Senate Finance Committee Starts Budget Mark-Up
Austin - The Senate Finance Committee started mark-up today, the second part of the appropriations process. Amarillo Senator Teel Bivins, Finance chair, said that the committee will concentrate on cutting costs and delivering services more efficiently to the people of Texas. On the committee's agenda for today are agencies classified under general government, judiciary, and natural resources. For most of the agencies, the Finance Committee adopted the recommendations from workgroups that met following the first building block of the process.
Seven bills were passed out of the Senate in session today and are headed to the House for its consideration. The Senate also debated two bills dealing with insurance forms and the reconstitution of low performing schools, which the authors agreed to hold until Monday.
San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth presented legislation on third reading requiring drivers to turn on their headlights when unfavorable conditions result in substantially reduced visibility and the use of windshield wipers. Wentworth believes that Senate Bill (SB) 204 will reduce deaths, personal injuries, and property damage and said that he has strong support from many of his constituents. His measure passed with the approval of twenty-four Senators, following some debate. Houston Senator John Whitmire was the most vocal opponent of the bill and said that it will be hard to enforce.
Legislation aimed at shortening the amount of time it takes to settle smaller claims against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) was also passed today. SB 724, by The Woodlands Senator Tommy Williams, authorizes TxDOT to settle claims under $10,000 without the prior approval from the governor that is currently necessary. Williams said that his bill has support from the governor's office and should result in claims being settled up to twelve weeks faster.
Other bills passed in today's session include:
- SB 82, sponsored by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini, would amend the Government Code to give priority and expedited status in the courts to property tax valuation disputes.
- SB 513, authored by Houston Senator Jon Lindsay, would extend immunity from civil liability to anyone assisting in hazardous or dangerous situations resulting from man-made or natural disasters if certain conditions are met.
- SB 735, also by Lindsay, would allow city and county officials appointed to serve on boards and commissions to be compensated for expenses related to their duties.
- SB 741, by San Antonio Senator Leticia Van de Putte, would correct what she called an oversight in the Education Code. It would require school marching band directors to be certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
- SB 759, by Fort Worth Senator Kim Brimer, would exempt employees of political subdivisions from the commercial or noncommercial license when engaged in the general use of pesticide.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 31, 2003, at 1:30 p.m.