Texas Senate Review
AUSTIN - On Thursday, February 26, the Senate voted in favor of giving small businesses in Texas a tax break. Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 148 exempts small businesses who have earnings up to $100,000 annually from the state's franchise tax. Those businesses would also be exempt from the reporting requirement. Senator Mario Gallegos Jr. of Galena Park sponsored a floor amendment requiring the Comptroller of Public Accounts to watch and report on the progress of the tax break and whether the money is returned to the State of Texas in the form of economic prosperity and job growth. Bill sponsor Senator Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay says he expects 28,000 businesses to benefit at a price tag to the state of $57 million for the next biennium.
Senator Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin supported the bill but questioned the priorities of the Legislature this session. He said he would like to direct attention to other issues like child care. Barrientos held a press conference to announce legislation providing a franchise tax credit to companies that provide child care for their employees.
Senator Teel Bivins of Amarillo continued to push education legislation through the Senate this week. He sponsored CSSB 345, passed on Monday, February 22, which authorizes institutions of higher education to charge students more money for taking more than 45 hours on top of minimum degree requirements for the degree a student is pursuing.
The Senate dealt with nursing facility issues on both the floor and in committee this week. The Senate passed CSSB 19 by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini on Tuesday, February 23, creating a one-year probationary license for nursing facility owners who previously have not conducted business in the state. Senator Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth also addressed the problem of a growing elderly population and a growing nursing home industry, "Our population of elderly is going to explode in the next ten years and Texas is not ready for that." Legislation he sponsored to prepare Texas for these issues passed out of the Committee on Health Services this week.
The Senate also passed an emergency appropriations bill, CSSB 472, with a $94 million price tag. The Senate allotted money for child protective services, teacher training for the social promotion initiative, drought relief, oyster testing, and other programs in the legislation sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair Bill Ratliff of Mount Pleasant.
In committee action this week, the Committee on Natural Resources passed Senate Bill (SB) 262, as amended on Tuesday, February 23, relating to the reimbursement of landowners or developers prior to annexation of a water-related special district. If a municipality, with a population of less than 1.5 million, does not reimburse landowners or developers prior to the effective date of annexation, the sum will collect penalties and interest. The only city that would currently be affected by the measure is the City of Austin. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony this week on legislation intended to protect victims of domestic violence and increase the penalties for abusers, sponsored by Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound.
Other legislation passed this week in the Senate include: Committee Substitute for Senate Joint Resolution (CSSJR)15 by Harris proposes a constitutional amendment to legitimize the giving of consent by an incapacitated spouse regarding transactions in connection with a homestead;
CSSB 46 by Carona, creating a criminal offense for the fraudulent use or possession of identifying information;
SB 85 by Carona, revising the Texas Business and Commerce Code concerning letters of credit;
CSSB 99 by Carona, protecting health care workers who are accidently exposed to a patient's blood or bodily fluids by allowing hospitals to test for hepatitis B or hepatitis C without the patient's consent;
SB 397 by Zaffirini, which requires public or private health and human services organizations that receive state funds to provide information about their services to the Texas Information and Referral Network;
CSSB 166 by Carona, requiring landlords to re-key the lock of a dwelling before a tenant takes possession of a property;
SB 97 by Harris, creates the Public Employees Long Term Board and allows all public employees to purchase long-term care insurance through the pool; and
CSSB 382 by Duncan, modifying the present law requiring that state agencies give reasoned justification for rules they adopt.
In observation of Texas Independence Day next week, Waco Senator David Sibley read a letter written February 24, 1836 by Colonel William Barrett Travis, Commander of the Alamo, into the Senate Journal. In his famous letter, Travis made a call for help "To the people of Texas and All Americans in the World" that ended with the famous salutation "Victory or Death." The 163rd Texas Independence Day will be celebrated on Tuesday, March 2, 1999.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 1, at 1:30 p.m.