P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 1999
AUSTIN -- Following is a list of some of the priority bills authored by State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that are under consideration in the final days of the 76th Legislature:
Slamming, cramming: The Texas Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 86 on March 3, and the legislation is currently pending in the House Calendars Committee. The bill will close a loophole that has prevented the Texas Public Utilities Commission from punishing telecommunications companies who engage in deceptive marketing such as slamming, the unauthorized switching of a customer's long-distance carrier. It also makes cramming, the practice of charging customers for services they have not approved, illegal for the first time in Texas. It would make the same deceptive practices illegal in the electric industry, should Senate Bill 7 pass the Legislature.
Family Violence: The Senate has overwhelmingly approved six bills from Senator Nelson that aim to curb family violence in Texas. One of the bills - Senate Bill 461, which allows a judge to order as domestic offender to pay a fine up to $100 to a local victims shelter - has passed the House and been signed into law. The remaining five bills are still pending in the House:
- SB 24, which targets repeat abusers by making a second family violence assault a third degree felony, is pending in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. (A Nelson-sponsored House companion is under consideration in the Senate.)
- SB 23, which extends the duration of an emergency protective order from 31 to 61 days, is pending in Criminal Jurisprudence.
- SB 22, which ensures that those convicted of family violence assaults that result in serious bodily injury, serve at least half of their jail sentence, is pending in the House Corrections Committee.
- SB 50, which extends the duration of permanent protective orders from one to five years, is pending in the Calendars Committee.
- SB 588, which allows a judge to suspend concealed handgun licenses when issuing a protective order, is pending in the Calendars Committee. (This language was tacked on to another bill that has passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate.)
DWI/Open Container: Even though its House companion, - HB 487, which passed the House last week - was tagged and effectively killed during Friday's late night scramble to pass bills from Senate committees, Senate Bill 128 is still alive. The bill expands the open container law to include both driver and passengers and strengthens penalties for repeat DWI offenders. If the bill fails, Texas will suffer a devastating blow from the federal government, which plans to tie up tens of millions of our federal highway dollars in safety programs every year if our DWI and open container laws do not parallel federal guidelines. It took almost the entire session for Representative Hill to get a House vote on the measure. Senator Nelson moved on the Senate companion last week to make sure that if the House Bill died, there would still be a vehicle to pass this measure. SB 128 was kicked out of Criminal Justice on Wednesday and now must obtain full Senate approval and go back through the House.
Medical privacy: Senate Bill 782, which Senator Nelson filed to stop pharmacy benefit managers from releasing patients' prescription records to marketing firms, has passed the Senate and is pending in the House Committee on Insurance. The bill was filed in response to several cases in which Texans were approached by marketing companies to switch brands of anti-depressants or other drug products. One example was that of an Austin woman who received a letter from her employer asking her to enroll in a course to deal with depression, even though she was only taking anti-depressants to treat post-menopausal sleep deprivation.
Prescription errors: Senate Bill 1889, which Senator Nelson filed in response to a string of lawsuits against pharmacies that had given the wrong prescriptions to patients, is expected to be heard by the full Senate this week. The bill would require that pharmacy technicians, who are currently unregulated even though they perform sensitive tasks such as labeling and filling prescriptions, be registered and certified by 2001. The bill also requires that pharmacy techs perform only nonjudgmental tasks and work under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Currently, only about 3,900 of the estimated 60,000 pharmacy technicians working in Texas have passed the national certification exam. This problem has been cited in several lawsuits over pharmacy errors that have resulted in hospitalization, serious injury and even death of the patient.
Good Samaritans: Senate Bill 122, which has passed the Senate, is pending in the House Calendars Committee. This bill shields from liability those who use automatic defibrillators, a lifesaving medical device that restarts the heart in the event of cardiac arrest, at the scene of an emergency. The bill will protect flight attendants and others who have been trained to use this device, from lawsuits in an attempt to encourage more companies to make these devices available. In a Senate hearing, a man whose life was saved on an American Airlines flight with a defibrillator, testified in support of the bill, along with the flight attendant who saved the man's life.