Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Leticia Van de Putte

For Immediate Release
June 6, 2007
Contact: Tiffany Champion, (210) 733-6604

80TH LEGISLATIVE SESSION BILL SUMMARY

PUBLIC EDUCATION:

S.B. 113 Pre-K for Foster Care (Van de Putte/Straus)
This bill allows a child, ever in the foster-care system, eligible to enroll in pre-kindergarten regardless if their status changes before enrollment. Opponents argued that a child adopted out of the foster-care system by middle- or high-income parents should not qualify; however, studies show children in the foster-care system start their educational careers lagging behind their peers. A quality early education can close that gap.

S.B. 82 Will's Bill (Van de Putte/Eissler)
Requires coaches, sponsors, and students participating in UIL activities to get safety training relating to school athletics. Each year many students sustain serious injuries sometimes resulting in death. This safety training focuses on recognizing those injuries, proper hydration, CPR, and other safety measures to help protect our youth.

H.B. 2814 Dual Language (Eissler/Van de Putte)
Allows participating districts the opportunity of providing dual language programs; such programs help promote bilingualism, bi-literacy, and grade-level academic achievement by placing both native English speaking and non-English-speaking students together in the same classroom. Bilingualism and multilingualism is of utmost importance for our students as it is progressively becoming a requirement for competition in the global market.

HIGHER EDUCATION:

H.B. 1 San Antonio Life Science Institute (SALSI)
The Legislature appropriated $6 million to the joint partnership of University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Texas Health Science Center. Amongst other research programs, SALSI has allowed Texas to become an internationally recognized leader in aging studies, battlefield trauma treatment and other debilitating conditions.

H.B. 3900 Texas Tomorrow Fund II (Morrison/Shapiro, Van de Putte, et. al)
This bill allows families to lock in today's rates for tuition and required fees for their children's future higher education needs, giving them more certainty about the cost of a college education. An investment in the Texas Tomorrow Fund II would be made by purchasing "units" each of which is worth one percent of one year's tuition and required fees. Once a child enters an institution of higher education, the Texas Tomorrow Fund II pays that institution the money initially invested in the child's account, plus any returns made on that investment. Under this plan, universities will be rewarded for making more judicious decisions regarding tuition and fees. By adopting this legislation, we will give Texas families more predictability regarding the cost of higher education while protecting the state from falling into debt.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES / STATE AFFAIRS:

H.B. 109 - CHIP (Turner/Averitt, Van de Putte)
The legislature expanded coverage to an additional 135,000 children in Texas, under the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that provides coverage for many working families unable to afford insurance otherwise. This restores many of the cuts from 2003, when the legislature faced a $10 billion dollar budget deficit. H.B. 109 will provide primary and preventative health care such as immunizations, wellness exams, eye exams, and dental check-ups to the Texas children who do not have private health insurance or who do not qualify for Medicaid.

S.B. 91 - March of Dimes Point of Sale (Van de Putte/Zedler)
One of the most common, serious, and costly problems facing American families today is premature birth. More than 52,000 babies - or 14 percent of all babies born - are born prematurely each year in Texas. Premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death. Babies who survive can have serious, lifelong health problems. The causes for nearly half of premature births are unknown. However, it is known that smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for premature birth. S.B. 91 is amended to include point-of-sale tobacco signage regarding the risk of smoking during pregnancy.

S.B. 338 (amended onto H.B. 2118) - Madla Bill (Pickett/Van de Putte)
This legislation created a new class of license for a residential fire alarm technician. Training is focused on the requirements to properly install and service residential fire alarm systems. This new license will be less costly to the Fire Alarm Company, and should decrease the cost to citizens that choose to have a fire alarm system installed in their home, while raising the level of professionalism and competence of the installer. Also, this legislation requires the installation of fire alarms in newly constructed or sold homes and also creates a public awareness campaign to be administered by the TDI, including information about carbon monoxide poisoning.

H.B. 2524 - Haven for Hope Detox Center (McClendon/Van de Putte)
In Bexar County, a large number of people with mental illness or substance abuse problems are being "treated" through incarceration rather than through less-expensive options. H.B. 2524 authorizes the development of a pilot project in Bexar County, through which the Department of State Health Services will assist Bexar County in providing medical and mental health care through intervention and detoxification units. It enables the non-profit Haven for Hope Partnership to establish and operate a public safety triage and detoxification center. The center will provide a mechanism for more appropriate and cost-effective treatment for homeless individuals with mental health and substance abuse problems. This legislation will have a tremendous impact on the State of Texas by saving lives and taxpayer dollars.

H.B. 1919 - Brain Injury (Smith/Van de Putte)
H.B. 1919 expands the coverage requirement to post-acute care and cognitive rehabilitation for survivors of brain injuries and requires that notice of such coverage be provided. It specifically addresses the barriers people face when attempting to access the benefit of cognitive rehabilitation after a brain injury. Early and comprehensive treatment for young children is the only known way to substantially mitigate the lifetime consequences associated with autism. According to the Autism Society of America, autism rates increase 10-17 percent annually. Although early intervention can cut lifetime costs associated with autism by two-thirds, 90-95 percent of health benefit plans deny coverage for early intervention services for autism. This legislation responds to this growing epidemic and over 30 years of research, by requiring private health plans to cover proven early intervention treatments for children ages 3-5 with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

BUSINESS AND COMMERCE:

H.B. 472 & H.B. 473 Workers Compensation (Solomons/Van de Putte)
H.B. 472 provides that workers' compensation third party administrators are subject to regulation by the Texas Third Party Administrator Act. The bill also increases the auditing and reporting requirements of all third party administrators to TDI.
H.B. 473 clarifies the Labor Code to fit the law authorizing deviations from the medical fee guidelines to its original intent and to close the loophole under which voluntary networks have been operating.

S.B. 1580 Prison Pay Phone System (Van de Putte/Haggerty)
S.B. 1580 requires the Texas Board of Criminal Justice to award a contract to a single private vendor to provide pay telephone services to eligible inmates. TDCJ is required to adopt policies for inmate eligibility and the vendor providing the service will be responsible for installing, operating, and maintaining the service without any cost to the state. The vendor is also required to provide on-site monitoring of calling patterns and customize technology to provide adequate system security. This bill requires an inmate to submit in advance a call list that must be approved by TDCJ. In addition, TDCJ is required to ensure that the confidentiality of communications between attorneys and their clients is not violated. This bill requires each inmate to provide the name and telephone number of each attorney representing the inmate.

H.B. 1344 RAL loans (Villarreal/Van de Putte)
H.B. 1344 requires facilitators to possess an Internal Revenue Service e-file authorization and to register with the Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner. This bill also requires refund anticipation loan facilitators to disclose certain information to refund anticipation loan customers.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE:

SB 1283 Human trafficking definitions (Van de Putte/Thompson)
This bill enhances the state's definition of human trafficking so that state attorneys can have the necessary tools to prosecute all those offenders involved in the trafficking of humans, from the transporter to the pimp. As law enforcement officials have professed, human trafficking is a complex, and highly organized criminal activity. It has become equally important to target the criminals who profit from the forced labor of others as it is the transporters of the victims.

SB 1287 Bar Postings (Van de Putte/Thompson)
SB 1287 requires that certain alcohol and beverage establishments post signs notifying consumers of the offense of human trafficking along with a national victims hotline number. This is targeted at the crucial element of community awareness as we now understand that the majority of rescued victims have been identified by members of their community. Being that State Highway I-10 is one of the nation's busiest corridors for human traffickers it is vital that we include community awareness measures in our statutes.

SB 1288 Hotel Hotline Postings (Van de Putte/Thompson)
Sadly, almost half of those trafficked, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, start off in such sex-trade jobs as adult dancers or hostesses in massage parlors, but are then coerced into prostitution or pornography. Most of them are unaware of the resources available to them and currently, there are no outreach provisions included in Texas statutes. This bill will require that owners of certain lodging establishments involved in a common nuisance suit over prostitution post a human trafficking hotline in each guest bedroom.

NATURAL RESOURCES:

S.B. 585 Edwards Aquifer Fire Plan (Van de Putte/Leibowitz)
S.B. 585 requires the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) to plan for fire control in environmentally sensitive areas above the Edwards Aquifer. The Aquifer supplies water to 1.7 million people in the San Antonio area. The Helotes Mulch fire crisis and in general summer fires have highlighted the need to monitor what activities are occurring on what areas and the threats they potentially pose.

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