Senator Lucio's Letterhead

PRESS RELEASE FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 10, 2008
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385

Sen. Lucio Files Six Bills for the 81st Legislative Session

AUSTIN, TX -- At the break of dawn today, the first day of pre-filing bills, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. filed his first six bills for the upcoming 81st Legislature beginning Jan. 13, 2009.

"I am pleased to file these initial bills for the upcoming session," noted Sen. Lucio. "I think these early bills reflect some of the top priorities of the citizens of Senate District 27 and Texas, and for health care, children and education, consumer rights and insurance reform. I feel that we are off to a good start for South Texas and will accomplish a great deal next session!"

Senate Bill 98 allows the University of Texas Board of Regents to establish The University of Texas Health Science Center-South Texas. The Health Science Center would comprise a medical school and other health-related degree programs. The opening of a medical school in South Texas would help recruit doctors to an underserved area and provide students in the region with an opportunity to attend a professional school.

"SB 98 was the first bill I filed because it is my top priority," explained Sen. Lucio. "I can think of nothing more important than bringing top-flight higher education to South Texas. We need to graduate our own doctors and keep them in our communities to ensure the very best quality healthcare for our residents."

He also proposed the Wireless Phone Lemon Law, or SB 99, which allows consumers to break their contracts with a wireless provider if on three or more occasions the same phone needs repair or replacement.

"Wireless phone companies are asking consumers to sign longer contracts, and when phones break, they have no incentive to replace that phone as quickly as possible," said Sen. Lucio. "Wireless phones are an essential part of our lives, and if you don't pay your bill for a defective phone the company won't replace without charge, the provider can cancel your contract and penalize you. It's only fair that if wireless providers don't live up to their end of the bargain, that you be able to fire them too."

To continue his mission of helping students with disabilities, Sen. Lucio's SB 100 directs the Commissioner of Education to establish professional development institutes for teachers and paraprofessionals who work with students with disabilities, including students with autism spectrum disorders, so they can learn research-based education practices to implement in their classrooms. The training would be voluntary and carry stipends upon completion.

"Federal requirements mandate that students with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive environment," said Sen. Lucio. "Most of these students spend all or part of their school day in general education classrooms. This bill would benefit teachers with no special education background or experience with certain disabilities, as well as paraprofessionals who assist them in providing these direct services to children with extensive needs."

To offer our Texas cities and schools the opportunity to share in the experience and economic benefits of hosting University Interscholastic League (UIL) competitions, Sen Lucio is proposing in SB 101 "that the UIL annually rotate the locations of their academic, athletic and music events. Students would benefit from this exposure to other cities when traveling to compete, and a school district's travel expenses may be reduced if they host an event in their area."

To help lower skyrocketing insurance premiums in this state, Sen. Lucio is proposing two measures to help stabilize and lower rates for the Texas consumer. SB 102 would provide for standardized insurance policy forms. Prior to 2003, insurers were required to offer a number of standardized policies, so consumers knew that certain policies contained the same coverage and they could shop for the best price among different insurance companies. After 2003, insurers were allowed to provide "a la carte" policies, making it more difficult for consumers to shop and compare. Reinstating standardized policy forms will help consumers make the best affordable decision.

"This measure also complements legislation I passed in 2007 to establish an online resource for Texans shopping for home or auto insurance. The website, www.helpinsure.com, launched in September, helps consumers compare insurance rates from most insurance companies, including financial ratings, complaint ratios, and recent rate changes," added the Senator.

Another bill addresses current law that permits insurance companies to vary rates within a county by any amount that is actuarially sound as long as it is not greater than 15 percent. SB 103 would establish specific guidelines for the Commissioner of Insurance to allow a variance greater than 15 percent for a single county upon an insurer's request. Limiting the variance, except under specific circumstances, allows insurers flexibility when dealing with riskier or more congested areas of the state while moderating the economic impact on the insurance rates of Texas policyholders.

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