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May 13, 2003   
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Dewhurst Disappointed in Representatives, Says Senate will Pick up Slack

Senators Kip Averitt, Kim Brimer and Craig Estes.
Senators Kip Averitt of McGregor, Kim Brimer of Fort Worth, and Craig Estes of Wichita Falls consider today's legislation at the computer before getting into serious discussion of more than 15 bills which were passed out of the Senate today.

Austin - Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst is "disappointed by the action of the few House members." At a Capitol press conference today, Dewhurst said "I regret the fact they've left the state. I think it's childish. We've all been elected to do a job and we need to stay here and get it done." He said that the Senate will do everything it can to pick up the slack, including filing and amending bills to include legislation that has not yet been considered in the House. "The Senate will continue to work together to put Texas first," he said.

The intent of the House members' exodus was to forestall legislation that would redraw Texas' congressional district boundary lines. Fifty-one Representatives have been found in Ardmore, Oklahoma and say that they refuse to be present any day the House considers redistricting. The House cannot convene unless it has a quorum, or two-thirds, of the 150 members.

Dewhurst estimates that there are 233 bills that may be killed due to the lack of quorum in the House. He has met with Governor Rick Perry and House leadership to identify the bills that he defines as "absolutely essential". According to Dewhurst, all of the bills from the Sunset committee recommendations have already been filed and moved. He listed some key budget bills and the homeowners insurance bill as important legislation that could be affected.

Dewhurst said that the Senate would take up and consider the redistricting bill only if it has the support of twenty-one Senators.

Dewhurst said that during an after-session caucus the members wanted to make sure that an equal number of bills are pending in the House and Senate. He said that sometimes the House has to be reminded to bring up Senate bills by holding back some of the House bills.

In other business, the Senate debated and passed legislation that Houston Senator Mario Gallegos said would provide fail-safe measures for motor carriers and their commercial motor vehicle drivers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Texas had the largest number of truck driver highway fatalities in 1998. Gallegos said that, in some cases, truck drivers have been found to be intoxicated or were previously convicted. Senate Bill (SB) 1679 would require employers to obtain and check specific records of their commercial drivers every twelve months. The bill would also add a subsection to the Penal Code that would provide for a $100,000 penalty against a driver's employer if someone is killed as a result of criminally negligent conduct involving inspection, maintenance, or operation of a commercial motor vehicle.

SB 1521, sponsored by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini, was also approved by the Senate. The measure would allow a graduate school of business to increase tuition to up to three times the rate charged for undergraduate programs.

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, May 14, 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.