News Release
March 9, 2009
Contact: Alicia Pierce
(512) 463-0103
Nichols statement on passage of state school bill in the Senate

Austin — Today, state Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) released the following statement in regards to the Senate's passage of Senate Bill 643 by Nelson.

"Sen. Nelson's bill is a common-sense way to reform state schools without closing them, said Nichols. "I have talked with many parents who want to preserve state schools as an option for their children, and I will continue to fight for their right to make this choice for their families."

Nichols is a co-author of the bill.

What SB 643 does:

  • Establishes an independent ombudsman to respond to allegations of abuse and neglect, including hiring law enforcement offers to investigate allegations.
  • Requires FBI background checks and random drug testing for staff working at state schools.
  • Redefines state schools as state developmental centers.
  • Requires the Department of Aging and Disability Services to establish a separate state developmental center for the care of alleged offender residents apart from other residents.
  • Authorize the Department of Aging and Disability Services to install and operate video surveillance equipment in a public areas of state developmental centers.
  • Prohibits a proposed resident of a state developmental center from being admitted unless they have severe or profound mental retardation, or mild or moderate mental retardation with other qualifying criteria.

The Texas Senate passed SB 643 30 ayes, 0 nays. Senate Bill 643 is the first bill to pass the Texas Senate in the 81st Legislative Session. In February, Governor Rick Perry declared legislation to improve state schools an emergency item for the 81st Legislature. Before becoming law, SB 643 must pass the House.