From the Office of State Senator Troy Fraser
For Immediate Release
May 31, 1999
Contact: William A. Scott - (512) 463-0124
76th Legislature Adjourns, Fraser Recaps Accomplishments
Taxpayers, Teachers, Consumers and Businesses To Benefit From New Laws
AUSTIN -- The 76th Texas Legislature adjourned today, capping a 140-day lawmaking session that Senator Troy Fraser called the most productive in his career as a state legislator.
"By any objective standard, this was a very productive and positive session for all Texans, but particularly for Senate District 24," Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said.
"We accomplished virtually every major goal of the session by delivering $2 billion in tax cuts, a $3,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers, and by passing numerous pieces of major legislation that will benefit consumers and businesses alike," Fraser said.
Fraser said he was pleased with many aspects of the session, particularly his role as a member of Senate Finance Committee and subsequent appointment to the House Senate conference committee, which gave him direct input into the budget writing process.
In addition, Fraser authored legislation eliminating the corporate franchise tax for small businesses, co-authored the Y2K bill that already has been signed into law by Governor George W. Bush, and ensured passage of a bill that requires legislative approval of contingency fee contracts for legal services and complete disclosure of time and expense records.
Following is a recap of major statewide legislation and bills that have a direct impact on Senate District 24.
Fiscal 2000-2001 state budget: The spending plan for the biennium beginning September 1, 1999 totals $98.1 billion, with education spending totalling $44.5 billion. The budget reflects a $9.1 billion increase from fiscal 1998-1999, with more than 60 percent of the increase earmarked for education spending.
Among the major institutions funded for Senate District 24 are $10.2 million for Tarleton State University center in Killeen; $4.3 million for the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Scott & White in Temple; and $4.1 million in additional funding for the Texas State Technical College campus in Sweetwater and its extension centers in Brownwood, Abilene, and Breckenridge.
The budget also contains $124.4 million, an increase of $30 million, for tuition equalization grants that will benefit Abilene Christian University, McMurry University and Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, Howard Payne University in Brownwood, and the University of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton.
In addition, Fraser authored another bill creating a new high-priority program fund for junior colleges and technical institutes to develop specific programs designed to educate and train the workforce in high-tech, technical and vocational skills.
Electric Industry Deregulation: The bill creates the statutory framework for real competition among electricity providers, which will result in lower costs for consumers. It also treats the municipally-owned providers and rural electric cooperatives fairly because it gives them the freedom to decide whether to opt-in and compete for customers.
Under the bill, current electric rates are frozen until the market opens for competition allowing customer choice effective January 1, 2002. Upon opening of the market, rates then drop 6 percent for three years, or until companies lose 40 percent of their market share. Municipally-owned and electric cooperatives have the flexibility to decide whether to open their markets to competition. If they opt in, they can then compete for customers in other parts of the state.
Oil and Gas Severance Tax Moratorium: The bill, of which Fraser was a co author, provides $45 million in tax relief to small independent oil and gas producers. The tax moratorium on leases with less than 15 barrels a day becomes active when prices drop below $15 a barrel and stay below the price threshold for three months.
Telecommuncations Reform : Fraser said consumers will benefit because the price of calling long-distance in Texas has been cut nearly in half, plus rates for basic local services are frozen for the next six years.
Under the bill, access fees that local phone companies charge for long-distance calls will be reduced over the next 18 months from the current 11.6 cents a minute to 6.27 cents a minute, and long-distance companies will be required to pass through the savings on lower access charges to consumers. In addition, the cost of basic services are frozen until September 1, 2005 for both residential and business customers. That includes "call waiting."
Corporate Franchise Tax Exemption for Small Business/Research and Development
The bill sponsored by Fraser exempts businesses with gross receipts of $150,000 or less from paying the corporate franchise tax. It was attached to another piece of legislation that provides franchise tax credits to businesses for research and development expenses, capital investments, job creation in economically depressed areas of the state, employers who invest employees' in child care expenses, investments in agriculture processing, and employees who invest in after-school programs.
West Texas County Alliance Bill: The bill, sponsored by Fraser, allows Nolan, Mitchell, Howard, Scurry, Jones and Fisher counties to form an economic development corporation. This bill will enable West Texas as a region to further develop a proposed industrial and agricultural trade corridor in the region with ties to both Mexico and the Pacific Rim. The bill is on the Governor's desk.
Historical Courthouse Restoration Bill -- The budget contains $50 million earmarked for renovation of up to 225 historical courthouses in Texas to be administered under the enabling legislation authored by Fraser.
Y2K : Co-authored by Fraser and Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, the bill is designed help consumers and businesses of all sizes. The legislation, which has been signed by Gov. Bush, requires the manufacturers and sellers of computers to notify consumers of potential Y2K failures and make a good faith effort to correct the problem at little or no cost to the consumer. The net effect will be to limit the number of frivolous lawsuits that otherwise would have been filed in connection with Y2K problems.
Military and Veterans legislation: In a commitment to Fraser, the Texas Department of Transportation has agreed to complete a study of strategic deployment routes used by the military in Texas, and make recommendations by early 2000 on road and highway improvements to speed the flow of troops and equipment when they deploy.
Other Fraser bills that passed relating to military and veterans include:
** Requiring POW/MIA flag to be flown at state buildings on six national holidays: Armed Services Day, the third Saturday in May; Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day; Veterans Day, and National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday in September.
** Requiring Texas Department of Economic Development to create a statewide database to identify defense contractors in Texas. This will be an invaluable tool as Texas continues to strengthen its defense community infrastructure. These contractors also have the latest technology for non-military application, so it's a big boost to the high-tech sector of the economy.
** Changing the previous state designation of "Korean Conflict" to "Korean War." An estimated 289,000 Texans served in the Korean War, and 1,723 are listed as killed or missing in action.