE
From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser

For Immediate Release
January 31, 2001
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124

Fraser Bills Would Help Implement e-Texas Initiatives By State Comptroller

AUSTIN -- Senator Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, has authored legislation to help improve government efficiency, detect unemployment insurance fraud, and seek ways for small businesses to provide health insurance to their employees.

Fraser's legislation comes in response to recommendations set forth by state Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's e-Texas initiative, a comprehensive report outlining ways to save Texas taxpayers more than $1.2 billion by streamlining government, and by using the Internet and the latest technology.

"Several of these proposals are simply practical approaches to tightening our belt," Fraser said. "As a fiscal conservative, I believe we should always be looking for ways to make government leaner and more efficient."

Following is a brief description of each bill:

Senate Bill 441 directs the state's Council on Competitive Government to review the administrative functions of small state agencies to explore the cost-effectiveness of acquiring those services through group contracts or interagency agreements.

Fraser, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said state agencies with fewer than 100 employees face difficult challenges in carrying out administrative support functions such as accounting and budgeting, purchasing and human resource administration.

"Smaller agencies simply don't have the workforce power to devote a full-time employee to complete these tasks," Fraser said. "Rather than expanding government by adding employees, we're hoping to pool existing resources through interagency and group contracts. This is a practical solution to helping smaller state agencies improve their efficiency."

Senate Bill 442 creates a task force to examine ways to help small businesses provide health insurance to employees.

"Small business with fewer than 50 employees have a difficult time providing health insurance coverage for their employees because of higher premiums," Fraser said. "The task force created by this legislation will identify possible changes in federal laws and regulations, and related problems with state laws, so more Texans working for small businesses can obtain health insurance."

The six-member task force would include two members appointed by Governor Rick Perry; two members appointed by Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff; and two members appointed by House Speaker Pete Laney. Each member of the task force must have experience in the fields of health insurance or managed care.

Senate Bill 443 directs the General Services Commission to work with state agencies to review and evaluate the operations of the four leased warehouses in Austin that become eligible for lease renewal after October 2001.

Fraser said state agencies spend almost $3.8 million a year to lease 76 warehouses with almost 804,000 square feet of space. To reduce or eliminate unnecessary leased space, the commission will work with other state agencies to review and evaluate the operations of the warehouses.

"The General Services Commission will work with all the affected state agencies to help set achievable targets for reductions in warehouse space, surplus property and inventory through more efficient management," Fraser said.

Senate Bill 444 directs the Texas Workforce Commission to conduct a study to determine the amount of fraudulent claims in the unemployment insurance system.

"A key finding of the comptroller's report indicated that if we are able to meet the national average collection rate on fraudulent overpayments, we could collect an additional $6 million each year beginning in 2003," Fraser said. "I also think we can be more aggressive in our detection of fraudulent claims."

Fraser said Texas should adopt specific strategies used successfully by other states to increase the identification and recovery of unemployment insurance benefits overpayments. The study will also include an analysis of the industries most affected by fraud.

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