As troops from Fort Hood began to return to Texas, the Senate took time Tuesday to honor the fighting men and women who have participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The commanding officer of Fort Hood, Major General James Simmons and five veterans of Iraq were on hand to represent the more than 47,000 soldiers from Fort Hood who have been in the Middle East for a year or more. "We stand in the shadow of freedom," said Senator Troy Fraser, who represents Fort Hood, "The reason that we can sit here today is because of the efforts of these brave men and women, who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep this country free." Twenty-five hundred soldiers from Fort Hood have been wounded in combat in Iraq, and 247 have been killed in action. Gen. Simmons said that many soldiers are already on their way back to Texas, and all of the Fort Hood soldiers should be back home by April.
Senator Fraser unveiled legislation Wednesday that would increase the amount of electricity that comes from alternative sources. Currently, state law requires the state have 2,800 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, but the Texas Energy Planning Council recommends that the state significantly increase this amount by the year 2025. Following these recommendations, Fraser authored Senate Bill 533, setting capacity goals of 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2015, and 10,000 megawatts, or ten percent of state energy capacity, by 2025. SB 533 would also direct the Public Utilities Commission to find the areas in Texas best suited to wind, hydroelectric, and solar energy production, and to also research the best ways to transport that energy state-wide. "I am convinced that we must have more renewable sources such as wind generating the electricity that this state needs to meet demands of the 21st century," said Fraser.
Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston said at a press conference Wednesday that he is concerned about the rising cost of prescription medicine and the impact it is having on the most needy Texans, particularly the elderly and uninsured. To address this problem, Ellis authored Senate Bill 518, which would allow Texans to purchase prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies. The legislation requires pharmacies to be certified by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy to ensure the Canadian distributors meet the same rigorous safety standards required of Texas pharmacies. It would also require a doctor's prescription to obtain the medicine, and only a three month supply of drugs could be shipped to a patient at a time. SB 518 would also place restrictions on what kinds of drugs can be shipped, mandating that the drugs be approved for sale by the FDA. Ellis said that Canadian prescription medications are as safe as any drug purchased in Texas, and are often up to 75% percent cheaper. "Texans that can't keep up with skyrocketing prices are either going without much needed medications or taking the more risky route buying who-knows-what from who-knows-where over the Internet," said Ellis, "This legislation will help Texans better afford expensive prescription drugs while maintaining the safety standards we demand."
Monday, the Senate remembered the life of Waco Mayor Mae Jackson, who died of a heart attack last Friday February 11, less than a year into her historic term as the first African-American Mayor of Waco. Jackson was applauded for being a tireless advocate for education, women, and the less fortunate throughout her life. "She was committed to education, committed to her community, she was committed to the quality of water in Central Texas," said Senator Kip Averitt, who represents Waco. "She fought these battles all of her life and succeeded." Jackson was elected to two terms on the Waco City Council before being elected mayor in 2004.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, February 21st, at 1:30 P.M.