Senate Passes Bill to Toughen Prohibition of Children
Riding in Pickup Beds
AUSTIN - After debating the measure in two session days, the Senate today passed a bill on third reading that would prohibit children younger than 18 years of age from riding in the back of a pickup or truck or on a flatbed trailer.
Current state law prohibits children 12 years old and younger from riding in the bed of a truck, pickup or on a trailer at speeds greater than 35 miles per hour.
Senate Bill (SB) 399, authored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan, first came up for consideration on the Senate floor Monday, but final action on the measure was left pending after several senators voiced their opposition.
Houston Sen. Mario Gallegos said yesterday that the bill would lead to "open season" for police to pull over Hispanics because many Hispanics have only a pickup for transportation. Gallegos continued his opposition today by posing numerous scenarios to Duncan and the bill's effect under each.
"All children under the age of 18 are protected under this law," Duncan responded to Gallegos' questions.
La Porte Sen. Mike Jackson then offered an amendment to the bill that would have created several exemptions to the prohibition, including one that would removed the prohibition if the vehicle was the family's only means of transportation. Jackson's proposal also would have allowed children to ride on a flatbed trailer being pulled by a farm tractor or in the back of a truck or pickup being driven on a beach.
The Senate rejected the amendment on a vote of 16 in favor, 13 against, with one present but not voting and one absent. Because the bill was on third reading, the amendment required a two-thirds vote to pass.
The vote for final passage of the bill was 22 for, seven against, one present but not voting and one absent.
Earlier in the day, Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief met with an advocacy group for care of the mentally retarded. Members of the Parent Association for the Retarded of Texas (PART) were at the Capitol to share their concerns with legislators about continuing funding of state-operated facilities, separate facilities for mentally retarded offenders and the ability of parents to choose what facility in which to place their child.
"I am your ally. I always will be," Moncrief told the group. "I will deliver the message that you bring today to my colleagues that these individuals are a priority, that your needs as parents are a priority for Texas and not to be placed on the back burner."
In session, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by Moncrief honoring PART.
Later in session, the Senate voted to approve SB 629, a measure authored by Palestine Sen. Todd Staples that would authorize the attorney general to administer oaths. Numerous state officials, including notary publics, the governor, the secretary of state and lieutenant governor, can administer oaths under current state law.
SB 629 easily passed, but not before Staples endured the traditional roasting freshman senators receive from their colleagues when their first bill comes up for consideration.
Dallas Sen. Royce West opened the questioning by first asking Staples to read the complete text of the bill and asking for a fiscal note. Staples responded that SB 629 is a "good government bill," because it has no fiscal note. A fiscal note is the official estimate prepared by the Legislative Budget Board of the costs a bill will incur.
The bill was passed despite a facetious chorus of "No!" when Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff put it to a voice vote.
In other Senate news, the Finance Committee continues to gather input on SB 1, the General Appropriations Bill for the 2002-2003 biennium. Representatives from the Texas Department of Health and other agencies providing health and human services met with the committee today to further discuss their requests for the next budget cycle.
The Senate stands adjourned until 11 a.m. Wednesday.