TEXAS SENATE REVIEW
AUSTIN - The Senate of the 78th Legislature took time out this week to mourn the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew. On Monday, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst requested a moment of silence in the Senate chamber to honor the memory of the brave men and women lost on February 1, 2003. Senator Mike Jackson of Pasadena, along with many other senators, spoke on Resolution 97 to express admiration for the seven astronauts who died as they returned from their sixteen-day research mission. The Senate did not meet for session or committee meetings on Tuesday so that a delegation could attend a memorial service in Houston.
Thousands of senior citizens from all over state gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday for Senior Day, sponsored by the Texas Senior Advocacy Coalition. The group met on the south steps to hear speeches from some of their elected officials, including Senator John Carona from Dallas and Senator Judith Zaffirini from Laredo. Senator Gonzalo Barrientos from Austin, Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., and others met with the senior citizens.
At a Wednesday press conference, Senator Eliot Shapleigh from El Paso introduced Senate Bill (SB) 343. The legislation, known as the Texas Healthy School Kids Act, will implement a statewide coordinated approach to school and student health which Shapleigh believes will not only improve quality of life, but will also affect future healthcare costs for the state. The bill restricts the types of snack food and drinks that may be sold at schools and mandates fitness report cards and assessments, daily physical activity for students below seventh grade, and a coordinated health education curriculum in all grade levels. .
Lubbock Senator Robert Duncan, along with co-sponsors Senator Troy Fraser from Horseshoe Bay and several members of the Texas House of Representatives, announced the filing of SB 383 on Thursday. The bill, backed by the Texas Association of Builders, creates a Texas Residential Construction Commission made up of six members of the building industry, one professional engineer, and two public members. This self-funded commission will adopt standards to regulate how homes are built and create a resolution process to settle disputes between homeowners and homebuilders.
The Senate Infrastructure Development and Security Committee heard testimony from Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst during its first hearing this week. Some of the issues he asked the nine-member committee to address are port security, border protection, bio-terrorism, increased scrutiny on name changes, and mutual-aid agreements.
Dewhurst also testified before the newly created Committee on Government Organization. He urged the seven members to take a look at how government is doing business and to make it more effective and efficient. He told the committee that he will be referring legislation to them from three areas: the Sunset Advisory Committee recommendations, the e-Texas recommendations from the Comptroller's office, and the State Auditor's report on Major Areas of Risk Facing Texas State Government.
The Senate Committee on International Relations and Trade met to organize and heard invited testimony on the topics it will be addressing this legislative session. These include the state's relations with other countries, trade, infrastructure, and the water shortage in the Rio Grande Valley.
Also meeting to organize was the Committee on Health and Human Services. It heard invited testimony from the Commissioners of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Texas Department of Health, and the Texas Department of Human Services.
The Senate Natural Resources Committee held its first hearing this week as well and heard testimony from administrators at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Water Development Board, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The nine-member Committee on Education, chaired by Senator Florence Shapiro from Addison, heard invited testimony concerning School Finance.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, February 10, 2003, at 2:00 p.m.