FINAL BILLS PASS AGAINST DEADLINE
|Senator Eliot Shapleigh (left) and Senator John Whitmire (center) present Senator Mario Gallegos a teddy bear signed by all the members of the Senate as a token of their esteem. Gallegos has been in Austin against doctor's orders following a January liver transplant in order to represent his district on key issues.|
(AUSTIN) — On the last night to pass bills, the Senate worked until 2 a.m. to approve legislation and try and save bills that died on the House calendar. The remaining five days of the session is dedicated to working on compromises between House and Senate bills already passed by both chambers. One of the bills that garnered final passage Wednesday was a bill to permit the study of the Bible and other religious texts in public schools. Senate sponsor Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls said the Bible is a critical piece of literature in the western tradition, and has influenced writers and public icons from Shakespeare to Martin Luther King Jr. His bill would permit schools to offer courses that study the literary and cultural impact of religious texts if 15 or more students express interest in signing up. The Office of Attorney General would be given oversight over all such courses, in order to ensure that no constitutional standards on religious expression are violated.
|(From left) Senators Kirk Watson, Glenn Hegar, and Leticia Van de Putte share a joke during Wednesday's session.|
Houston Senator John Whitmire amended one of his bills Wednesday to bring back a bill that didn't survive the House calendar this week. This amendment would create an alternative sanctions program for technical violators of probation and parole. Whitmire said that the state sends 2400 probationers and parolees to prison every year on technical violations of the terms of their sentence. For instance a parolee may miss a meeting with a parole officer or fail to pay fees. His amendment would create specialized facilities, where technical violators could be sent for a shorter period of time, in order to focus on drug or alcohol treatment or other intervention measures.
The Senate took time Thursday to honor one of its longest serving staffers, former Sergeant-at-Arms Carleton Turner. Turner stepped down from his position following the 79th Legislative Session, following 23 years of service. The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms is in charge of maintaining the decorum in the Senate chamber, works with the Department of Public Safety on chamber security, and manages the hundreds of messengers and pages that work at the Capitol each session.
Senators praised Turner for his dedicated service, staunch professionalism, and personal rapport over his term. Since his retirement, Turner has concentrated on his cattle ranch and vineyard in Junction, Texas.
|Carleton Turner (left) poses with Senator Chris Harris following his honorary resolution Thursday afternoon. Turner was honored for his 23 years of service as Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.|