The Texas State Senate - Troy Fraser: SD 24 - Capitol Update
From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser
For Immediate Release
March 20, 2007
MARCH CAPITOL UPDATE
Dear Fellow Texan--
As I write this it is the 71st day of the session, which means the session is halfway complete. Friday, March 9th was the bill filing deadline and it passed without incident. Senate Committees are starting to work at an eventful pace, and Senate Finance is nearing the completion of writing the Senate's version of the budget.
Working through proposed legislation, your views on these issues are of the utmost importance to me. As I endeavor to personally respond to your contacts, sometimes the volume can be overwhelming. Please know that every call, letter, email, and fax with your views are tracked in my office and used by me in a timely manner.
- Every public and private school in Texas would have to have an automated defibrillator on campus if a bill approved by the Senate becomes law. Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, would require that at least one automatic external defibrillator (AED) device be on every school's campus in Texas. It would also mandate at least one school official or employee be trained in its use. These devices are designed for use by laymen, and can detect heart function anomalies and administer the appropriate amount of electric shock to restore normal heart functions.
Senator Jane Nelson of Lewisville, said it's about time Texas passed this law. "We have become more and more aware of the necessity to have these devices in every high school," she said. "We have so many lives unnecessarily lost because we didn't have a readily available AED. That's inexcusable."
The bill was amended on the floor to include private schools in the requirements. The bill will permit the Texas Education Agency to accept private donations to offset the cost of these devices.
- The Senate also approved a House measure that seeks to reduce the burden on county clerk's offices with respect to information privacy. A recent Attorney General's opinion stated that county clerk's offices could be liable in the event certain uncensored social security information became public. The burden of redacting all those documents caused an uproar among many Texas county clerks' offices, resulting in some offices closing to reduce liability.
The measure approved March 19th, House Bill 2061, sponsored by Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands, would put the burden of redacting Social Security numbers upon the entity that files a document with the county clerk, rather than the clerk's office. The bill also permits Texans to request from a county clerk's office that all documents containing their Social Security numbers be blacked out except for the last four numbers.
- Senator Averitt, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, filed SB 3 earlier this session. SB 3 was the omnibus water bill outlining the state's plan for the use and protection of its water resources. This bill seeks to consider instream water needs as well as allowing for ample freshwater flow to bays and estuaries.
Last week, Chairman Averitt introduced a substitute bill which was voted out of the Natural Resources Committee 10-1. The substitute does away with the voting requirements that discourage single county districts and the water transaction reporting requirements. The substitute changes the land stewardship provisions and the city population that requires landscape irrigation regulation as well.
In addition, the committee substitute includes language designating Cedar Ridge a unique reservoir site as well as a site to be named in Hamilton County.
- The Senate approved three measures on March 15th, aimed at increasing competition in the residential electricity market and driving down electric costs for average Texans. Many of you have heard me over the last year talk about the high cost of electricity around the state. One of the problems in the residential market is that the state had no way to drive down high electric costs once the price of generation came down. These bills will increase competition, and many Texans should start seeing lower electric bills. The intent is that electric rates will come down and prices will be more competitive.
Senate Bill 482 would give the Public Utilities Commission broader discretion to lower electric rates to more accurately reflect the cost of fuel. It would also permit the PUC to transfer certain customers to energy companies that offer better prices, and would increase consumer education efforts in order to promote better pricing and competition.
Senate Bill 483 would restrict the amount of power generation capacity any one company could own in Texas, capping that at 25 percent. Power companies could not state or imply that any one company is a better, more reliable provider than another. The bill was amended to help elderly low income Texans with critical medical needs by placing a moratorium on service disconnection when the temperatures rise above 100 degrees or sink below freezing. These customers would be permitted to pay any outstanding balances through an installment plan.
Finally, the PUC would have more power to review sales of public utility companies through SB 896. Many lawmakers feel that the commission already has this oversight authority, but I wanted to clarify that they had this authority. This bill is not in response to the sale of north Texas power company TXU to private investors, but it is good policy that would help preserve the public interest. The legislation we passed last week is not intended to impact any transaction that is ongoing. This is good public policy that we are putting in place, that should be the policy of the state.
Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video webpage.
- The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) recently recognized three communities that have achieved the status of Certified Retirement Communities. They are the cities of Lufkin and Athens, as well as Nacogdoches County.
The Certified Retirement Community Program is aimed at assisting communities in attracting retirees from both in and out of state. These retirees could provide substantial income and growth to the community. This TDA grant provides training for local staff as well as guidance for marketing.
For more information on the Texas Certified Retirement Community Program go here or call (877) 428-7848.
- The Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival will be held in locations across the Hill Country on March 28-April 1. There are over one hundred restaurants and sixty wineries participating in thirty events during the five day festival. Events will be located in Austin, Stonewall, Tow, Marble Falls, Driftwood and Buda and featured names such as "Latin Sizzles," "Stars Across Texas Grand Opening," "From Texas Farm to Table" and "Reserve Wine Tastings."
In cooperation with the festival, The Wine and Food Foundation of Texas was formed to promote the food and wine industries of Texas by educating the public and providing grants and scholarships to assist with this cause.
For a complete listing of festival events and activities, visit their website
here. For more information about the foundation, please go here.
- You may see some new changes to the landscape while driving through Harker Heights in the near future. Plans are underway to build a retail development at an estimated cost of $80 million. The project will include 700,000 sq. ft. of floor space and will contain a Target, Circuit City, Barns & Noble and Cinemark theater.
- In January, Governor Perry issued an executive order mandating that all girls entering the sixth grade be vaccinated against Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This order would take effect in September 2008.
I have received a lot of correspondence from you asking my opinion on the matter. I believe that preventative healthcare has advantageous effects on the well-being of the individual as well as state finances. However, I am concerned about the manner in which the Governor has promoted the HPV vaccine.
Therefore, I have signed on as a co-sponsor of Senator Hegar's SB 438 that opposes this mandate. This issue should be thoroughly debated by the Legislature to allow constituent and expert input before any conclusions are drawn.
- * The deadline is approaching for youth interested in participating in Texas Brigades programs during the Summer 2007. Texas Brigades is a non-profit organization seeking to educate youth about the importance of caring for wildlife and their habitats. They offer four different programs aimed at studying the anatomy, habitats and conservation of turkey, deer and quail. These programs also develop leadership and team-building skills.
Dates of Programs
South Texas Buckskin Brigade--June 10-14; Rolling Plains Bobwhite Brigade--June 16-20; South Texas Bobwhite Brigade--June 24-28; Feathered Forces--July 15-19; North Texas Buckskin Brigade--July 22-26
Please see their website at www.texasbrigades.org or call Helen Holdsworth at 210-826-2904 for more information or to receive an application.
- There are numerous key dates and deadlines during the 140-day legislative session. These deadlines can be found in the Texas Constitution and Statutes, as well as in the House and Senate Rules. Following is a short overview of these dates with an explanation of their impact on the legislative process, thus far:
The first key date is the 31st day of session (February 8, 2007). This is the first day committees may hold hearings to consider legislation, unless it has been declared an emergency item by the Governor. The second key date is the 60th day of session (March 9, 2007), which is the final day legislation may be introduced and the first day bills may be considered on the floor of either chamber; both of these deadlines can be overturned with a four-fifths vote of members present and are dictated in the Texas Constitution. These deadlines are routinely suspended in the Senate and usually suspended in the House. However, the House failed to suspend these rules this session. As a result, to hold hearings on bills in House committees, the House had to vote on a bill-by-bill basis to allow the hearings prior to the 31st day of session. And, since the only bills that can be heard in the House during the first 60 days of this session are those declared an emergency by the Governor, the Governor has made several issues emergency items.
The remainder of the deadlines are toward the end of session and can be found in the House and Senate rules. Although most participants feel that the deadlines have had a positive impact on the legislative process, they are a source of considerable frustration in the closing days of session.
For a detailed look at the last month of session, please take a look at this calendar.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need assistance with a state agency or wish to voice an opinion on any matter before the Texas Legislature. I always appreciate hearing from you.
I hope to see you soon.
HOW TO CONTACT SENATOR TROY FRASER
Austin Capitol Office
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
FAX: (512) 475-3732
Marble Falls District Office
607 B Highway 281 North
Marble Falls, Texas 78654
FAX: (830) 693-9603
Abilene District Office
500 Chestnut Street, Suite 810
Abilene, Texas 79602
FAX: (325) 676-8060
Belton District Office
1920 North Main Street
Belton, Texas 76513
FAX: (254) 939-7611