From the Office of State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., District 27
For Immediate Release
Monday, March 12, 2001
Contact: Doris Sanchez
Sen. Lucio sees passage of Senate Bill 693 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 21 in Senate Committee on Business and Commerce
AUSTIN, TX--On Tuesday, March 6, 2001, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, passed two legislative measures in the Business and Commerce Committee. Senate Bill 693 establishes a short-term auto liability insurance system for non-Texas residents traveling in the state, and Senate Concurrent Resolution 21 calls for Congress to facilitate the exchange of public health information between the United States and Mexico.
"SB 693 originated from our interim work in the Border Affairs Interim Committee," said Sen. Lucio, chairman of this committee which is now a Subcommittee operating under the Business and Commerce Committee, of which he is also a member. "At that time, Texas Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor testified that there was a need to develop a short-term motor vehicle liability insurance coverage program for non-Texas motorists."
According to the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI), the uninsured motorist population in Texas ranges from approximately 21 to 28 percent. This percentage is even higher along the Texas Border region. A contributing factor to this high percentage is the number of motorists traveling from Mexico to Texas without liability insurance coverage for their automobiles.
"My bill would provide the Commissioner of Insurance the authority to develop a short-term auto insurance program in the state," said Sen. Lucio. "It will certainly help the state considerably in terms of liability loss due to accidents involving uninsured motorists."
SCR 21 calls for the federal government to fully recognize the importance of establishing and building a public health infrastructure by adopting public health agreements with Mexico that are at the same level of comprehensiveness as the NAFTA environmental agreements. The measure will provide a means to establish cooperative efforts while removing the legal barriers to the exchange of epidemiological data and public health information that currently exist.
During the interim period, the Committee on Border Affairs first addressed this issue in its Border Health Report. The Committee wrote, "States that border Mexico, and physicians on both sides of the Border, need to be given the necessary tools and allowed to share information to address the unique health problems along our region."
"There are many public and private entities that are attempting to resolve and prevent binational public health problems, but their hands are too often tied by having to function on one side of the Border and one side only," added Sen. Lucio.
The Senator referred specifically to the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission which pulls together a team of health professionals charged with developing binational solutions to Border health concerns and communicable diseases. With the NAFTA-driven growth and ever increasing travel across the Border, estimated at 1.6 million average daily crossings that reach in excess of 400 million annually, the implications for public health are clear.
Sen. Lucio stressed that "diseases know no borders." Additionally, he said, "Through the Senate Resolution that we passed, we will be asking Congress and President Bush to fully address this issue with the country of Mexico in an effort to empower groups like the Border Health Commission to fully accomplish their mission."
Both measures were referred to the Local and Uncontested Calendar and then they will be referred to the House of Representatives.
Note: Mr. Daniel Esparza, director of Subcommittee on Border Affairs and legislation, handles SB 693 and Ms. Bridget Sharphorn, legislative aide and clerk for Subcommittee on Border Affairs, handles SCR 21.