Amended Colonia Bill
AUSTIN - The Senate voted final passage of a bill sponsored by Brownsville Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., that would help county governments combat the spread of unincorporated subdivisions commonly known as colonias.
The measure, the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 517, would allow county governments to adopt rules controlling lot size, the size, number and location of buildings on lots and infrastructure standards for unincorporated areas.
CSSB 517 first came up in Monday's session. A floor amendment sponsored by Waco Sen. David Sibley, one of nine co-sponsors of the bill, was added Monday that would apply to all counties in Texas, leading several senators to question the bill's scope. The bill was left pending until today.
The vote on final passage of CSSB 517 as amended was 22 votes for, 7 against and two present but not voting.
The Senate also passed a bill sponsored by Arlington Sen. Chris Harris that would make the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) an option for court-ordered medical support of a child. State law requires anyone paying child support to also provide for health insurance, but does not list CHIP as a coverage option. CSSB 236 would authorize the use of any potential health insurance product, including CHIP, to be considered in meeting the medical support requirement under the child support system.
Six other bills addressing a wide variety of topics were passed by the Senate in Tuesday's session. Those bills passed and their sponsors were:
- Senate Bill (SB) 79, Wichita Falls Sen. Tom Haywood: Would add local chambers of commerce to the definition of "charitable organization," which would give immunity from liability to chamber officers, directors, trustees and direct service volunteers acting in good faith;
- SB 113, Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief: Current law requires children between the ages of 4 and 15 to wear a seatbelt regardless of where they are riding in a vehicle. SB 114 would raise the age limit to 17;
- SB 157, Corpus Christi Sen. Carlos F. Truan: Would allow the Texas Department of Transportation to accept a bond from a contractor in the form of either a cashier's check, money order or bid bond;
- CSSB 220, Plano Sen. Florence Shapiro: Would make it easier for law enforcement officers to enforce truck weight limits;
- SB 559, San Antonio Sen. Frank L. Madla: Would clarify that entities created by municipal governments are subject to open meetings laws; and
- SB 565, Victoria Sen. Ken Armbrister: Would restore the Public Security Code as the basic law governing security pledges for governmental bonds and other obligations.
After session, El Paso Sen. Eliot Shapleigh answered reporters' questions about Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff's remarks last week concerning undocumented immigrants. Speaking to an Austin group, Ratliff said more federal funding is needed for Texas to deal with increased border traffic and undocumented immigrants' use of hospitals in the border region. Hispanic advocacy groups have denounced Ratliff's comments as anti-immigrant.
Shapleigh, an frequent advocate of increased funding to improve the quality of life and infrastructure along the Texas-Mexico border, said immigration is a federal issue but much of the financial burden is on county governments. He added that it is a lack of federal funding, not immigrants, that is straining border communities.
The Senate is adjourned until 11 a.m. Wednesday.