Senate Passed Legislation on Education, Safety Issues
Austin - The Senate today approved several bills regarding education and the health and safety of Texans. The following bills were approved unanimously and will be passed down to the House for its approval:
- In an effort to fully immunize Texas children, Senate Bill (SB) 40, sponsored by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini, would direct the Texas Department of Health to implement a continuous statewide immunization education campaign.
- To ensure the safety of Texans, SB 94, sponsored by Senator Royce West of Dallas, would delay the issuance of a temporary driving permit to a driver cited for DWI by 24 hours to allow the driver time to sober up before legally driving again.
- Regarding education, SB 258, also sponsored by West, would allow four-year colleges and universities to waive tuition and fees for the students they enroll that are concurrently in high school.
- In addition, SB 346, sponsored by College Station Senator Steve Ogden, would authorize a school district to provide an optional flexible school year program for students who would otherwise not be promoted to the next grade level. The bill would also allow a district to reduce the regular school year and teacher service days to create time for specialized programs for at-risk students.
- The third education legislation, SB 578, sponsored by Addison Senator Florence Shapiro, would require the principals of schools that participate in the Advanced Placement program to assemble a team of teachers to determine the use of funds awarded by the program.
After presiding over today's Senate session, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst updated reporters on the budget crisis, promising that "we will come out of this process leaner, more efficient, and still providing for our essential services." The Lieutenant Governor said that he is pleased to report that they currently have $700 million morethan was originally projected and that the monies would go into the fiscal year 2004-05 budget.
Dewhurst announced another recommendation today that will save an additional $65 million in addition to the non-tax revenue sources he recommended to the Finance Committee on Monday. Dewhurst proposed lowering the Medicaid eligibility requirement for nursing homes from 225% of the poverty level to 200% and allowing continued coverage to those people currently eligible. The Lieutenant Governor remains optimistic that the legislature can balance the budget without raising taxes.
According to Dewhurst, the Senate Finance Committee should start the budget mark-up process next week and they expect a bill to be ready by the first week in April.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, March 13, 2003, at 8:00 a.m.