AUSTIN - Arguments over water rights, election reform, and reckless teenage drivers were highlights of the Texas Senate session on Monday.
A two and one-half hour filibuster by Senator David Bernsen of Beaumont temporarily held up Senate Bill (SB)143, sponsored by Senator J.E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson. SB 143 amends the water bill from the 75th Legislature, SB 1, in deleting the provision that manages that all water transferred through an interbasin transfer is junior in priority to all waters in the basin. This means that no water would be transferred in times of drought or shortage. The bill was passed to engrossment by a vote of 25 to 6 just before 7:30 PM, at which time the Senate adjourned for the day.
A proposed constitutional amendment could change the way Texas voters choose judges. The Committee Substitute for Senate Joint Resolution (CSSJR) 9 would require the governor to appoint appellate judges, which are currently elected. Supporters say it would help judges avoid ethical dilemmas while in the midst of political campaigns. Some added that the partisan election of judges isn't good for justice. CSSJR 9 is sponsored by Senator Robert L. Duncan of Lubbock.
Texans may be going to the polls no more than four times in a year if the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 35 makes it into law. The bill, sponsored by Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, consolidates some state and local elections into no more than four election days per year. She says too many elections discourage people from voting. Opponents countered that not all areas have this problem and that local officials should have the final say on election dates, not the Legislature.
Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in Texas and two senators have sponsored legislation that they hope will change that. Senators Royce West of Dallas and Teel Bivins of Amarillo proposed Senate Bill 280, which puts additional restrictions on teens when they get their Texas license. Teens could still drive at 16, but they would have a probationary period before they could drive alone late at night.
Finally, supporters of the Hope Scholarship Program celebrated passage of CSSB 37 out of the Education Committee at a morning press conference. The program awards money for college to those who meet requirements for academic achievement and financial need.
The Senate is scheduled to reconvene Tuesday at 10:00 A.M.