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Texas Senate
March 3, 2003  
(512) 463-0300

Zaffirini Files Legislation Aimed at Immunizing More Texas Children

Austin - Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini today urged support for her legislation package consisting of five bills aimed at increasing the number of children immunized in Texas. "We need to protect our children," said Zaffirini, who stated that her goal is to immunize Texas children to one hundred percent of the age-appropriate level. At today's Capitol press conference, she said that although it is sometimes an expensive goal, it is a worthy goal because immunizations are an investment which will save money in the long run.

Texas Commissioner of Health, Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, spoke in support of Senator Zaffirini's proposed measures and said that vaccines are a top priority of the Texas Department of Health. Sanchez said that their mission is to form public and private partnerships to improve, promote, and protect the health of the people of this state. "Immunizations are where good public health policy and wise fiscal policy converge," said the commissioner, "People have heard me say this before and I will say it again--vaccines work."

The Zaffirini health package includes the following:

  • Senate Bill (SB) 38 would direct the Texas Department of Health to explore methods to increase physician education and participation in the Vaccine for Children Program, such as provider education, administrative simplification, and increased vaccine administration reimbursement.
  • SB 39 would change the current immunization tracking system, ImmTrac, from an opt-in to an opt-out registry in order to increase participation and data collection.
  • SB 40 would make the Department of Health responsible for instituting a continuous statewide immunization education campaign.
  • SB 41 would require that all vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices be covered by state regulated health plans.
  • The last bill in the package, SB 43, has already been unanimously passed by the Senate. The legislation would require the Department of Health to submit a report on the Educating Physicians in your Community pilot program.

At another Capitol press conference today, Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock, announced that he has filed SB 794, which would change the way judges are elected in Texas. "There is a perception that justice is for sale in Texas," said Duncan, who said that the current system has resulted in a judiciary that is not independent of the requirement of having to raise funds from special interest groups. "Our position is, and this legislation reflects the position, that our Texas judges should be the most qualified persons for these opposed to those who can raise the most money, have the catchiest campaign slogans, and the funniest names."

The Senator's proposed legislation allows the governor to appoint judges, who must then be confirmed by the Senate. At the end of a judge's term, the voters are allowed to reject or retain that judge in a retention election. Duncan said that SB 794 would create the most efficient system in which all judges can be challenged at the end of their term and have only their own record to run against.

The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, March 4, 2003, at 11:00 a.m.

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's Audio/Video Archive.