Averitt Legislation to Make Insurance More Accessible and More Affordable Approved
Austin - Legislation aimed at making insurance more accessible and affordable to Texans was approved by the Senate today. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said that over sixty percent of Texas adults who are uninsured are employed, but do not subscribe to the insurance offered by their employer, mainly because the insurance plans they are offered are too expensive. "In many cases, employees don't take the insurance and put their children on [the Children's Health Insurance Program]," Dewhurst said, making the federal and state governments responsible their health care costs.
"Senate Bill (SB) 10 goes a long way towards progressing the needs of the working people of Texas so that they and their employers can afford health insurance in the private sector," said Waco Senator Kip Averitt, the bill's sponsor. SB 10 would amend the Insurance Code to allow small businesses to form group health cooperatives in order to obtain health coverage for employees with benefits similar to those large businesses enjoy. According to Averitt, the bill would provide incentives, such as tax breaks, for insurance companies to participate and would effectively lower the cost of insurance for small employers.
Texas public schoolchildren would be required to recite the pledges of allegiance to both the Texas and United States flags and observe a minute of silence under a controversial measure passed by the Senate today by a 27-4 vote. San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth said that his bill, SB 83, will be beneficial to all the schoolchildren in the state. If the bill is approved by the House and signed by the Governor, schoolchildren will have 60 seconds a day mandated for prayer, meditation, or reflection. McAllen Senator Juan Hinojosa was one Senator who spoke in opposition, saying that the bill is a step toward mandating prayer in schools and it takes away local control. Wichita Falls Senator Craig Estes explained that he was against the bill because he is far too conservative and believes that teachers should have control over what goes on in their classroom.
The Senate also approved two Senate Joint Resolutions (SJRs) sponsored by College Station Senator Steve Ogden. SJR 43 would allow the voters to decide if the State Constitution should be amended to allow the State Board of Education to lend the Texas Department of Transportation up to $1 billion from the Permanent School Fund for acquiring land to build roads on. Ogden's other measure, SJR 44, would allow the legislature to provide for the issuance of bonds, not to exceed $5 billion dollars, secured by the state highway fund for highway improvement projects. The constitutional amendment would have to first be approved by the voters before becoming effective.
The Senate paid tribute to ex-Prisoners of War by passing Senate Resolution 590, declaring April 9 as Former Prisoner of War Recognition day. The resolution, sponsored by San Antonio Senator Leticia Van de Putte and supported by the full Senate, honored the fighting spirit and sacrifices of those who fought for and defended our country. "Somehow the words thank you don't seem to be enough," said Austin Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, "One can only...begin to imagine what you and other men and women have gone through." El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh said that we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service and the sacrifices that they made to guarantee our freedoms.
The following bills were also approved by the Senate today:
- Committee Substitute to Senate Bill (CSSB) 265, sponsored by Brownsville Senator Eddie Lucio, would continue the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) for twelve years while decreasing the number of members from 15 to 14 by abolishing the citizen-held seat. The bill would also remove the State Board of Education's oversight over SBEC rules and provide for fingerprinting of applicants.
- CSSB 388, sponsored by Houston Senator Rodney Ellis, would create the Texas Real Property Interim Committee to sell or close underused state agency field offices and provide for allocation of the proceeds of the sale of such real property.
- SB 392, by The Woodlands Senator Tommy Williams, would require water districts to once again comply with certain Texas Tax Code requirements.
- SB 611, by Flower Mound Senator Jane Nelson, would prohibit the display of an individual's social security number on cards or other devices necessary to access products and services.
- SB 774, sponsored by Senator Averitt, would provide the necessary statutory framework to ensure transactions relating to revolving credit accounts secured by an interest in real property are handled accurately by lending institutions.
- SB 1063, by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, would require the Department of Public Safety to confirm that all commercial motor carriers whose insurance has been cancelled are not operating.
- CSSB 1090, by Dallas Senator John Carona, would create a mechanism to regulate the registration of professionals who work on elevators and set forth inspection requirements.
- CSSB 1105, by Horseshoe Bay Senator Troy Fraser, would provide greater opportunities and protections for purchasers of Texas Timeshares and increases the Texas Real Estate Commission's flexibility in regulating the timeshare industry.
The Senate will reconvene Thursday, April 10, 2003, at 8:00 a.m.