Senator Zaffirini Announces New Laws Effective Sept. 1

(AUSTIN) — Thirty-three new laws, including 10 Senate Bills (SB) authored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and 23 House Bills (HB) that she sponsored during the 2011 legislative session will become effective on Sept. 1.

The laws taking effect this week reflect Senator Zaffirini’s legislative priorities, which include improving public education, higher education and health and human services. She is Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee; Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency; and a member of the Legislative Budget Board and of the Senate Finance, Health and Human Services, Economic Development, Redistricting and Administration committees.

Her legislation includes reducing fraud in the customs broker system (SB 776), improving services for students with visual impairments (SB 54) and protecting victims of stalking (SB 250, HB 1721).

“Despite the budgetary challenges that dominated the legislature, we persevered in passing legislation that benefits all Texans, including bills to help families afford college, ensure quality childcare choices and enhance critical services for persons with disabilities,” Senator Zaffirini said. “What’s more, I am grateful to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and my colleagues in the Senate and in the House of Representatives for their support of policies that move Texas forward.”

Senator Zaffirini has sponsored and passed 725 bills and 52 substantive resolutions and co-sponsored and passed another 384 bills. Her legendary work ethic is reflected in her 100 percent perfect attendance in the Texas Senate since 1987, except for breaking quorum deliberately to prevent an untimely re-redistricting that the U.S. Supreme Court (2006) ruled violated the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchised voters in SD 21. Continuing her career-long 100 percent voting record, she cast her 47,584th consecutive vote in 2011.

Of the 79 bills that Senator Zaffirini passed in 2011, the 33 that will become effective on Sept. 1 are summarized below:

  • SB 28 reforms the TEXAS Grant program by prioritizing grants for high-performing, low-income students.
  • SB 54 requires a person seeking certification to teach students with visual impairments to complete coursework before sitting for the required certification exam.
  • SB 58 authorizes the renaming of State Highways 359, 16 and 285 as the Veterans of the Korean War Memorial Highway.
  • SB 209 establishes guidelines and minimum supervision standards for entities who employ juvenile case managers.
  • SB 250 allows victims of stalking to obtain protective orders regardless of relationship.
  • SB 264 requires workforce boards to provide information on quality child care indicators for each child care provider in the area to better inform the consumer.
  • SB 773 extends the telecommunications discount to public schools, libraries, non-profit telemedicine centers, public hospitals and universities.
  • SB 776 increases enforcement and closes avenues to fraud in the customs broker system by requiring verification of purchased items and increasing the cost of the export certificate stamp by 50 cents.
  • SB 811 enhances the practice of veterinary medicine.
  • SB 1449 improves licensing requirements for chemical dependency treatment facilities.
  • HB 33 codifies federal law to help bring down the cost of college textbooks.
  • HB 114 designates April as Minority Cancer Awareness Month.
  • HB 159 allows persons who retire from a municipality to return to work after a break in employment without suspending payment of their pension.
  • HB 167 prioritizes the parties authorized to transport patients committed to mental health facilities.
  • HB 328 updates Texasonline.com to Texas.gov in tax statute.
  • HB 826 requires school districts to appoint an employee to act as a liaison to facilitate enrolling or transferring a foster child.
  • HB 848 extends agreements authorizing certain persons to make decisions regarding a child during an investigation of child abuse or neglect.
  • HB 871 expands indigent health care services that may be provided by a county.
  • HB 1113 facilitates deferred adjudication hearings for minors.
  • HB 1206 requires new trustees of community college districts to attend financial training.
  • HB 1330 authorizes super-wide tires to be equipped with safety guards or flaps.
  • HB 1402 improves law enforcement discipline procedures.
  • HB 1481 removes the hurtful slur ‘retarded’ from state statutes and requires state agencies to use respectful language when referencing persons with disabilities.
  • HB 1721 allows victims of stalking or sexual assault to obtain protective orders more easily.
  • HB 2136 ensures that medical transportation providers meet certain health and safety standards.
  • HB 2139 establishes an Adopt-a-Library program to encourage public and private entities to invest in public libraries throughout Texas.
  • HB 2396 authorizes the San Antonio Advanced Transportation District to issue revenue bonds backed by proceeds from the sales tax.
  • HB 2904 improves the Glenda Dawson Donate Life-Texas Registry.
  • HB 2908 improves graduate medical education in Texas.
  • HB 2936 streamlines the statutes regarding the duties and authority of the Bexar County courts system.
  • HB 3146 modifies consent to treatment provisions at chemical dependency treatment facilities.
  • HB 3708 provides for alternative funding mechanisms for the Early High School Graduation program.
  • HB 3724 requires implementation of an early detection plan for prevention, early screening, diagnosis and management of chronic kidney disease.

Information about these and other new laws is available via www.zaffirini.senate.state.tx.us or the Texas Legislative Reference Library, 512/463-1252.

Statement of Senator Judith Zaffirini Regarding Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s Presentation to The University of Texas System Board of Regents

“As Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and Co-Chair of the Joint Oversight Committee on Governance, Excellence and Transparency, I applaud Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa for presenting this forward-thinking action plan that emphasizes innovation and creativity in confronting the ongoing challenges in higher education and in advancing excellence for The University of Texas System.

“I am especially pleased that it reflects shared governance at its best: He developed it in collaboration with the 15 presidents, incorporated feedback from stakeholders and presented it to regents for their approval. What’s more, he developed his vision and goals from a solid foundation of years of hard work by our best academic leaders.

“This action plan’s scope is as impressive as it is challenging, ranging from enhancing undergraduate access and success and faculty/administrative/staff productivity to excellence in research and in efficiency.

“Issues such as improving graduation rates, shortening time-to-degree, enhancing affordability and effectively blending online learning with face-to-face instruction deserve the full attention of all higher education stakeholders, particularly administrators and campus-specific leadership. Chancellor Cigarroa’s action plan is a road map for success in addressing these issues.

“What’s more, his plan makes clear that promoting high-quality research and supporting emerging research universities are critical to the UT System fulfilling its mission: to provide high-quality educational opportunities for the enhancement of the human resources of Texas, the nation and the world through intellectual and personal growth.

“With this framework and action plan, Chancellor Cigarroa focuses attention on ways to advance excellence not only for The University of Texas at Austin, but also for all UT System universities and health institutions. I am pleased, too, with his articulating the importance of expanding educational and health opportunities in South Texas, a rapidly growing and traditionally underserved region.

“This is exactly the kind of clear-sighted, principled, collaborative and transformational leadership Texans expect from our chancellor and presidents. While others are criticizing and attacking higher education, they are building and improving. While others may grandstand and wrongly claim credit for changes initiated long ago by our best leaders, including former regents and administrators, they are enthusiastically and creatively engaged in a longtime, continuous commitment to strengthening, improving and re-inventing higher education in general and at UT institutions in particular.

“This action plan should be embraced by all who care about higher education in Texas and at UT institutions. It should serve as a unifying force that looks beyond yesterday’s controversies and toward a brighter future. Accordingly, I look forward to continuing to work with Chancellor Cigarroa, our presidents, our regents and other stakeholders to renew and enhance the UT System’s commitment to excellence.”

JOINT OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE ON HIGHER EDUCATION GOVERNANCE, EXCELLENCE AND TRANSPARENCY TO HOLD FIRST HEARING

AUSTIN — Today the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency posted notice for its first public hearing, which will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, in Room E1.036 of the Texas Capitol.

Co-Chaired by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Representative Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the committee was created by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and Speaker Joe Straus to ensure that governing boards follow best practices when developing and implementing policy; look for major policy decisions to be adequately vetted and discussed transparently; and protect the excellence and high quality of our state’s institutions of higher education.

Senator Zaffirini and Representative Branch also chair the standing higher education committees of their respective chambers.

Other House members appointed by Speaker Straus are Representatives Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Eric Johnson, D-Dallas; Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; and Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie.

Other Senate members appointed by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst are Senators John Carona, R-Dallas; Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; and Kirk Watson, D-Austin.

“Higher education oversight is critical because our colleges and universities are among Texas’ most important assets,” Senator Zaffirini said. “They not only equip our future leaders to be lifelong learners, but also conduct nationally recognized research, thereby expanding knowledge, creating new technologies and positioning Texas at the forefront of the knowledge-based economy.”

“I thank the Speaker and the Lt. Governor for the opportunity to serve, and for assembling a team of thoughtful legislators who care deeply about the importance of higher education in Texas,” Representative Branch said. “Governance of our universities is important because, in so many ways, higher education will set the course for the future of our state.”

Formal committee proclamations are attached for reference.
Establishment Proclamation
Committee Hearing Notice