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Stories Added - April 2009
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House readies for debate on 2010-2011 state budget proposal
Tyler County Booster - April 2009
AUSTIN - Legislators packed the four-day workweek leading up to the Easter and Passover holidays with long lists of bills to be considered in committees.
But the march of bills will grind down to a lower gear April 17 when the appropriations
bill, HB 1, hits the House floor for a debate sure to be contentious.
Whatever the House ends up with will have to be reconciled with the Senate’s CSSB 1, their $182.2 billion version of a state budget for 2010-2011.
Meanwhile, other issues abound, such as road funding, projected to run out in 2012. The Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee met April 8, and Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, who chairs the committee, said, “The course we’re on will result in no new roads in Texas in the very near future.”
The committee’s vice chair, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, attributed the dwindling
road construction fund balance to:
• The state gas tax, which has not been increased since 1991 to make up for ongoing cost increases in construction and maintenance;
• The bleed-off of dollars from the highway fund to pay for other state programs; and
• Too much debt.
So, Carona is proposing a funding solution
via SB 855, a bill given tentative approval by the committee on April 8.
Carona’s bill would permit a local governmental body to hold an election so voters could decide for themselves to raise funds through a bond issue or create fees to pay for local road projects. Such fees might include increases to the gas tax, vehicle registration fees or tailpipe emissions fees.
Under Carona’s bill, an election ballot would list:
• Each proposed project that fee increases will fund;
• How much the project costs;
• When the project will be completed; and
• When the fee increases will expire.
Senate passes air quality bill
The Senate on April 8 approved a bill by Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco that would enhance air quality improvement efforts in Texas.
Averitt’s SB 16, which now moves to the House for consideration, creates incentive programs for the purchase or development of so-called green technologies
from plug-in hybrid vehicles to more efficient appliances and equipment for businesses.
SB 16 requires four agencies: the state comptroller, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Public Utilities
Commission and the Texas Railroad Commission, to work together with the goal of lowering toxic emissions into the air and to negotiate with the federal government in regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
DPS challenges court ruling
The Texas Department of Public Safety on April 10 announced its appeal of an April 9 ruling by Travis County state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo ordering
the agency to issue driver licenses to temporary visitors and non-citizens who apply.
The ruling stems from a case brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
The appeal, the DPS said, means that DPS rules will remain in effect; non-citizens or temporary visitors to the U.S. who appear
at DPS driver license offices will not be issued driver licenses if they do not meet the agency’s current identification
The DPS said one reason it is appealing the ruling is that it “could shut down the agency’s ability to appropriately and securely identify driver license applicants.”
State agency notifies peanut plant
The Texas Department of State Health Services announced April 9 it assessed $14.6 million in administrative penalties against Plainview Peanut Co. LLC.
On April 8, the agency notified the company of “alleged violations” including
unsanitary conditions, product contamination, illnesses linked to consumption of peanuts from the plant and for operating almost four years without a food manufacturer’s license from the state.
The DSHS on Feb. 12 ordered the plant to close and to recall all products shipped since it opened in 2005.