Senator Announces Bill Promoting
Public School Character Education
AUSTIN - Dallas Sen. David Cain today announced legislation that would encourage the teaching of character education in public schools.
Senate Bill (SB) 130 would authorize schools to include secular character education in their curriculum. Character education includes teaching character traits such as courtesy, respect and citizenship. Some Texas school districts are including character education, Cain said, and SB 130 would encourage other schools to do so and provide guidelines for instruction.
"Character education programs work," Cain said. "They've gotten dramatic results."
State Rep. Barry Telford of DeKalb has authored similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
In the 1999-2000 school year, more than 1.5 million students were removed from the classroom because of discipline problems, Cain said, a situation that SB 130 addresses.
"Unfortunately, many young people today lack moral guidance and positive role models," Cain said. "Character education in school recognizes the importance of our kids learning core values."
Senators Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Mike Moncrief of Fort Worth, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo joined Cain in announcing the bill.
In session, the Senate passed 10 bills. One of those, the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 89, would prohibit open containers in any passenger area of a vehicle. The bill would also strengthen repeat driving while intoxicated laws.
Flower Mound Sen. Jane Nelson, the bill's author, said CSSB 89 brings Texas into compliance with federal regulations. Noncompliance would lead to loss of federal highway funds, Nelson added.
The Senate also passed another transportation-related bill, CSSB 4 by Plano Sen. Florence Shapiro, dubbed the Texas Mobility Fund. CSSB 4 would allow the state to issue bonds on a limited basis to pay for transportation projects.
Texas has historically been a "pay as you go" state, meaning the state has not used bonds to finance highway construction. Shapiro said CSSB 4 is intended to supplement the pay as you go system because bonds will be issued only when there is new revenue to pay for them.
"Pay as you go is going to stay intact," Shapiro said.
An amendment to the Texas Constitution is required for the state to be able to issue bonds, so a separate measure, the Committee Substitute for Senate Joint Resolution (CSSJR) 16 was also passed. CSSJR 16 would authorize an amendment to go before Texas voters. Shapiro said if both pieces of legislation are signed into law, the constitutional amendment will be on ballots this fall.
Debate on bills has become more intense on the Senate floor, but Thursday's session was not without humor.
Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff attempted to recognize Victoria Sen. Ken Armbrister for a motion to bring up a bill Armbrister has authored. The problem was, Armbrister was using the phone in his desk in the Senate chamber and did not hear Ratliff.
After Ratliff called Armbrister's name several times, the senator suddenly realized that Ratliff was recognizing him for a motion and quickly ended his call. Armbrister apologized and joked that he was attending to important business.
"President Bush called me and I had to take that call," Armbrister said to laughs throughout the chamber.
"Tell him you're busy," Ratliff replied.
"I did," Armbrister said.
The Senate stands adjourned until 1 p.m. Monday.