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Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas Welcome to the Official Website for the Texas Senate
Seal of the Senate of the State of Texas
Welcome to the official website for the
Texas Senate
 
 
 
Friday, March 5, 1999
(512) 463-0300

WEEK IN REVIEW



AUSTIN - Money from the state's tobacco settlement could be going to a good cause--health insurance for children. Legislation offering health insurance for younger Texans through the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, passed out of the Health Services Committee on Thursday, March 4. The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 445 focuses on a health plan for certain low income children with a compromise on the percentage of poverty necessary for families to qualify for the program.

Lt. Governor Rick Perry says he wants the program to use tobacco settlement money, now . . . and in the future, "The Children's Health Insurance Program should get the first bite of the apple when it comes to tobacco settlement money in the future." The federal government will also help the state pay for the program. They provide matching funds, providing three federal dollars for each state dollar. Twenty-two other senators have signed on to co-sponsor the bill.

The Senate moved a step closer toward protecting consumers from abuses in a deregulated market for telecommunications and electric service. Senators passed legislation on Wednesday, March 3 to crack down on slamming and cramming. Slamming is the unauthorized switching of service providers, and cramming is the practice of charging consumers for services they did not authorize. Other provisions in the CSSB 86 allow consumers to avoid telephone solicitations by joining a no-call list.

Bill sponsor Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound says she wants to have consumer protections in place if legislation passes this session opening the electric utility market to competition, "With this legislation we're going to send a very clear message that if you want to compete in Texas you better do it fairly and if you don't we're going to pull the plug on you."

A bill opening the electric market to competition will be brought up in two weeks by Senator David Sibley of Waco. Due to the bill's length and complexity, the Senate will only accept amendments up to 48 hours before the bill reaches the floor.

Amarillo Senator Teel Bivins outlined his school voucher proposal this week. It gives certain students living in the six largest Texas counties the choice to attend private schools with public money. Under Senate Bill (SB) 10, students must have low TAAS scores, be in the free or reduced lunch program, and not be enrolled in a private school during the current or prior school year to be eligible. Private schools would get 80% of the total amount of state and local public school funding for the student's education.

Public schools would be able to keep students who assault school employees or volunteers off campus under SB 260 which passed Wednesday, March 3. The bill, sponsored by Bivins, does not require schools to expel, but gives them the option. A floor amendment to the bill allows schools to expel a student who takes retaliatory action against a school volunteer or employee, even if the retaliation occurred off campus.

In committee action, the daughter of the late James Byrd Jr., who was the victim of a racially-motivated murder in Jasper, testified in support of hate crimes legislation. Renee Mullins pledged her support and urged senators in the State Affairs Committee to support legislation by Dallas Senator Royce West which establishes a Texas Human Rights Protection Act. SB 439 would provide civil remedies to victims of hate crimes.

Other legislation passed this week includes: SB 61, by Madla, requiring parental consent and written notification for a minor to get a body piercing. The bill also regulates body piercing facilities, requiring that they have a license from the Texas Department of Health to operate and authorizes inspections; SB 448, by Duncan, authorizing the Commissioner of Agriculture to spend funds appropriated by the Legislature for the eradication of the boll weevil in a cost-sharing program; and SB 216 and 217, by Duncan, disqualifying a person convicted of theft from serving on a grand jury and extending the age limit so a person is subject to grand jury service through the age of 70.

Governor George W. Bush announced an exploratory committee to consider a presidential run on Tuesday March 2. Lt. Governor Rick Perry says that will not change things in the Texas Legislature, "The most important thing I think all of us have to keep in mind is that we have a legislative session in front of us."

The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 8, at 1:30 p.m.

NOMINEES CONFIRMED THIS WEEK
Justice, Supreme Court of Texas
Alberto R. Gonzales
Travis County
Appointed 01-04-99 until
the next general election
Barrientos
Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
Alvin L. Henry
Harris County
Appointed 02-04-99 for a
term to expire 02-01-05
Ellis
Katharine Armstrong Idsal
Dallas County
Appointed 02-04-99 for a
term to expire 02-01-05
Shapiro
Mark. E. Watson, Jr.
Bexar County
Appointed 02-04-99 for a
term to expire 02-01-05
Wentworth
University of Texas System Board of Regents
Woody L. Hunt
El Paso County
Appointed 02-09-99 for a
term to expire 02-01-05
Shapleigh
Charles Miller
Harris County
Appointed 02-09-99 for a
term to expire 02-01-05
Ellis
Raul R. Romero
Harris County
Appointed 02-09-99 for a
term to expire 02-01-05
Brown
Texas Workforce Commission
Ron Lehman
Williamson County
Appointed 06-03-98 for a
term to expire 02-01-03
Wentworth
Terrence P. O'Mahoney
Dallas County
Reappointed 02-09-99 for a
term to expire 02-01-05
Shapiro
Commissioner, Texas Health and Human Services Commission
Don Allen Gilbert
Travis County
Reappointed 05-01-98 for a
term to expire 02-01-01
Barrientos
Lease Board --Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission
William Gammon, III
Travis County
Appointed 07-28-98 for a
term to expire 09-01-99
Barrientos
Chief Administrative Law Judge, Office of Administrative Hearings
Sheila Bailey Taylor
Travis County
Reappointed 07-20-98 for a
term to expire 05-15-00
Barrientos
Judge, 126th Judicial District Court, Travis County
Ernest C. Garcia
Travis County
Appointed 01-04-99 until
the next general election
Wentworth
Judge, 338th Judicial District Court, Harris County
Elsa Alcala
Harris County
Appointed 01-04-99 until
the next general election
Whitmire
Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.

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