Op-Ed: Help Keep College Affordable: Vote Yes on Proposition 2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

I do not know a single student or family who believes a college degree is too cheap. If you agree that higher education should be accessible and affordable for Texas families, please join me in voting for Proposition 2 on Nov. 6.

Many of us have worked for years to make a college education a reality for all students, and it will take you only a minute to help. By supporting Proposition 2, we can make the dream of attending college a reality for thousands of low- and middle-income students. As Chair of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee, I believe it is critical that citizens voteyes on this important measure that will provide millions of dollars for the education of our children without requiring an increase in local or state taxes.

More than 40 years ago Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to use general obligation bonds to help finance low-interest, affordable loans for college education. Since then, these bonds have helped generations of Texans by providing more than $1 billion in affordable student loans.

This program, which predates many federal financial aid programs and private college loan opportunities, has been a tremendous boon for thousands of students. In the last 10 years alone, more than 58,000 Texans cumulatively received approximately $659 million in low-interest loans to help pay for college expenses.

Proposition 2 will extend the Coordinating Board’s bonding authority to continue this important program. Because the rising costs of attending college and the increasing number of college-bound students are quickly diminishing the program’s financial reserves, this is critical. If Texas voters fail to approve the measure, funding for these student loans could run out by 2009, according to the Coordinating Board. As a result, many of today’s high school sophomores would not have this critical financial assistance to pay for their future college expenses.

At a time when having a higher education degree is more important than ever, we can make no better investment for our students or for our future than providing access to low-interest loans approved by Texans, administered by Texans, for the benefit of Texans. What’s more, because the bonds used to finance these loans are repaid by those who borrow the money, Proposition 2 will have no impact on our local property taxes, sales taxes or any other tax collected by the state.

For the sake of our students and the future of higher education in Texas, I strongly and respectfully urge Texas voters to vote yes on Proposition 2.

SENATOR ZAFFIRINI VISITS STUDENTS DURING ZAFFIRINI ELEMENTARY SCHOOL’S OPENING DAY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LAREDO — Students at Senator Judith Zaffirini Elementary School (ZES) started the school year today (Monday) with a visit from their namesake. Continuing a tradition she started when the school was founded in 1999, Senator Judith Zaffirini welcomed students at the entrance and presented each a pencil imprinted with her name and the seal of the Texas Senate.

She arrived at 6:30 a.m. and stood by the front door until the last child arrived two hours later.

“I love meeting the students on their first day of classes,” Senator Zaffirini said. “It’s an opportunity to reassure them, wish them well and offer to be of assistance. Because ZES offers classes from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, many are accompanied by their parents. Being there also affords me an opportunity to assure them that their children are in good hands.”

Among the senator’s memorabilia exhibited near the entrance is a black velvet hat with a metallic gold tassel. “It’s part of my doctoral regalia,” she explained. “I gave it to the students in 1999 to symbolize my challenge that they stay in school, go to college and earn a post-graduate degree.”

The senator also has challenged ZES students to strive for perfect attendance and to stay away from gangs, drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

She presented the ZES library with a copy of the centennial edition of “The Annotated Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum.

“It’s always my pleasure to add to the library’s collection,” she said. “I especially enjoy interacting with the children, whether to chat or to motivate them or to read to them.”

When he was 12, her son, Carlos Jr., gave the Zaffirini library his collection of more than 500 age-appropriate books.

Last year she presented each student with a copy of her motivational children’s book, “If Judy Pappas Can Do It, Anybody Can!” Published by Laredo National Bank/BBVA Group, the gift edition won first place statewide and second place nationally in a communications contest sponsored by the Press Women of Texas.

The senator said she plans to visit ZES throughout the year and will attend their Christmas program.

STATEMENT FROM SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI REGARDING SENATE HIGHER EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING

AUSTIN — “After hearing testimony from experts and representatives from the Governor’s Office, community college districts, and local businesses and industries, I am optimistic that we will restore funding for group health insurance to community colleges and avoid unwanted tax hikes, tuition increases or reduced services.

“With the leadership of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and our Senate colleagues, we will find a solution that is fair, equitable and responsive to the many concerns raised today. The hearing provided community college leaders an opportunity to communicate how the veto will impact their districts and to recommend solutions to the members of the subcommittee. I know that their voices were heard not only by legislators, but also by the governor’s staff, who presented their own proposal for remedying the situation.

“Though details regarding how to restore the funding still need to be negotiated, strong consensus emerged from the testimony we heard regarding the importance of providing a short-term solution to the problem caused by the veto while striving toward resolving long-term funding issues.”

SENATOR JUDITH ZAFFIRINI WELCOMES OPERATION LONE STAR 2007 TO LAREDO AND SOUTH TEXAS

LAREDO — Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, today (Tuesday) welcomed to Laredo and South Texas volunteers that comprise Operation Lone Star during the 2007 VIP day held at the Laredo Civic Center. Operation Lone Star is an annual joint effort of the Texas Military Forces, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Health and Human Services Commission and volunteers that will provide free dental and medical services to Laredo for the first time in Lone Star’s nine years of operation.

Operation Lone Star has provided essential medical services to under-served communities in South Texas since 1999 while also providing Emergency Preparedness training for state military services.

In 2001 Senator Zaffirini wrote to Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Daniel James III to recommend the creation of a division of state military medical forces that are able to respond to medical emergencies and catastrophic events. In 2003 the Texas Medical Rangers were born based on this significant recommendation. The Texas Medical Rangers respond to Texas public health emergencies and provides significant support each year to Operation Lone Star.

“Operation Lone Star is an outstanding partnership composed of state health service officials and Texas military service personnel who volunteer annually to bring free health services to families in South Texas and this year to Laredo,” Senator Zaffirini said. “For the last eight years, Operation Lone Star has saved lives by providing free health services, including basic medical and dental treatments for thousands of children and families in South Texas. I especially am proud to have contributed to the creation of the Texas Medical Rangers and growth of Operation Lone Star.”

This year’s Operation Lone Star began providing services on July 23 at Vela Middle School in Brownsville. Other sites included Raymondville High School in Raymondville; PSJA High School South in San Juan; and Chapa Elementary School in Mission.

From July 30 to August 3, Operation Lone Star will provide services at the Laredo Civic Center; Ringgold Middle School, Rio Grande City; and Zapata Middle School. Services include general medical care, general dental care, adult dental care, sports physicals, immunizations, diabetic screening, high blood pressure screening and pharmacy services.

Op-Ed: Governor Perry’s Veto of Community College Funding Makes Higher Education Less Accessible and Less Affordable for Many

“Our greatest challenge in higher education remains ensuring our schools are accessible and affordable for every qualified student.” So proclaimed Gov. Rick Perry during a 2002 address to community college officials. Unfortunately for many qualified students and community colleges around the state, the governor made this challenge even greater when he vetoed $154 million in much-needed funding to community colleges in June.

Approximately 575,000 students are enrolled at community colleges, and nearly 72 percent of college freshmen attend one. What’s more, 70 percent of higher education enrollment growth is at community colleges, which account for approximately half of higher education enrollment in Texas.

Although these institutions are critical in our efforts to increase access to higher educational opportunities and to ensure academic success, the state provides only approximately 31 percent of their funding. The remainder must come from local taxes, tuition and fees, and local funds.

To put the impact of Gov. Perry’s veto into perspective, the $157 million that he cut is more than the total new dollars appropriated to community colleges this biennium for operations and instruction.

This unwarranted and unexpected action will not only negatively affect our community colleges’ efforts to achieve the goals of Closing the Gaps, but also severely strain their resources. The grim reality is that to make up for this lost funding, community colleges will either have to raise local property taxes, increase tuition, reduce services or, sadly, do all three. Any of these options negatively will affect their ability to serve students who typically have the fewest resources to attend college. The worst result is that many students may be forced to drop out of college because of the governor’s actions.

Even more shocking is the governor’s veto message accusing the community colleges of falsifying their appropriations request. Having attended every budget hearing, I know that community college officials submitted full and accurate information in their budget requests. That the governor would accuse them of falsehood is beyond comprehension. The legislature in good faith chose to fully fund community college employee benefits with general revenue because we understand that community colleges are under-funded and over-burdened.

In addition to the $154 million for higher education group insurance, Gov. Perry also vetoed funding for new community college campuses at Alamo Community College, Austin Community College, Houston Community College, Paris Junior College and Temple College.

Because formula funding is based on student enrollment for the two years prior to the biennium, these funds are critical for the operations of new campuses that cannot receive formula funding due to the lack of student enrollment data. Gov. Perry’s veto will exacerbate the financial difficulties these community colleges will face in providing much needed educational opportunities.

As chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education, I understand the important role of community colleges in developing a well-trained workforce and in providing affordable access to higher education. Accordingly, I will continue to work with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and our colleagues who support this important funding to remedy the situation during the interim so that these institutions and their students are not penalized unfairly.

To do this will require the combined efforts not only of legislative leaders, but also of community college leaders, students and their families. Cumulatively, we must convince the governor to right his wrong by approving budget execution authority to restore these crucial funds for our community colleges and our students.”

SENATOR ZAFFIRINI, STATE HOUSING AGENCY ANNOUNCE RELEASE OF $97 MILLION IN HOMEBUYER FUNDS

AUSTIN — State Senator Judith Zaffirini today joined the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) in announcing the release of $97 million in homebuyer funds dedicated to making Texans’ dreams of homeownership come true. TDHCA is making these funds available through the Department’s Texas First Time Homebuyer Program in the form of low interest rate loans beginning as low as 5.25 percent.

“These essential homebuyer funds provide rare and valuable opportunities for persons in Laredo who dream of owning a home but thought that it was beyond reach,” Senator Zaffirini said. “Most of us consider homeownership to be a primary means of accumulating wealth. What’s more, homeownership is the intangible force that binds neighbors and communities together. TDHCA and Texas are committed to helping many low to moderate income Texans purchase homes, and these funds will help us achieve this goal.”

“This $97 million in homebuyer funds will have a tremendous and positive impact on Texas residents, and certainly those living right here in Laredo,” said Michael Gerber, TDHCA Executive Director. “We feel we are, quite literally, putting a down payment on a brighter future for Laredo and Webb County with this funding release. However, I encourage interested individuals to not wait too long to contact TDHCA or a participating lender. This is an extraordinary opportunity for low to moderate income Texans to buy a home with affordable monthly payments, and the funds will not last.”

Gerber added that, in a first for the program, the first time homebuyer requirement will be waived for Texas veterans. “We are particularly proud of our ability to reach these American heroes and help them secure a home of their own,” he said. Under this waiver, Gerber explained, any vet who can provide proper discharge papers and who has not previously participated in this loan program can be a current homeowner and still participate in this program.

The state-sponsored First Time Homebuyer program offers qualifying households the ability to purchase a home at rates typically unmatched anywhere in the state, bringing homeownership within reach for many Texas families. On hand for the announcement were new homeowners Rolando and Sonya Palacios. Officials recognized Rolando and Sonya with a symbolic keychain for the key to their new home, which they recently purchased through the Texas First Time Homebuyer Program.

Approximately 50 lenders with more than 500 branch offices throughout the state offer the below-market interest rate loans. Interested homebuyers may visit the program’s website at www.myfirsttexashome.com or call (800) 792-1119 to learn more about eligibility requirements, program details, or to find a participating lender.

Gerber explained that loans through this program will be available in two forms: unassisted loans, with no additional funds for down payment and closing costs, and assisted loans which come with down payment and closing cost assistance. Interest rates will range from 5.25 percent for statewide unassisted loans to 5.99 percent for assisted loans statewide.

TDHCA is reserving $15 million of these funds for a 22-county region of southeast Texas impacted by Hurricane Rita officially designated by Congress as the Hurricane Rita Gulf Opportunity (“GO”) Zone. Loans made inside the Rita GO Zone will be offered at the 5.99 percent rate and all with come with the 5 percent grant for down payment assistance.

As Texas’ lead agency for promoting homeownership, TDHCA focuses on the act of buying a home and helping transform the lives of the individuals who participate in its programs. TDHCA’s homebuyer programs each year help thousands of low- to moderate-income Texans achieve their homeownership goals, while educating them about the risks and responsibilities that accompany those rewards.

To facilitate this aspect of TDHCA’s mission, the Department sponsors the Texas Statewide Homebuyer Education Program (TSHEP), a statewide program offered by local governments and nonprofit organizations in all 254 Texas counties. The program is designed to provide information and counseling to prospective homebuyers about the home buying process.

To find the nearest TSHEP homebuyer education provider, please visit the Department’s homebuyer assistance information page at www.tdhca.state.tx.us/assist_homebuying.htm and simply key in the name of your city. Interested individuals may also call (512) 475-3975 for more information.

Photos from the news conference are available online at http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/ppa/media/.

About The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is Texas’ lead agency responsible for affordable housing, community and energy assistance programs, and colonia activities. The Department annually administers funds in excess of $400 million, the majority of which is derived from mortgage revenue bond financing and refinancing, federal grants, and federal tax credits.

SENATOR ZAFFIRINI PASSES 72 BILLS DURING 2007 SESSION

AUSTIN — Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, passed another 72 bills during the 2007 legislative session, bringing her total to 587 since 1987. This legislation will enhance border communities and colonias; strengthen laws that protect children; provide much needed resources for state health and human services; and increase higher education access, affordability and excellence.

“By working closely with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, coalitions from city and county governments within SD 21, higher education representatives, committed advocates within the state health and human services community and my colleagues in the Senate and House,” Senator Zaffirini said, “we continued to make a difference for families, students, persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities and Texans most in need of health and human services.”

Bills passed by Senator Zaffirini include Senate Bill 6, which protects Texas children and families from sexual communication and solicitation via the internet. Part of Lt. Governor Dewhurst’s Texas Children First plan, it will make the internet safer for Texas children. SB 6 was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Rep. Aaron Pena, D-Edinburg.

The bill increases the penalty for sexually explicit on-line communications with a minor who is from 14 to 16 years old from a state jail felony to a third degree felony and increases the penalty for on-line sexual solicitation of a minor who is from 14 to 16 years old from a third degree felony to a second degree felony.

Procedures for collecting and analyzing information relating to sexual offenses will be improved with the passage of House Bill 76 by Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin and Zaffirini. HB 401 by Rep. Betty Brown, R-Athens, and Zaffirini allows law enforcement officials to consider the use of text messages or other electronic message services when investigating the offense of online solicitation of a minor.

Senator Zaffirini’s bills passed relating to border affairs and enhancement of colonias include SB 99, which will support persons living in Texas’ most impoverished communities by increasing the number of state agencies required to submit data about projects that serve colonias. SB 99’s House sponsor was Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City. The bill also will increase accountability of the logistical and financial reports regarding colonia improvements made by agencies and by state and local governments.

SB 893 by Zaffirini and Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, authorizes counties along the Rio Grande to construct a railroad toll bridge.

Higher education affordability, access and excellence greatly was improved with the passage of SB 1050 by Zaffirini and Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, which creates new work-study opportunities by developing a program through which students could serve as peer mentors and tutors as part of their work-study financial aid program; SB 1051 by Zaffirini and Rep. Guillen, which provides waivers to the core curriculum for foreign students enrolled in international institutions in a joint-degree program with Texas colleges and universities; and SB 1053 by Zaffirini and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, which requires the Higher Education Coordinating Board, advising professionals and higher education representatives to develop an assessment of advisors at institutions of higher education to improve the quality of advising.

HB 1427 by Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, and Zaffirini provides resources for recruiting economically disadvantaged students to the profession of optometry, and HB 1775 by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Nacogdoches, and Zaffirini authorizes the issuance of $13 million in tuition revenue bonds to expand the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Nursing.

Senator Zaffirini also passed bills that support local governments in SD 21. SB 63 by Zaffirini and Rep. Juan Escobar, D-Kingsville, helps Jim Hogg County offer more efficient county services and prevents the proliferation of colonias by providing the county with the same authority given to general-law municipalities. SB 404 by Zaffirini and Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Tourielles, D-Alice, codifies the statutory authority and administrative effectiveness of the Bee County Groundwater Conservation District. HB 2322 by Rep. Guillen and Zaffirini exempts Zapata County from the four percent limit on its hotel occupancy tax, which will increase revenue for the county to fund economic development activities.

Improving access to and the quality of state health and human services always are among Senator Zaffirini’s highest legislative priorities. HB 246 by Rep. Alonzo and Zaffirini increases the frequency and efficiency of health authority reports to the Department of State Health Services regarding cases of diagnosed HIV and AIDS infections. HB 3619 by Rep. Raymond and Zaffirini creates a bilingual coordinated health program in South Texas school districts.

Collection and analysis of data regarding early childhood education and bilingual education strategies will be improved by provisions within SB 1871 by Zaffirini and Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston. HB 1137 by Rep. Hochberg and Zaffirini will prevent incidents of school dropout by allowing older students to be admitted to public schools and receive high school diplomas.

SB 61 by Zaffirini and Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, authorizes Texas counties to adopt internal response plans for catastrophic events or declared disasters. The bill empowers counties and municipalities with the authority to adopt a comprehensive plan for the continuity of government functions during a declared disaster or other catastrophic event such as a bio-terror attack or dangerous outbreak.

SB 64 by Zaffirini and Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, requires general-purpose political committees (PACs) to disclose contributions of more than $5,000 during the last nine days of a campaign. It closes a loophole that allowed large contributions to general-purpose PACs to go unreported for months after a general or primary election.

“This certainly was a highly successful legislative session,” said Senator Zaffirini. “I am grateful for Lt. Governor Dewhurst’s leadership and for the opportunity to work with my colleagues in the Senate and House to enact bills that will benefit the families of SD 21 and our state.”

At the beginning of the legislative session Lt. Gov. Dewhurst re-appointed Senator Zaffirini Chair of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee and Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. He also appointed her to a seventh term on the Appropriations Conference Committee that wrote the state’s $153 billion budget. She also served as a member of the Senate’s Education, Health and Human Services and Administration Committees.

ZAFFIRINI, GUILLEN PRIORITIZE HEALTH, HUMAN SERVICES, EDUCATION AND PUBLIC SAFETY AS LEGISLATURE PASSES $153 BILLION BUDGET

AUSTIN — More Texans currently waiting for community-based care and home services will receive relief; higher education institutions in Senate District 21 and throughout the state will receive increased resources, including $313 million for the debt service for $1.9 billion in tuition revenue bonds for capital improvements; and more than $200 million will be allocated for state criminal justice programs under the committee substitute for House Bill 1, which was passed by the legislature Sunday (May 27).

Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, served on the Appropriations Conference Committee that wrote the final version of the $153 billion state budget. CSHB 1 includes approximately a seven percent increase in spending, compared with the previous (2005) legislative session’s budget. Senator Zaffirini also served as Senate chair of the Article II work group that was responsible for writing the state’s health and human services budget and as Senate co-chair of the higher education budget.

“I am proud of the conference committee’s hard work and am grateful for the leadership of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst in finalizing the state’s $153 billion budget,” Senator Zaffirini said. “CSHB 1 addresses several immediate and critical health policy concerns in Texas and provides essential funding for education and higher education institutions in South Texas. I especially am pleased that more funding will be allocated for reducing health and human services waiting lists and that significant funding will be provided for public safety and state criminal justice programs.”

“The state budget we worked on together,” said Rep. Guillen, “provides the funds I requested:

  • in Border Security for new local law enforcement officers and overtime;
  • in Education for teacher pay raises, for more money for retired teachers, and for building new schools;
  • in Health Care for 127,000 more children covered by Children’s Health Insurance and a higher reimbursement rate for doctors who receive Medicaid payments, and
  • in funds to help low income families with their electric bills,
  • to improve our state parks, and
  • to fund programs to keep people from being sent to state prisons when probation or other measures will suffice.”

Senator Zaffirini secured additional funding to reduce waiting lists for community-based, home services and care for low-income children, the elderly and persons with disabilities. The final version of the state budget includes $193.2 million for waiting list reduction and rate increases. This funding will remove more than 14,000 persons from interest and waiting lists and will serve more than 8,300 persons during the 2008-09 biennium.

The $314 million appropriated for the debt service for $1.9 billion in tuition revenue bonds authorized by Senator Zaffirini’s HB 153 (2006), includes $37.6 million for Texas A&M International University and $6 million for UT-Pan American’s Starr County Upper Level Center. The bill authorized 63 projects at 48 higher education institutions, the largest investment in higher education ever made in Texas.

What’s more, the budget includes a $21.3 million increase for the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio (UTHSCSA) and a $13.8 million increase for A&M International, including $5 million for the Student Success Program and a PhD in business and $2 million for faculty enhancement. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio will receive $5 million for the operations of the Regional Academic Health Science Center and $3 million for their Laredo Campus Extension.

Another $6.7 million will be allocated to the Texas A&M System for a South San Antonio Campus System Center and $5 million to the University of Houston wind energy project, a large part of which is located in SD 21.

Senator Zaffirini and Rep. Guillen also helped secure $88 million in new grants for the Instructional Facility Allotment (IFA), which helps poor school districts with facility construction; $170 million to restore the System Benefit Fund to provide utilities services discounts for low-income customers; $1 million for a new independent living center that could be established in Laredo; $5 million for the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant (DEAAG); $53 million to support access roadway projects for colonias; $1.6 million to combat zebra chip disease threatening Texas potato crops; $1.2 million to increase Food Bank distribution; and $10 million for the debt service for $50 million in new bonds to provide financial assistance to rural communities with populations of less than 5,000 for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.

Funding allocated for education and health and human services includes a $4.6 million increase for prevention services at the Department of Family and Protective Services; $32.1 million in bond proceeds to complete the Texas Center for Infectious Disease in San Antonio; a $19.7 million increase for breast and cervical cancer programs; and a $17 million increase for tuberculosis and HIV programs.

Funding allocated for public safety and state criminal justice programs includes a $6 million increase for the Crime Victims Compensation Fund for victim services; $247.4 million for border security; $6.1 million for the Bexar County Detox/Mental Health Project; $48.8 million to address the Department of Justice issues raised regarding Texas state schools; and a $2 million increase for family violence programs.

ZAFFIRINI RECEIVES COMMUNICATIONS AWARDS

AUSTIN — Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, received six awards in the 2006-07 Press Women of Texas Communications contest. She received two first-place awards for her motivational children’s book, If Judy Pappas Can Do It, Anybody Can! and for her 2006 University of Texas at Austin Law School commencement speech titled “Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Decides?”

Senator Judith Zaffirini Reports to the Families of District 21, an annual newsletter for constituents, won third place. News releases announcing her pre-filed legislation for the 2007 legislative session and her appointment as chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Capital Funding for Higher Education won second and third places, respectively. A media advertisement wishing her constituents a happy holiday season won honorable mention.

The Press Women of Texas and the National Federation of Press Women hold an annual competition to recognize excellence in writing and communications. Award categories range from news reporting to books.

Sweepstakes and group awards are given to top winners from newspaper, university and individual or “other” participant classifications. Zaffirini placed fourth overall and first in the individual grouping.

“I am delighted and honored to receive these awards from the Press Women of Texas, of which I have been a member since 1973.” Senator Zaffirini said. “I especially am pleased that If Judy Pappas Can and my senatorial district newsletter won these coveted awards.”

If Judy Pappas Can Do It, Anybody Can! was published by the Laredo National Bank/BBVA, for students at Zaffirini Elementary School. It highlights milestones from her first memory of learning to read at the age of three to her accomplishments as a state senator.

Last May Senator Zaffirini delivered the commencement address to the 2006 class of UT Law Students. Her speech impressed upon the new attorneys their responsibility for answering the critical questions of our day, particularly: Who lives? Who dies? Who decides? Her son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., was among the graduates.

Senator Zaffirini has won more than 560 awards for her professional and public service work, including more than 100 for communication projects. This year she received the 2007 Leadership Award from the Arc of Texas for outstanding support and advocacy for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and received a gavel from Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for casting her 35,000th consecutive vote in the Senate.

TEXAS LEGISLATURE PASSES HB 741 BY ZAFFIRINI, KING AND GUILLEN TO EXPAND HIGHER EDUCATION TUITION EXEMPTIONS FOR DEPENDENTS OF VOLUNTEER PEACE OFFICERS

AUSTIN — Dependents of volunteer law enforcement officers who were killed or disabled in the line of duty will be exempt from higher education tuition and fees under legislation passed Monday (May 14) and sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville, and Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City.

“The brave men and women who lay their lives on the line daily to protect small and rural communities often do so voluntarily,” Senator Zaffirini said. “HB 741 would provide financial relief from the costs of higher education for the sons and daughters of many volunteer peace officers who died or became disabled serving families and communities in our Senate District 21 and throughout Texas. I am delighted to sponsor this legislation and thank Rep. King and Rep. Guillen for their leadership in authoring HB 741.”

“Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue a higher education,” Rep. King said. “HB 741 extends this opportunity to the children of volunteer peace officers, who, like all other law enforcement officials, risk their lives every day for the safety and betterment of our communities. The tuition and fee exemption for the children of these individuals is a small token of gratitude for the sacrifices they made to protect Texans everywhere.”

“The importance of citizen participation in law enforcement and the debt that our communities owe to volunteers who are killed or disabled because of their dedication must be recognized. It has been a pleasure to work on this legislation with Senator Zaffirini to make that recognition a reality,” Rep. Guillen said.

Current law provides exemptions from tuition and fees at public higher education institutions for the children of full-paid firefighters, police offices and volunteer firefighters who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty. Volunteer peace officers often receive the same training and fulfill the same duties as full-paid law enforcement officers