(AUSTIN) — Monday, Oct. 6, is the deadline to register for the Nov. 4 election, according to Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. Early voting begins on Monday, Oct. 20, and ends on Friday, Oct. 31.

Qualified voters are U.S. citizens who will be 18 by election day; residents of the county for at least 30 days; not convicted felons (unless a person’s sentence is completed, including any probation or parole); and not declared mentally incapacitated by a court of law,” Senator Zaffirini said today (Tuesday).

Voters who haven’t received their orange registration cards or who need to change names or address also should contact their local voter registrars.

Voter registration cards are available at local voter registration offices, U.S. Post Office, libraries, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Department of Human Services offices and the Texas Secretary of State’s website, www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqvr.shtml.

Efforts to Improve State Schools Focus of Senate Hearing

(AUSTIN) — Improving state schools and increasing community care options for persons with intellectual disabilities were the main focus of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee at the State Capitol Wednesday (Sept. 17). Witnesses addressed the committee’s interim charges from Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, relating to monitoring the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services’ improvement plan for the system of care for persons with intellectual disabilities.

Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, the senior member of the committee, raised questions about funding priorities and strategies for eliminating waiting lists for health and human services. Witnesses included representatives of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, State Auditor’s Office, Texas Council of Community Mental Health and Mental Retardation Centers, Private Providers Association of Texas, Arc of Texas, Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities and Texans Supporting State Schools.

“The state must strengthen the system that serves persons with intellectual, physical and emotional disabilities,” Senator Zaffirini said. “The full range of services must be available, including community living options in the least restrictive settings, for persons with special needs. Promoting independence is our moral obligation.”

Health Community Leaders Testify Before Joint Senate Committees

(AUSTIN) — Texas health providers advocated for increased Medicaid payments, higher wages for personal care attendants and funding for a new institute to expedite innovation in cancer research at the State Capitol today (Tuesday). They addressed a joint hearing of the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee that focused on interim charges issued by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.

Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee and member of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, applauded testimony from representatives of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), Legislative Budget Board (LBB), Texas Cancer Institute, Texas Medical Association (TMA), Texas Association on Homecare (TAHC) and Texas Healthcare Association (THCA).

HHSC prepared charts that illustrate the 2003 $10 billion shortfall’s impact on Medicaid rates by listing the change for each biennium between 2002-03 and 2008-09. In spite of progress, today’s rates average only 73 percent of Medicare rates. Witnesses offered evidence indicating that the Medicaid payment increases have improved Medicaid participation by physicians.

“The Medicaid rate disparity among doctors who treat children and doctors who treat adults is troubling,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Pediatric providers do not provide young persons with referrals to adult providers because of their unavailability caused by rate disparity. We must ensure that there are enough physicians who accept Medicaid to meet the needs of Texans who require Medicaid-funded services.”

Sen. Lucio Announces IRT Hearing on Top Border Issues

Border Senators and Their Local Officials to Participate

AUSTIN, TXSen. Eddie Lucio Jr. today announced he is holding a hearing of the Senate International Relations and Trade Committee (IRT) he chairs on Thursday, Sept. 18, and has invited the border Senators to participate.

At the hearing, which will be held in Austin, Room E1.016 of the Capitol Extension at 9 a.m., IRT will take testimony from state and locally elected officials invited by each of the border Senators from their districts.

The Committee will be taking testimony on the fifth Interim Charge that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst provided, which directs the members to research and develop proposals that will help the border region fight the criminal element threatening the safety of its communities. Specifically, the Committee has been charged to “study and make recommendations to stem the tide of illegal immigration, drug trafficking and human smuggling, and to reduce the criminal activities within the border region.”

Sen. Lucio, D-Brownsville, noted, “In order to comprehensively address this charge, I wholeheartedly believe that we need meaningful representation from law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and local elected officials from the immediate border. Their wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge of the needs of their communities is of utmost importance as we research this critical charge and develop substantive recommendations.”

“Focusing on the safety of our border region is important not only for our families and visitors, but also for our state and nation,” Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said. “I urge anyone with expertise and/or interest in border security to join us at the Senate International Relations and Trade Committee hearing, either to listen and learn or to submit oral or written testimony.

“The five senators from the border are collaborating in this effort with Sen. Lucio, IRT chair, and invite our respective constituents to contact us for additional information,” she added. “We unanimously oppose the federal government’s fence along the border and will do anything within the power of the state to oppose it.”

“I am fortunate to be working with Chairman Lucio on creating a forum for our Committee to hear first-hand from local leaders who respond each day to the challenges addressed in this charge,” stated Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. “Three-fourths of the Texas-Mexico border is comprised of my senatorial district and these issues affect all of the 14 border counties. I am hopeful that the Legislature will afford these communities the attention and resources they deserve.”

Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, said, “Right now, our great state trades more with Mexico than all the European Union combined. Texas has most to gain from a comprehensive, fair immigration solution that addresses security, labor and prosperity, and most to lose from mean-spirited rhetoric tied to border walls and racism.”

The following is contact information for the border Senators:

Senator Juan Hinojosa (512) 463-0120 – [email protected]
Senator Eddie Lucio (512) 463-0385 – [email protected]
Senator Eliot Shapleigh (512) 463-0129 – [email protected]
Senator Carlos Uresti (512) 463-0119 – [email protected]
Senator Judith Zaffirini (512) 463-0121 – [email protected]

Note: Staffer handling media for Sen. Hinojosa is Arturo Ballesteros – [email protected]

In addition to Chairman Lucio and Sen. Uresti, the other appointed Committee members include Vice-Chairman Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Senators Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, Mario Gallegos Jr., D-Houston, and Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo.